When Jenni Williams went to snap a picture of the Death Valley thermometer reaching what looked like a record-breaking 135 degrees, her camera broke.
Things are always breaking in the hottest place on Earth, said Brooke Grey, a 23-year-old hotel manager at The Amargosa Opera House and one of Death Valley Junction’s few permanent residents. Water pipes, roofs, cameras, and tourists, the harsh heat governs everything in the small desert town.
Summers in Death Valley are always extreme, but this July broke world records. On July 9, the temperature was hot enough to cook a medium-rare steak.
Tourists posed next to the visitor center thermometer in bikinis and t-shirts, their skin pink and sweaty. The digital screen read 135 degrees, though park officials later announced it was actually five degrees cooler.
Death Valley’s highest recorded temperature is 134 degrees in 1913, but the accuracy of that measurement is widely debated among scientists. Some believe the latest 130-degree reading, which ties last August’s, could be the modern world record.
Visitors used to come all the way from Europe and Asia to hike through the park, at times a perilous journey. On Friday, 68-year-old Douglas Branham was found dead during his 12-mile round trip through Death Valley’s salt flats.
Not a lot of people can withstand that kind of weather, let alone make a living in it.
“The current population of Death Valley Junction is 2.7,” Fred Conboy, president of Amargosa Opera House, told Insider in an email, noting that Wilsoncat (the hotel pet) counts as 0.7 percent human.
“At the moment, the wild horses who come in from the desert are greater in number than our hotel guests,” Conboy added. “We provide hay and water critical for their survival during the brutal heat.”
Grey missed my first phone call because she was stranded at home by life-threatening flash floods in a rare desert downpour. July in Death Valley is also the local monsoon season, she explained.
“I definitely think about climate change a lot living here,” Grey said. “Number one, the heat is becoming intolerable. Number two, when you see it rain the way it did the other day, and to know Death Valley used to be underwater – what makes us think that it couldn’t become underwater again?”
As the pandemic kept tourists who visit Death Valley National Park at home, Amargosa Opera House was forced to close its doors. Founded in 1967, New York City ballerina Marta Becket used to put on dance and mime shows at the hotel, often without an audience.
Decades later the isolation remains, but a different young woman sits behind the front desk. “I’m the last woman standing,” Grey said. “Throughout the pandemic, we lost quite a bit of our staff.”
Death Valley’s Martell Market is, for lack of better words, “in the middle of nowhere.” Even so, the retired couple Ed and Sunny Martell have successfully run the business for 12 years now. A quick glance at the market’s Yelp page shows a shocking number of 5-star reviews raving about the desert’s one-stop shop.
One reviewer said that the Martell’s saved her life after her car became stuck in quicksand. When two towing companies said they couldn’t reach her, they suggested calling Martell market – whose services range from Vietnamese food and trimming Wilsoncat’s fur to rescue missions.
Ed isn’t fazed by Death Valley’s increase in heat as much as he is by the decrease in customers. Upkeep is costly, especially the AC bill, and they had to shut down for months during the pandemic.
Grey said the hotel only made $4,000 this month, while July expenses added up to $10,000. The hotel’s performances and cafe used to provide extra cash if bookings dried up, but there’s not enough staff to reopen.
“I’ve never had to close the hotel because we don’t have check-ins,” Grey said. “That’s what I’m having to do now, there’s a lot of days when we don’t have anyone here.”
When Grey first arrived in the desert two years ago, she came across a man selling crystals from his camper van. Behind him was a giant trough of cold water.
“He said it was for emergency cooling, in case something happened,” she said. “People here are prepared … some of them.”
Carniceria La Piedad, a butcher shop 30 minutes outside of Death Valley Junction, is run by Josephine Lucro and her two kids. Lucro immigrated from Mexico to Las Vegas and opened up Death Valley’s first Mexican meat market in 2005. The shop stayed open during the pandemic as an essential service, one of the few groceries in the area.
“We basically had to feed everybody here,” Lucro’s son, Jose Parra said. “Especially with the meat shortages at Walmart and Albertsons … I think we all helped everyone stay at home during those months.”
Parra said that an important part of running a business in Death Valley is never going outside unless you have to, and staying hydrated constantly. “The heat here is no joke,” he said.
Grey said working in the hottest place in the world is both a blessing and a curse. “It’s great to be secluded and be the gem that people stumble upon,” she said. “But if we were in a more populated area more people could come visit the hotel.”
“Richmond is the root of oppression.” That’s one of the ways Ashley J. Williams described the city she’s called home for 10 years.
