How Ryan Trahan Got a Billion YouTube Views Turning Pennies into Dollars

Video creator Ryan Trahan used a single penny to cross North America in 30 days. That challenge brought millions of viewers to his YouTube channel — and here’s why.

A few days ago, Ryan Trahan finished his trek across the U.S. to deliver one penny to MrBeast, a popular YouTube creator. But he didn’t do it how most would. Instead of cranking up a car or boarding a plane, Ryan started a YouTube challenge.

With $0.01 to spend, he set a goal to travel from California to North Carolina, where MrBeast lives. It took some faith — and a “go with the flow” attitude — but he crushed the challenge in just 30 days.

Even more impressive, Ryan’s videos got 253 million views throughout June when the challenge took place. He also gained 2.3 million subscribers and helped raise $1.4 million to end hunger through a fundraiser with Feeding America.

Today, Ryan has 10.1 million subscribers and over 1 billion views on YouTube. Most of that popularity comes from his ability to turn pennies into dollars.

Ryan Trahan’s Penny: A Catalyst for YouTube Success

If traveling on a budget of $0.01 sounds impossible, that’s because it is. Luckily for Ryan, his original penny didn’t stay a penny forever.

His main goal was to flip the penny into a few dollars, then flip those dollars into more dollars.

So cleverly, he did three things:

  1. Bought a stranger’s ink pen for $0.01
  2. Sold the ink pen to another stranger for $1
  3. Bought a water bottle for $1, which he upsold to a stranger for $2

By the end of day one, Ryan had $42.70. Check out the video below to see how it all unfolded.

Ryan stuck to this plan for most of the challenge. To reach MrBeast, he was walking dogs, delivering food, and doing other odd jobs to pay for transportation, lodging, and meals. His willingness to think creatively (and fast) caught viewers’ attention.

Why Ryan Trahan’s Videos Are so Popular

Ryan brings a lot of ingenuity to his content. He's making money in unique ways, living on a lean budget, and doing it all with a smile. But other than that, what makes people watch his videos?

1. They’re motivational (and relatable).

How often have you stared at a dollar and wished it were 10? Or thought, How can I make some extra money this week?

Well, Ryan made that happen across 30 YouTube videos. If he can take the lowest denomination of money and multiply it with creativity and grit, why can’t we all? It’s easy to leave his videos feeling inspired or at least motivated to do something great.

2. They’re easy to understand.

Most people know what a penny is and what it represents. So when you see that tiny, brown coin on Ryan’s thumbnails, you don’t have to think too hard about the video’s concept.

But to be clear, Ryan doesn’t rely on using the word “penny” in his titles. The dollar sign is a globally-recognized symbol, so he writes “$0.01” instead. Viewers may not connect with the word “penny,” but they’ll immediately understand the number.

3. MrBeast is involved.

Traveling the country with one penny is an awesome idea. But you've hit a new level when you’re doing all that, plus delivering the penny to a popular YouTuber.

This ideas works because MrBeast has millions of subscribers on YouTube. When Ryan mentions his name, he appeals to his own core audience plus viewers who love watching MrBeast.

4. He targets four YouTube niches at once: challenges, budgeting, making money, and travel.

It’s easy to look at Ryan’s channel and say he’s in the “challenge” niche — nothing more, nothing less. But after watching a few videos, you realize his content shows so much more:

  • Making money in creative ways
  • Budgeting your earnings
  • Traveling

With this approach, Ryan can attract multiple audiences. Viewers might come from the personal finance, travel, or challenge corners of YouTube. So even if you don’t know who Ryan is or why he’s seeking a guy named MrBeast, there's something to love about the content he makes.

For a deeper analysis, check out our video breaking down the secrets to Ryan’s success:

A Well-Tested Idea

This isn’t the first time Ryan flipped a penny into a nice chunk of cash. He’s done it several times on his channel, and those videos have numerous views. This one in particular, where Ryan turns a penny into $1,000, is sitting at 16 million:

Before he was turning pennies into dollars, Ryan’s videos were a bit different. He documented his journey as a track and field athlete and posted workout content that had nothing to do with money. Over time, his views shot up when he started turning pennies into dollars.

This proves a timeless piece of advice we always share on YouTube: Experiment with new content. After all, you never know which videos will do well (or not) until you post them on your channel.

Taking the time to figure that out (like Ryan did) helps you find your “thing” on YouTube and grow your channel much faster.

Want more success stories? Here’s how a mysterious “counting channel” got 100,000 subscribers in three months.