- The La siblings, from Alberta, Canada, grew up helping their parents run a Vietnamese restaurant.
- They began making YouTube videos playing Minecraft as a hobby when they got home after work.
- Now they have 9 million subscribers and have been able to help their parents retire.
Before they became YouTube stars, Betty, Kim, Kat, Wenny, and Allen La spent much of their childhood helping their parents run the family's Vietnamese restaurant in Alberta, Canada.
The siblings, who ranged in age from around 13 to 18 when they began their YouTube journey, remember rushing to get get the bus back from school so they could start their shifts, with the older siblings helping grill food and bus tables while the youngest mainly ran around and shyly peeked at customers who were enjoying their meals.
Now all in their 20s, the Las told Insider the family struggled a lot in those early years, running several "failing" businesses one at a time to support themselves.
"It was stressful to juggle between school and work, especially when we didn't have enough money to pay the bills," said Wenny, 25, the second-youngest.
But everything changed after middle child Kat discovered YouTube and gradually introduced the others to her hobby. Now, they are the owners of the hugely successful gaming channel KREW which has grown to a loyal fanbase of 9 million subscribers, and have made enough money that their parents were able to retire.
Playing video games together became an escape that inspired the siblings to venture into content creation
When they were younger, the Las said they would use their tip money from the restaurant and pool their allowances to buy video games, which they played together as an "escape from reality."
The kids would stay up for hours playing games like "Mario Bros.," "Smash Bros," and the racing game "Kirby Air Ride.
Middle child Kat, the third-oldest La sibling, was particularly interested in cameras and filming, and in 2011 decided to launch a YouTube channel as her new hobby.
"I didn't think much of it. The first video I uploaded was a 'Call of Duty Black Ops II' video, and it had no commentary whatsoever, because growing up, I was pretty shy and timid and didn't want to include my voice," Kat said.
Eventually, she asked her siblings to take part in her videos so they would be able to share the hobby together.
They became popular in the Minecraft community and changed their moniker to KREW
Within two years of Kat starting her channel, the siblings started to play more Minecraft, a popular game that involves building structures in a 3D virtual world, and Kat began writing comedic scripts that she thought the family could act out during their gaming videos.
"We thought if no one watches it then that's fine, but it would just be nice to have our little characters out there," the second-oldest sibling Kim, 28, told Insider. But a few weeks after they began posting as KREW, said Kim, "we noticed we were getting some traction. More people started to watch as we posted more videos, and eventually, we got comments asking us to keep doing them."
The siblings created a niche by asking commenters to tell them what to build so they could try to construct it together in their next video.
"I think people really appreciate watching our different personalities when we play together in videos. I guess we're really good at vibing with each other," Kat said.
Initially, the Las continued to work at their family business, which by this point was a bubble tea shop after their parents sold the restaurant, taking breaks during filming to serve customers at the store.
But, said Kat, "when our channel started taking off we realized that YouTube could be turned into a career. We were making way more money than what the bubble tea shop could make. We had money to pay our bills, rent, and groceries."
The siblings are now full-time YouTubers, and are able to financially support their parents. "They did a lot for us so we're pretty much just paying it back," Kim said.
The siblings' parents, who did not want to be named for privacy reasons, told Insider they did struggle financially when they owned multiple businesses between 2008 and 2017, but are now retired and supported by their children.
"The reason we wanted to become business owners is because we thought it would be good for our children in the future," the Las' father said, adding, "We had no idea our kids' hobby would turn into their full-time jobs."
Looking back at their journey, the siblings still can't believe how much they've achieved
The Las continue to post gaming videos on Kat's YouTube channel, which has amassed 9 million subscribers, and to their official KREW channel, which has 1 million subscribers. They've also diversified their brand with a merchandise line and mobile app.
Oldest sibling Betty, 29, said that going through old family photos makes her reflect on how far her family has come. She recalled being 12 years old and feeling so on top of her responsibilities that she felt like the "manager" at the restaurant. Now she is the acting manager of the KREW YouTube channel, responding to emails and organizing business deals on behalf of her siblings.
"I wish I could go back and tell 12-year-old me how crazy her life would be," she said.
The siblings spend around eight to 10 hours on each video between filming and editing, and they said they enjoy being able to work together, even though there are sometimes small disputes that come with it.
"All siblings get into arguments. We've always been working together, even back in the restaurant, and we also argued then, so it's not so big a deal," said youngest sibling Allen, 24.
In June, they attended VidCon, a convention where they were able to meet and interact with their fans, which also stirred feelings of disbelief at their own success.
"We kind of feel speechless most of the time. We didn't think we'd end up here," said Kim.
"Most of us honestly thought we would just have normal jobs or continue with upkeeping our parents' business. None of us thought we would be here today, but we are really proud," she added.
For more stories like this, check out coverage from Insider's Digital Culture team here.