He traded a paper-clip for a car. Now this YouTuber is trading a decade of online success for a career offline

For this CBC Creator Network video, Lebanese-Canadian YouTuber and social media personality Jad Slaibeh, aka ChadWithaJ, talks about his journey as a child of immigrants, what it’s like to be a professional YouTuber and how he plans to take his career to the next level. 

Check out other Creator Network Ottawa stories here.

Jad Slaibeh was juggling two part-time jobs when he posted his first video on YouTube in 2012.

Over 1.8 million subscribers later, Slaibeh quit his off-camera jobs and established himself as a social media personality with a full-time YouTube career.

Now, after a decade in front of the camera filming a mix of comedy sketches, challenges and games with friends, Slaibeh is learning how to take his persona offline, grow into an entrepreneur and invest in the next generation of content creators. 

“I can’t do YouTube forever. It’s not what I signed up for,” said Slaibeh, who compared being a YouTube creator to working as a summer camp counsellor in Ottawa. 

‘Something I realized early is, you have to do what you don’t want to do, until you can do what you want to do,’ says Slaibeh, who worked as a a busser, lifeguard, server, bank teller and a camp counsellor before finding success on YouTube. (Sara del Angel)

“At camp you’re embarrassing yourself in front of all the kids and doing all this funny stuff. Online you’re doing that, but in front of a camera,” said Slaibeh, who often made videos with friends from high school under the name “Team Alboe.” 

“I signed up for YouTube as the fun-loving camp counsellor who filmed with his friends. Now that’s slowly ending and I have to make sure I’m on the right path.” he said.

Like many of his YouTube peers, Slaibeh grew up in a newcomer family, immigrating to Canada from Lebanon in the early ’90s. Jad was the first in his family born here. 

“They came to Canada with only a few suitcases,” said Slaibeh, whose father was a baker and mother worked at a hospital in Beirut. “My dad had to make up the spelling of our last name in English, because it had only been written in Arabic.” 

The youngest of three, Slaibeh is a self-described hustler and said he always asked his parents for cash instead of toys for his birthdays.

‘My mom said I was the money kid,’ says Slaibeh. ‘If I asked for a dollar and my parents said no, then I’d ask for 10 dimes,’ he laughed. (Jad Slaibeh)

When it came to extracurriculars, Slaibeh said his hard-working newcomer parents couldn’t provide beyond the essentials, so he recalls watching with longing as his peers participated in after-school sports or went on idyllic family vacations. 

Slaibeh realized, if he wanted something more, he’d need to figure out a creative way to “level up” and earn it himself.

Smashing likes on YouTube 

Slaibeh watched as some of his YouTube friends’ videos started to take off.

Then his own YouTube break came when he decided to turn a camp game into a video challenge.

The game is known as  “Bigger, better, best,” where campers barter small items in exchange for something more valuable. 

In Slaibeh’s iteration of the game, he took a paper-clip to the Rideau Centre mall and asked retail workers if they’d be willing to exchange it for items in their store.

He managed to trade a single paper-clip for chocolates, perfumes, wireless headphones with a price of $299 and eventually a car. 

In 2016, this and other videos went viral, spinning off a global trend on YouTube with hundreds of vloggers attempting to barter paper-clips for items. 

Team Alboe celebrates with Jad Slaibeh, as his channel brings in 1 million subscribers. (Jad Slaibeh)

Sharing success with family

One of the first things he did when he found success, after quitting work at a local pizza parlour and bank, was buy his parents a 5,000 square foot home in Ottawa — an upgrade from the small house he grew up in. 

“I couldn’t live with myself knowing my parents were still living in that house. I’ve got to do something about this,” he remembered. 

Many of Slaibeh’s YouTuber friends also come from newcomer households and understand what such a purchase means. 

“We’re first generation Canadians, and the goal is to support your parents,” said Slaibeh’s friend and local Lebanese-Canadian YouTuber, Hassan Bicher, who vlogs under the name bongizzlez. 

“It’s a huge accomplishment,” said Bicher.

Jad Slaibeh checks his YouTube channel on his phone with his friends, Charles Raynor, David Parody and Shawn Callaghan who make up Team Alboe. The photo on the left was taken in 2016 as the group was starting out on social media, and the photo on the right was taken in 2019 after the group saw real success on YouTube. (Jad Slaibeh)

“When you have certain creative jobs, it’s hard for your parents to quantify how well you’re doing. They don’t really understand until you do something like that,” said friend and Ottawa YouTuber Daniel Haye, who vlogs under the name Deejdesign.

Slaibeh holds his golden play button from YouTube, which is given to content creators who have over 1 million subscribers. (Jad Slaibeh)

Next generation of content creators, next generation of work 

On camera, Slaibeh has always stressed the importance of avoiding burnout and for younger creators to cultivate a life offline.

Now at age 30, Slaibeh said he feels it’s time to trade in the camp-counsellor persona for a new role: entrepreneur. 

“I never want to be the old guy in a young man’s game. I always want to be a young man in an older person’s game,” he said. 

In April 2021, Slaibeh started Cooped Cards, a trading card company with his friend and fellow YouTuber Sean Callaghan, or ItsYeBoi, and invested in a sports startup called Boardball — a game he’s passionate about since it has the potential to lower barriers to playing volleyball. 

“I’m thinking of my past self and making that person happy,” explained Slaibeh about his reasons for putting his energy into pursuits that he hopes make fun more accessible for young people.

Slaibeh thinks he’ll always have a presence online, but he’s ready for the next adventure.

Slaibeh has always had a camera in his hands. For the past 10 years he has lived his life candidly in front of the cameras for his YouTube channel chadwithaj. (Jad Slaibeh)

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