She said she was speaking of the Virginia capital as a whole, as well as specifically the neighborhood of Shockoe Bottom and the 17th Street Market.
The 17th Street Market has been a site of commerce since the 1700s. Depending on whom you ask, that commerce included enslaved Africans, with the 17th Street Market being the site of an auction block. (Others say it was close to an auction block.) A few minutes away at Lumpkin’s Jail, or Devil’s Half Acre, enslaved people were jailed and tortured before being sold.
Today, less than a five-minute walk from the open-air 17th Street Market, you’ll see a few markers for the Slave Trail, but these are easy to miss if you’re not keen on the history.
But for Williams, a yoga therapist and the CEO of BareSOUL, who’s been with the studio since 2015, “there’s energy that’s very present.”
“Our whole role is to restore the energy there and reenvision what it looks like to bring more life and vibrant energy while acknowledging and honoring the past,” she said.
The wellness space, especially yoga, can feel extremely white, she added. BareSOUL employs a dozen Black instructors, and each 17th Street practice begins with a brief history of the space that was once a source of pain.
“The 17th Street Market was a place where Black families were split up. It’s where the Black life was devalued. So the practice of yoga is a practice of connection. And it’s a practice of liberation of our minds,” Williams said.
Williams isn’t the only small-business owner bringing new life to the space. After being approached by Richmond Parks and Recreation to host an outdoor, COVID-19-friendly event in August, Faith Wilkerson, UnlockingRVA‘s owner and founder, who’s run the event-planning company for five years, lined the concrete and cobblestone walkways with partyers donning neon-lit headphones playing old-school and current tunes.
“Every single moment I step foot on that market, it’s done with authority and purpose because it’s what the ancestors would want us to do. Black Americans have this special gift of turning tragedy and pain into triumph and longevity. You see so much joy in our guests’ faces as they dance the night away, and it makes the moment even more special,” Wilkerson said.
Participants in yoga or the silent disco usually work up an appetite, so Williams and Wilkerson do their parts to support and promote food vendors, especially Black-owned ones, in the area.
But the women acknowledged initial hiccups in businesses not exactly embracing their audiences, which tend to be predominantly Black.
Williams even recalled one business owner calling the police on a homeless yoga participant. Both women chalked it up to establishments adapting to new faces, new spaces, and a COVID-19 world.
Adrienne Cole Johnson and Melody Short, the cofounders of the Richmond Night Market, also experienced the same blowback from some owners in the area when they brought their nighttime affair to 17th Street two years ago. They said that quickly blew over once they introduced themselves.
Johnson and Short described the work they and the Night Market do as reprogramming and reclaiming the space. The market operates on the second Saturday of each month in the summer to early fall.
Though they’re open to all vendors, Short acknowledged that the market naturally attracts a majority of Black businesses.
“I think people feel safe. It’s different when you’ve got Black women leading the charge because we welcome everybody – versus sometimes when it’s led by other groups. Black people, sometimes, we don’t feel welcome,” Short said. Being heavily invested in the businesses and the people behind the businesses is what she said keeps vendors returning year after year.
For their first in-person event since the pandemic, the market hosted about 20 vendors selling everything from art to handmade goods and food.
“We’re often, as Black people, putting our money in other communities,” Short said. The market allows them to flip the script, she added.
2. From the homepage, click Pages in the sidebar menu on the left.
3. Click the Create New Page button in the menu on the left.
4. On the left side of the next screen,enter a Page name, select a Category, and write a Description. The right side of the page shows you a preview of your page as you add information to it.
5. Scroll down and click Create Page.
6. Next you can add images. Click Add Profile Picture or Add Cover Photo to upload photos from your device. Hit Save at the bottom.
7. A pop-up may appear asking if you want to connect your page to WhatsApp. If you want to, enter your phone number and click Send Code. If you don’t want to, click the “X” icon in the top-right corner of the pop-up.
8. Your new Facebook page is now created, and you can continue customizing it to your liking.
Additional set-up tips
Before you write your page’s first post, be sure to update your page with additional information for your business.
1. Make a call to action
Add a call-to-action button to your business page by clicking Add a Button at the top-right of your page. Choose an action from the available options. You can have visitors book appointments, contact you through Facebook Messenger, download your app, and more.
2. Choose a page username
Choose a page username by clicking Create @username under your cover photo and page name. This username will become the web address for your business page (e.g. facebook.com/businessinsider).
3. Enter upcoming events
To add upcoming public events, click the Events tab at the top of your page and select Create New Event in the top-right of the Upcoming Events section.
