How Birthday Series Brought 20 Content Creators Together to Run From Montauk to Times Square

Let’s light the candle.

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Carl Nard

Birthday Series is a YouTube channel dedicated to cultivating memorable experiences grounded in positivity and adventure. The concept is simple: Do really cool things with really cool people by offering them the opportunity to fulfill a wish. But not just any wish, it must be something actionable. It is then Ben Sharf and Ryan Foss-Skiftesvik's job to function as the force to bring that wish to life. 

For the series' debut—without ever putting out a single piece of content—Ben and Ryan brought together 20 content creators from the Greater NYC Area and beyond to run 131 miles from the lighthouse in Montauk all the way to Times Square.

"This is a crazy social experiment. We just put a bunch of random people together. Some runners—some more serious than others—and we're just going to race to the finish," Tyler Swartz explained to me, cheesin’ from cheek to cheek. Tyler was one of the people who wished for the lengthy run, and the grin on his face would hold strong for the first half of the day. But what he and his unconcealed joy wouldn’t be prepared for were the whirlwind of emotions that came with the next 24 hours. We’re talking nonstop drama with game show-like twists, five lead changes, one medical emergency, a down to the second finish and a whole lot of trash talk. “None of this would have been possible if it weren’t for those two,” he motions over to Ben and Ryan.

OWNER Ben Sharf
Ben Sharf

What is Birthday Series?

“One of the main reasons why we started Birthday Series was to provide elevated experiences to our guests. Whether it's the people actually participating—like yourself—in the run,” Ben motions over to me, ”or the viewers that are watching because they really enjoy it. I just find so much joy in being able to give other people a sense of fulfillment while bringing my personal goals to fruition at the same time.”

We think you should celebrate every day like it’s your birthday.

- Ryan Foss-Skiftesvik

“We think you should celebrate every day like it’s your birthday,” Ryan adds, his leg propped up on the other while unraveling his left pant leg, “because you don’t know what tomorrow brings.” He’s motioning down to reveal a small tattoo of a birthday cake newly inked into his calf. “We want to be the forcing function for creators and help them do the things they say they want to do,” and that's how the idea—and the YouTube channel Birthday Series—was born. 

Who are these guys?

Ben left home at the age of 15 to follow his dreams of becoming a Division One hockey player. After a successful 4-year career at Colgate University, Ben had opportunities to play professionally and work at a big 4 consulting firm. Met with a fork in the road, he decided to veer off the road by not only hanging up his skates, but by forgoing his corporate job just 12 hours before his first day. Ben had other ideas and set off to fuel his north star.

For the past 2 years, Ben has been building an ecommerce software startup called Platter, a software company helping Shopify brands increase conversion rate and average order value on their storefront. Most founders would tell you, ”to build a successful software company, you need to work 18 hours a day at a computer on the same thing all the time. You can't do anything else, because if you do something else, you're deemed a distraction and investors don't like that.” As a founder, Ben disagrees.

“My belief is that there are ways that you can utilize alternative media channels to draw in different eyeballs whether it be potential customers, partners, or investors that you want to get in front of. In today’s world, having media distribution is an invaluable asset as a form of acquisition."

Ryan has held many roles that led him to the work he does now, which is run a consulting firm that primarily works with companies and investors in all stages of their growth cycle. Prior to this, Ryan was getting a lot of fulfillment by working with creators helping them to monetize their content or get started investing. The consulting business was built after having an opportunity to be a co-founder and the COO of a startup (Wallplay), where he helped both restructure how the company made money and raise its first venture capital rounds of funding. COVID unfortunately interrupted their business model, and it was through unwinding the company that people in his network asked him to help them avoid the same fate. Ryan had been advising and investing in startups throughout his career as an investment banker and while working at a family office, so the transition to consulting came naturally.

Ryan has done a lot of interesting things while building the consulting firm. He most notably helped JT Barnett & Nick Dio build the very first adult TikTok house during the pandemic—which they grew to 1M followers in 60 days, and later sold. It was during this arc in his career where he discovered a common pain point amongst the creators he worked with.

“Most content creators become creators first and then they figure out the business once they have a community and realize they can monetize it,” Ben goes on to explain how they did it differently: “We started as business operators, understanding the fundamentals and now we're putting ourselves out there as content creators.” The boys have been building quietly in an effort to set themselves up for success. Their thesis centers around the goal to be consistent rather than to chase virality. 

The basis of Birthday Series boils down to this: Ben and Ryan wanted to come up with a way to reach and inspire more people all while building a platform that spreads positivity and encourages others to fulfill their wildest bucket-list activities. 

How this episode happened:

"Take the context of Birthday Series, for example. Over the course of two weeks, we were talking to brands to put this episode together. I spoke to 35 direct to consumer brands—so that's an anecdote that not everyone knows necessarily.” Ben goes on, “For me, it’s of the utmost important that all of the things you spend your time on need to be symbiotic. Meaning everything must feed off of or into one another." Remember those 35 brands they spoke to? Ben was able to leverage his network to secure 21 sponsors to back the series and support Tyler and Mal’s wish. Several of those brands also became customers of Platter.

Since these brands were already at Ben’s door, he invited them to come in and take a peek into his personal life. Once he showed them what he and Ryan were building with Birthday Series, interests were peaked and deals were made. “The goal is to figure out compounding effects. Whether that be through personal branding, media properties or fueling the North Star. And for me, I want to build a really large software company and use my extroverted personality and my media channels as a way to propel that forward.”

This project is an ongoing case study that showcases how Ben and Ryan think about collaborating and creating with brands and influencers. If we take a step back and look at this idea from the nose bleeds, we can see the bigger vision. By working with established and rising creators, Birthday Series will leverage the existing following of all parties involved to deliver promising results to brands who are sponsoring the wish. 

How did we end up in Montauk?

Birthday Series

For the inaugural episode to premiere on the Birthday Series YouTube channel, Ben and Ryan asked their good friends Tyler Swartz and Mallory Kilmer to make a wish. Their joint wish was to run 131 miles from Montauk to Times Square—a moonshot of an idea that quickly snowballed into a 20 person relay race over a 16 hour period. 2 teams, 10 runners per team, a 17 person production crew, and 2 jam packed RVs full of sweaty bodies and anxious content creators. The amount of calories that were consumed during this time was an ungodly amount.

Carl Nard
Carl Nard

If you could imagine what a set of a reality TV show looks like, then you’re getting the right taste for what this experience was like. From the jump, we were constantly being surprised with planned disruptions, calculated roadblocks, one medical emergency (everyone is fine) and many audibles in between.

“If there's one message for people reading this, it's that if you tell a story, you believe in that story, and it's powerful enough, someone will buy into it,” Ben explains to me. It was this mindset that allowed these gentlemen to secure sponsors, such as Athletic Greens and Nike, that provided the capital to make this run happen. It’s quite the claim to fame to have one of the biggest brands in the world support you before you’ve released a single piece of content.

What's next?

You can watch the inaugural episode of the Birthday Series on their YouTube channel. Following the first episode, you can expect to find bi-weekly uploads featuring other creators fulfilling their wish. We were ready to jump into Ben and Ryan’s vision and we know you’ll be hooked too. 

One wish, one adventure, let’s light the candle.

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