How These Entrepreneurs Made Millions Exclusively on Social Media
Social media is a must for any business looking to get off the ground and sometimes it's the first stop before opening brick and mortar or launching a website. Social media has made it easier to get to more customers fast — with Facebook ads and subscription groups, Instagram shopping, What's App checkout and more helping brands go from local to global. Bottom line: There are many ways to monetize your talents without having to literally open shop. Here are a few inspiring entrepreneurs who got their start on social media — and how you can too.
Get Behind a Purpose
Three months before launch, the sisters behind LA-based fashion brand Doen, Margaret and Katherine Kleveland, took their brand to social media with shot-on-film, vintage-inspired photography and luxe, modern, boho dresses and blouses any woman would covet, and word-of-month spread fast. Through DMs and tags, the brand grew organically (and internationally) and their mission of female empowerment — a women-run fashion business with women-run factories in a male-led industry — became a story to tell. Three months later, at launch time, they were featured in the NY Times' T Magazine.
"We use our social media platforms to hear from and engage with our customers in order to know what people are loving, how items are fitting, thoughts on fabric and so on. It's important for us to be open with our customers and it's allowed us to build trust with our community. Our customer knows they can email or message us online and receive a quick yet personal response," they told Harper's Bazaar UK last May. Last summer the direct-to-consumer brand partnered up with Net-a-Porter and recently opened shop in Brentwood, nearly five years after launch.
What started as a social action campaign for International Women's Day in 2017 became a powerful digital movement that has impacted countless women and girls worldwide. Meena Harris, founder of the Phenomenal Woman Action Campaign, used her super skills in grassroots organizing (she is the niece of Senator Kamala Harris and was an organizer for Barack Obama's 2008 campaign) to sell 'Phenomenal Woman' T-shirts that would benefit causes close to her heart: educational and healthcare equity; criminal justice reform; gender parity in STEM; reproductive health; and political representation. She talks about how she used digital platforms to spread the word by partnering with several non-profit beneficiaries, getting celeb support (strategically) and thinking like an entrepreneur to grow in this Vogue Australia article. The fundraising initiative has since raised money for the organizations such as Girls Who Code, the United State of Women, the Essie Justice Group, Families Belong Together, Planned Parenthood, Native Voices Rising and the Dr. Maya Angelou Foundation.
Be an Original
Self-taught artist Jenna Rainey inspired a major watercolor comeback when she started posting time-lapse videos of her bright and colorful floral strokes in 2013. Her refreshingly down-to-earth and quirky personality helped define her brand and her willingness to share how she does it through online tutorials and workshops turned her hobby into a global creative powerhouse. She started up her own design studio in Southern California and became the best-selling author of a series of watercolor books. She's also a YouTuber, host to several online courses (including three for Brit + Co), and licenses her art to brands like Target, Staples and Papyrus. She shares her licensing secrets in her popular Brand + Brand course.
Turn Followers Into Shoppers
Natalie Ellis and Dr. Danielle Canty, cofounders of BossBabe, a community for women in business, started out posting ambitious quotes on Instagram and turned it into a multimillion-dollar business. How? By cultivating their follower's buying power. Ellis lays out her secrets to making the most of selling on Instagram stories and Facebook ("Don't make your audience jump through hoops to buy from you") in this Fast Company article.
Break Your Industry's Mold
Lindsay Teague Moreno built a seven-figure income selling Young Living Essential oils using only social media (with three little ones at home) and now her sales are projected to bring in $250 million this year. She is the author of the best-selling book Getting Noticed, a road map for building a business from scratch and has a new book Boss Up! coming out in May. In this video on Entrepreneur she talks about how she broke from the mold when it came to selling essential oils in an industry that needed a refresh.
Behold the Trust Factor
Jenna Kutcher traded her corporate job as a health-and-wellness leader at Target to pursue a passion for photography. After running a wedding photog gig, she moved on to teaching others how to set up a photography business and how to market their business via email and social media. Her digital marketing know-how, never straying from her niche audience, and talking with brutal honesty on social (her heartfelt response to a body-shaming troll after she suffered a miscarriage went viral and her following grew 5Xs). A podcast, courses, and an online shop later, Jenna Kutcher LLC was projected to make $5.5 million in revenue last year.
When Algorithms Change, Try Good Old-Fashioned Email
Emily Ley, founder of the super-popular Simplified Planner, grew her Etsy audience by sharing her products and her personal story on Facebook and Twitter in 2008. She has since grown to 250,000 Instagram followers, 65,000 Facebook fans, and 10,000 Twitter followers but growing an organic audience online (as we all know) has become a challenge. "Social media algorithms have changed, so you don't always show up in someone's feed, but if you have someone's email address, you will always show up in their inbox," she told Inc. She uses MailChimp to automate her newsletters and set up a monthly coaching program with tips to help customers organize their lives. The win? It has shown to turn one-time customers into forever fans.
Have a social media success story to share? Tell us @BritandCo!
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Theresa Gonzalez is a content creator based in San Francisco and the author of Sunday Sews. She's a lover of all things design and spends most of her days momming her little one Matilda.