4. Update the About section
To get to the About section, click the More tab at the top of your page, beneath your page name. In the More drop-down, select About. Here you can add a location, business hours, price range, contact information, and more.
5. Add page roles
In the sidebar menu on the left, click Settings, then click Page roles to assign roles to other coworkers or brand managers.
In the Assign a new page role section, enter a name or email address into the textbox and in the drop-down menu on the right, select a role: admin, editor, moderator, advertiser, or analyst. Click Add when you’re done.
While the process is called a conversion, it actually copies your personal profile to a page. Your personal profile will remain intact and a new page based on that profile will be created. You can update the newly created page as you would a page created from scratch.
8. Select page visibility
Facebook pages are published as soon as they are created. This means an incomplete page would be visible to the public as soon as it’s created.
If you would prefer to work on your page in private before making it available to the public, you can update its visibility from the page settings menu – click Settings at the bottom of the sidebar menu on the left, and on the General tab, click Page visibility to unpublish your page.
This will prevent the page from being available until you’re ready to publish it again. Remember to update the visibility setting when you are ready to publish it.
Business: The art world has a bad reputation among many young people. Some find it old and too exclusive for their generations, which value inclusivity.
Alexis de Bernede and Marius Jacob didn’t wait for the market to transform – instead, they innovated it themselves. In 2017, with $2,000 saved, the duo launched Darmo Art, a gallery specializing in contemporary and modern artworks that also highlights up-and-coming artists.
Young artists have trouble finding support in the art world since many can’t estimate their overall value, de Bernede told Insider. The duo’s gallery aims to spotlight emerging artists and help them grab a piece of the $50 billion market. Simultaneously, they hope to create a more welcoming environment for aspiring art patrons.
“We want to be the first dealers for our artists,” Jacob said.
Growth: Darmo Art started by hosting public exhibitions and sending cold invites to collectors, dealers, and journalists. Its first show, in 2017, booked nearly $30,000 in sales. Today, Darmo Art’s shows occur in places like the high-end Salvatore Ferragamo store in Paris and typically net six figures per exhibition. What’s more, pieces sell for between $1,200 and $600,000, according to documents seen by Insider.
Darmo Art represents five artists – including Raf Reyes, 23,creative director of clothing brand Very Rare, and Pauline d’Andigné, 24, who is working on an exhibition at a hotel in Athens. Darmo Art also works with nearly 50 collectors, ranging from young patrons in their early 20s to established connoisseurs.
The cofounders are prepping for upcoming exhibitions in Paris and are broadening operations to the French Riveria and at the Grand Hotel Heiligendamm, an exclusive report in Germany. Additionally, Darmo Art is expanding into modern art by selling blue-chip names such as Henri Mattise, Paul Gauguin, César, and Marc Chagall.
Before Darmo Art: De Bernede received a Master’s in art history from the University of Oxford and worked as a special events intern at Christie’s auction house. Meanwhile, Jacob is still studying art at L’Ecole du Louvre in Paris.
Challenges: Making transactions in the art world is about building trust with potential buyers, but people were wary to trust de Bernede and Jacob because of their inexperience and young ages. To prove themselves, they started working on smaller projects before expanding into bigger collaborations.
“Studying art is also what made us trustworthy,” Jacob said. “People saw even if we were trying to elbow our way into the art world, we were still following the path of becoming art historians, not just business people who want to start a gallery.”
Business advice: “Always sell a work at a price you’d been willing to buy it back for,” de Bernede said. The art market can be uncertain and by ensuring customers that they can return their investments with zero losses helps establish trust between the gallery and its buyers, he said.
Business mentor: The duo leans on Jacob’s family, which owns a Parisian antique gallery that specializes in 17th- and 18th-century artwork, for mentorship. They taught the pair how to develop and maintain relationships with customers and collectors.
Why is now the best time to start a business? The pandemic revealed big companies are often slow to innovate themselves, de Bernede said. This leaves a white space in many industries that can be filled with entrepreneurship. “You can be an entrepreneur without necessarily changing the world,” he continued.
On hiring: Right now, de Bernede and Jacob run Darmo Art. However, they’re ready to build a team that they can trust and will tap talent from the networks they’ve established.
Managing burnout: The cofounders depend on each other to manage stress by making sure each is doing their equal parts in running the business. “Having a business partner you can trust and who can be there to motivate you is important,” de Bernede said. “Because having a business is an emotional rollercoaster.”
Adding your business to Google – whether it’s a restaurant open to the public or a hair salon run out of your home – is an important step to reach customers, make connections, and ultimately grow a successful business.
It also gives your business an air of legitimacy, and makes it searchable via Google Maps.
Here’s how to add your business to Google, and customize your business page.
How to add a business to Google
Note that the exact sequence of steps may differ depending on which selections you make on each page, and what kind of business page you’re creating.
1. Go to Google’s My Business site and log into your business account. Or, create a Google account for your business by visiting the Google sign-in page and selecting Create account.
2. From the My Business homepage, click Manage now and on the next screen, enter your business’ name into the search bar. In the drop-down under the search bar, select Create a business with this name.
3. On the next page, enter your Business name and Business category (such as restaurant, retail, barber shop, etc.). Then, select Next. You’ll be able to add additional categories later on.
4. Next you’ll need to choose whether you want your business’ location to appear on Google Maps. If you’re adding a restaurant or other business that’s open to the public, being on Google Maps is incredibly useful. But if you’re just adding a small business run out of your house, keeping that location private might be a good idea. Select Yes or No and hit Next.
5. If you chose to add your business to Google Maps, the next screen will ask you to enter your business address. If you chose to keep your exact location private, then the next screen will ask you to enter your service area(s). Fill out the relevant information and select Next.
6. Enter the phone number and website associated with your business and click Next.
7. On the next page, choose whether or not you want Google Business to send you updates and recommendations for your business, and hit Next.
8. If you chose not to provide a business address, you’ll need to enter your personal mailing address to verify your business. This address will not be visible to the public. Enter your address and hit Next, or choose Verify later.
9. Click the drop-down to select a method to verify your business. Depending on your type of business, only some verification methods may be available to you. For example, you may see Postcard by mail listed as the only available method.
Here are all the ways that you can verify your identity to Google:
By mail. Google will send a physical postcard that includes a verification pin, which you’ll then use to verify online.
By phone. Google will call you, and provide a verification code over the phone. This is only available for certain businesses.
By email. Google will send you the code over email. Again, this is only available for certain businesses.
Bulk verification. If your business has over 10 locations, you’ll have to submit an extra form to have them all verified at once. To do this, when you click “Get verified,” click “Chain” afterwards and enter all your info. Google will then take up to a week to process the request.
Instantly. If you have a Google Search Console account, and your business’ website is verified through Search Console, you can verify your account instantly. Some business categories aren’t allowed to do this.
10. Next, you’ll be taken through a series of prompts to set up your Google My Business page. You can add your services and business hours, set messaging permissions, write a business description, upload photos, and claim a $100 advertising credit through Google Ads.
11. Once you’ve entered all the essential information to set up your business, you’ll be taken to your Google My Business account page where you can add additional information, like a business logo and co-managers.
At many restaurants, a physical menu might be considered a bit of a vintage find.
Half of full-service restaurants in the US now use scannable QR codes, according to the National Restaurant Association. The contactless technology popularized during the pandemic allows customers to pull up digital menus on their phones and order without a server – a convenience that privacy experts say comes with a potential downside.
The New York Times reported on Monday that QR codes have increased businesses’ ability to track and analyze customer behavior, with some apps collecting personal data such as order history, emails, and phone numbers.
Databases created from the data can then be used for marketing promos such as personalized discounts or recommendations, according to the Times.
Activities valued for their intrinsically offline nature – such as eating out or grabbing drinks with friends – are now becoming “part of the online advertising empire,” Jay Stanely, a senior policy analyst at the ACLU told the Times.
Jason Buffer, a marketing manager at 230 Fifth Rooftop Bar in New York City, told Insider that QR codes have helped the bar stay open with less waitstaff as it struggles to find new hires during the labor shortage.
“I think it’s just going to get more and more towards the digital side,” Buffer said. “I think we’re going to have less and less sort of human interaction.”
Technology has helped minimize COVID-19 outbreaks throughout the pandemic. However, experts are concerned that some developments, such as the rapid adoption of QR codes, could compromise privacy rights.
“There have been disease outbreaks throughout human history, but never one that has taken place in the era of high-tech tracking tools and ‘big data,'” Stanley wrote on the ACLU website last May.
Perhaps of utmost importance to restaurant owners is the money QR codes can save businesses hit hard during the pandemic. According to Cheqout, a QR ordering and payment system, the digital menus can help save up to 50% on labor costs, the Times reported.
While convenient and low cost, some service workers are beginning to fear that the black-and-white squares could eventually replace their jobs.
Charlotte Alden was working as an art specialist at an auction house when COVID-19 reached the US and shuttered roughly 200,000 businesses. She lost her job and struggled to find another, so she bought a bead kit on Amazon and launched her own jewelry company in October.
“It’s never been more feasible to start an e-commerce company,” said Alden, founder of fine jewelry startup lottie, which already counts model Nina Agdal and “The Bachelor’s” Hannah Goodwin as fans. Alden crafts all the jewelry, including $150 body chains and $70 bracelets.
Alden is one of 4 million people who started businesses in 2020, a 24% increase from the year prior. What’s more, she entered a thriving market: The global jewelry market is growing and expected to reach a value of $292 billion by 2025. Despite just getting started, lottie is on track to book nearly six figures in revenue within the next year and Alden said average monthly revenue has risen 50% year-to-date, according to documents viewed by Insider.
Alden said practicing discipline was vital when turning her hobby into a thriving business. This includes running every morning and going to bed at the same time every night. For Insider, Alden breaks down how she structures her day so she can execute on her ideas and find balance in her life.
She wakes up at 7:30 p.m.
After waking up, Alden immediately checks her phone. She responds to unanswered text messages, skims through her email, and checks lottie’s Instagram, which already has 16,000 followers.
“It’s a bad habit, I know,” said Alden, who shuffles between her parents’ house on Martha’s Vineyard, where she keeps her inventory, and her boyfriend’s apartment in Manhattan to save money.
Phone still in hand, she makes herself a double espresso and checks Shopify to see if the company made any new sales since the day before. That wouldn’t be unrealistic for lottie: In the past 90 days, lottie’s web traffic increased by 129%.
Alden is lottie’s sole employee but she’s still able to plan a new collection and collaborations, including ones with significant properties like Palm Beach Historic Inn and Hudson Chatham Winery.
“lottie’s success and failure is my responsibility,” she said. “But another aspect of maintaining balance is never getting too high, and never getting too low.”
At 9 a.m., she prepares for the workday
Alden puts her phone down to exercise, which helps her maintain a healthy mindset and balanced routine. Then she’ll shower, have breakfast, and ship prepackaged lottie orders from USPS.
“If I don’t get out the orders first thing, I never end up making it to the post office that day,” she said, noting that she’ll get consumed by her inbox.
Once she’s home, she begins working on lottie’s social media strategy, using Instagram management app UNUM to plan posts weeks in advance. Around 10 a.m., she’ll start taking phone calls and chatting with suppliers, customers, and potential brand collaborators.
Sourcing materials and planning collaborations take up her afternoon
Alden officially starts her workday around 11 a.m. when she speaks with her manufacturers about sourcing elements for her jewelry. Finding the necessary raw materials is one of Alden’s biggest challenges and she often has to purchase goods from multiple suppliers in order to make one necklace.
Before breaking for lunch, she meets with a consultant to plan other brand collaborations. In addition to the partnerships with physical properties, Alden is making a tennis bracelet for the Adidas-backed sports company Break the Love.
Alden is also planning to open lottie pop-up locations this summer. Previous versions were in Brooklyn, Miami, and East Hampton; future ones will be in Manhattan, Palm Beach, and on Martha’s Vineyard.
The remainder of the day is reserved for making jewelry
After scarfing down lunch, Alden spends the rest of her day making jewelry. It can take her between five minutes and one hour to make a piece, but the key is keeping her materials neat, she said.
“Every little bead or crimp can get so expensive,” she said. “It’s important to stay organized and not lose anything.”
Alden taught herself how to make jewelry through trial and error, learning about semi-precious gemstones and the difference between gold-plated and gold-filled, she said. “There’s a lot more that goes into it besides stringing beads,” she added.
When she completes a piece, she photographs it for Instagram. She’ll also send press boxes to celebrities, like Charli D’Amelio and Emma Chamberlain, in the hopes that they will share them with their followers.
Getting enough sleep sets the tone for tomorrow
Around 7 p.m., Alden showers, dons her pajamas, and takes her work to the couch.
Despite the change in scenery, she’ll continue crafting jewelry, making social content, and packaging the orders she’ll send the following morning.
Even if she’s not tired, she’ll stop working at 10 p.m. and tuck herself into bed. “Getting a good night’s sleep can determine my entire day,” she said.
During a night out in downtown New York City, bar lines have gotten so long that one will end where another begins, forming chaotic and impatient crowds.
On the corner of Washington St. and Little West 12th, partygoers outside of Le Bain and The Brass Monkey cross paths, with some groups waiting up to three hours.
“When things really started to pick up I found myself having to get behind the bar, and I should not be bartending,” Marisol Delarosa, a managing partner at The Brass Monkey said, laughing. “It took me a little while to get back into the swing of it.”
As New York City bars reopened to full capacity in late May, bar managers like Delarosa couldn’t find enough workers to handle the crowds suddenly pouring in. With the entire city hiring at once, demand for service workers quickly outpaced supply.
The Brass Monkey has about 60% of the staff it normally employs during the summer, while business is back to pre-pandemic levels. This forces some staff to volunteer for long shifts lasting through the night.
“People want the old New York back,” Chaim Dauermann, a manager at The Up & Up, a cocktail bar in Greenwich Village, told Insider. “The challenge for us has been being able to offer that to them while still being until recently very understaffed.”
The cause and effect of a dwindling applicant pool
When Delarosa first put out summer job postings in April, she got seven applicants with no real bartending experience. Usually, the popular bar would receive hundreds of applications in just a few days.
“If I were looking for a bartender two years ago, I’d probably wake up the next day to check and I’d have 50 to 100 emails,” said Jason Buffer, who hires staff for 230 Fifth, a rooftop bar by Madison Square Park. “This time around, I maybe get three or four, and maybe one of them has New York City experience that we’re looking for.”
Delarosa said that she doesn’t believe unemployment benefits are the sole reason fueling the shortage, and it’s not because of low wages – on busy nights, her staff can make hundreds of dollars an hour.
“I think there was also a real existential shift that people had during this time,” she said. “They wanted to do something different, or they wanted a different life.”
The dwindling applicant pool has caused some bars to hire staff with less experience, or even offer signing bonuses, according to Buffer.
Ali Martin, the head bartender at The Up & Up, said every employee has to be trained to do every job now – from hostessing or serving to bartending – in order to keep up.
A cautious optimism for the future
“I’m optimistic because I have to be,” Delarosa said. “It’s going to be a long haul to get things back to where they were.”
All five workers expressed some form of cautionary optimism, ultimately agreeing that the city’s hospitality industry may never be the same.
Brian Grummert, the owner of Subject on the Lower East Side, told Insider that employees have realized they want a better quality of life than many bars allow. He hopes that this will reinvigorate the industry and create a “new wave” of bartenders.
“They don’t want instability, they don’t want to work crazy hours anymore. They want their personal life back,” he said.
Buffer said 230 Fifth has replaced the need for more waitstaff with a self-serve system and scannable QR codes. “I think it’s just going to get more and more towards the digital side,” he said. “I think we’re going to have less and less sort of human interaction.”
Delarosa and Dauermann are both concerned that New York City is no longer accessible for new businesses or workers like it was when they moved to the city over fifteen years ago.
“I think it’s changed forever in a lot of ways and I worry,” Dauermann said. “I want New York to still be a city that people go to to be the best at what they do.”
“It might end up just being lots of chain restaurants and very few mom and pop shops and small businesses,” Delarosa told Insider. “Which is sad because that’s what makes New York City great. You don’t come here to go to Chick-fil-A.”
When Jeremy Kim and John Dalsey started their hard-seltzer company, Nectar, late last year, they went door to door to 200 stores in Los Angeles looking for someone to carry their product. “We would go to these stores, drop off samples, and then, you know, I’d be excited because we’re getting all this positive feedback from our friends and family and their friends – these store owners are probably going to have the same reaction,” Kim told Insider. “Nobody would give us a call back.”
Kim said the constant rejection made him and his partner nervous that they had missed their window of opportunity by selling the summer beverage in late fall. That’s when they decided to hop on TikTok, which was surging in popularity amid the pandemic.
“First I put together a video, basically just chronicling our journey of how we got our first box and just to see whether or not anybody would be interested in the drink,” Kim said, noting that he added a phone number that viewers could text to show interest.
“I posted the video in early November and it did OK, got like 30,000 views, and we’re, like, ‘Right, you know, a hundred more of these videos and we’ll be the biggest brand ever.'”
The video showed Nectar in production – the cans of hard seltzer being filled, sealed, and boxed – superimposed with captions detailing the time it took to bring the product to fruition. Kim said they put a lot of effort into their videos regardless of whether they go viral: “Shooters keep shooting.”
A few weeks later, on Black Friday, Kim said that he got a notification that TikTok took down their biggest video for breaking community guidelines. A spokesperson for TikTok told Insider that Nectar’s video was flagged by the algorithm for sharing personally identifiable information by adding the phone number in the caption.
“I quickly reposted it, and I texted everybody in our group chat, ‘Dude, they took down our biggest video,”‘ he said, adding he was “freaked out” by the move.
Much to his surprise, the views on the reposted video grew tenfold. Three days later, Kim said the video had more than 300,000 views, and “hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people across the entire United States” texted the phone number to express interest. As of Thursday, the video had 415,000 views.
The duo took the videos and hundreds of phone numbers to two mom-and-pop liquor stores in Los Angeles. They put 150 boxes on the shelves at each location and sent out a text to those who texted the phone number from their viral video to let them know that the seltzer was available for the first time to customers.
When they arrived at the stores the next morning, Kim said it was “pandemonium,” and Nectar sold out in under an hour. “I will always remember this day for the rest of my life,” he said. Since then, the popularity has only grown, with other viral videos gaining 500,000 views each. The company’s TikTok had 39,000 followers in seven months.
Nectar ended up hosting more pop-up events and gaining more traction on TikTok before eventually distributing their product with alcohol retailer BevMo and delivery startup GoPuff, which acquired BevMo in November of last year.
The company also made it known to their followers that they would take their product to any city that gets 300 people to text the company phone number and recently sold more than 300 boxes of Nectar in Seattle.
“Seven months ago, we had zero customers and followers,” Kim said. “Today we are in 100 stores self-distributed across California. We ship direct across the entire state of New York. We did this with no distributor, no publicist, no marketing budget.”
Nectar wasn’t the only small business that leveraged the growing popularity of Tiktok and the platform’s algorithm to launch their success. The popular video-based app has joined the ranks of other social-media platforms like Facebook and Instagram to help businesses build their brand and get their name out there.
Digital marketing isn’t new, but TikTok’s been a game-changer for small businesses
Analiese Ross, the CEO and cofounder of AMR Digital Marketing, said using social media as a marketing tool “can really level the playing field for all the businesses, specifically all different sizes and income levels.”
“You see like the big players on there – Nike, Coca-Cola – and then you see small businesses that have a fraction of the budget, but are actually doing way better on social,” Ross said. “And that’s like one of the very, I think, unique things about [digital marketing]. That really doesn’t happen in any other area of marketing.”
But what sets TikTok apart from social platforms like Instagram and Facebook, however, is the video app’s unique ability to make videos go viral. Ross said the biggest draw to TikTok are the fluctuations in video traffic, even if you have a smaller base of followers.
“You’re not going to see those big fluctuations on Instagram where, like, one post gets a million views and the other gets 200,” she said. “That ability to go super-viral and not have it be dependent on your follower count is very unique to TikTok, and it provides, I think, a huge opportunity for a small business who doesn’t have a ton of followers, who doesn’t have all those resources.”
Small businesses can use TikTok’s interest-based algorithm to get their product in front of the right demographic, Ross said. Whether it is viewers who are looking to buy a specific item or are simply coming across merchandise representing their existing obsessions, the algorithm identifies the viewers’ interests and puts specific videos into their news feed, known as a “For You Page.”
“I mean, you can have 200 followers on TikTok and have a video go viral, and it gets a million views and it completely changes everything for you,” Ross added.
“It’s really all about showing people what they want to see,” she said. “So Instagram is all about connecting you with your friends, with people that you know, and you have to be able to find those people and follow them … TikTok is just about what you like.”
That facet of the TikTok algorithm lent itself to the business concept behind Nice Shirt. Thanks!, a custom-clothing company, and helped build its following.
Hayden Rankin and Mason Manning brainstormed the idea of their comedic apparel company in October of last year because the pair “wanted to be able to monetize art and comedy.” Customers send in a prompt of what they want on their shirt, and artists contracted with the company design the shirt without the customers’ knowledge of what it could be.
“We had a few ideas, like, ‘Oh, maybe the customer could create their idea,’ or ‘Oh, maybe we could design something,’ and then, sure enough, it just came to this idea,” Rankin said. “Our interpretation is going to be put down on what the customer wants onto a shirt, and we’re going to keep it as a surprise until the customer gets it.”
“This is a market that we don’t really think exists quite yet,” he added.
Prompts from customers could range anywhere from designs featuring their favorite musicians and pop-culture fandom to suggestions such as “I like hedgehogs, but I also have borderline personality disorder.”
Their business concept lends itself to social media: Their product is the result of a conversation with consumers. While they do have 27,000 followers on Instagram – where some customers can post their order on their Story – and an even smaller audience on Twitter, Rankin said their TikTok account, which has 230,000 followers, reaches the most people, especially with the potential of their customers’ videos going viral alongside their own.
The next logical step after giving customers a surprise design on a T-shirt was getting the reaction, which customers are asked to post on TikTok with the hashtag #niceshirtthanks. The hashtag has nearly 50 million views.
Rankin said they noticed their growing popularity early, prompting them to caps the number of shirts they could sell in one day. “Because of the nature of the business – each shirt is individualized – we can’t mass-produce a ton of one design,” he said. “We found that we’re going to have to limit the number of orders because we don’t know how many we can produce quite yet.”
He added that as the company grows, the pair hopes to increase the number of allowed sales and continue working full time on expanding the brand and the appeal of comedic apparel.
Going viral on TikTok persuaded some small business owners to turn their side gig into a full-time venture
Like Nice Shirt. Thanks!, TikTok fame convinced another small-business owner to invest in their business full time. Alyssa Brianna started her business, Fabulyss, last July selling self-defense key chains and jewelry. Brianna, a 22-year-old recent college graduate, said she made herself a key chain after she was harassed on campus and later decided to sell self-defense products.
Brianna said she initially intended on casually running the business on the side until graduation, and she said she was only advertising products on Instagram, which mainly friends and family followed. About a month into creating Fabulyss, she decided to make TikTok videos for fun.
“And then one day, one of my TikTok videos blew up, got millions of views,” Brianna, who has 1.3 million followers on TikTok, said. “And ever since then, I’ve been selling out consistently since November because of TikTok.”
Brianna has since expanded her business to an office space in February and has two family members working for her. She said she hopes to get a warehouse for her products within the next year and do pop-up shops to meet her customers in person – a vision that would not have been made possible if she had not gone viral on TikTok.
“Because of, like, the algorithm, it changed my entire future. I actually didn’t want this as a full-time thing,” Brianna said. “I thought once I graduate, I’ll just stop it, but it showed me that I can just be my own boss and do what I want.”
She added: “So if it wasn’t for TikTok, I would just be working a regular 9-to-5 job like everybody else does, but instead I get to do what I want and on my own time.”
Going viral can put big pressure on a small business
Having their businesses go viral can be a welcome surprise for entrepreneurs looking to build their customer base, but it doesn’t come without drawbacks. For Clariz Marielle, who owns a custom pet-jewelry business, Woof Palace, millions of views generated a lot of sales, as well as a lot of pressure.
Marielle receives photos of her customers’ pets to turn into line-art drawings she designs herself. From there, the designs are engraved onto jewelry pendants to create personalized accessories for her customers, a process that takes a few weeks. Marielle posts videos of her design process on her business’ TikTok account, which has nearly 412,000 followers.
In one of her first viral videos, which has 9 million views, she talked about a customer stealing from her business by complaining about the necklace and refusing to return the product after Marielle granted her a refund.
“It generated a lot of sales that I couldn’t really handle,” Marielle said. “I mean, I didn’t think about stopping my store. So I just took all of the orders, thinking that I could draw everything in one week and then ship them out the next week, but that wasn’t humanly possible.”
Though Marielle scrambled to keep up with the new demand as a result of her viral videos, she said her customers started to complain and send angry messages, and some even posted publicly accusing her of scamming them.
Ali Mirza, a digital-marketing strategist and founder of #iSocialYou, said he has seen small-business owners and entrepreneurs getting overwhelmed by a lot of sudden attention from social media. Mirza told Insider that businesses can safeguard themselves from those situations by setting the right expectation and capturing customers’ contact information to notify them of a restock if they order when inventory is sold out.
He also advised owners and entrepreneurs that find themselves in that situation to remember that social media is “just one piece of your whole business. It’s not the business.”
“My perspective is, we want to use social media to build our business – we don’t want to be used by social media,” Mirza said. “I want to use social media to bring traffic to me, but then I have other aspects of my business to really capture that traffic and use it to my benefit.”
Since going viral, Marielle said she brought on her friend to help with customer service and her uncle to help with the pet pendant engravings, and she said the positive reactions from her customers receiving such a personal product gives her “so much drive to wake up every day and do something for my small business.”
“Seeing the reactions of my customers made me feel so happy and content inside because, you know, I feel like I created that,” Marielle said. “I drew their dog, and seeing them really happy and just cherish the jewelry is really what motivated me to keep going and do it every day. And ever since I think I didn’t have a free day for like six months, and it was so much fun.”
At 16, Sherane Chen started her first job at Steak-n-Shake as a waitress. By the age of 21, she’d launched a business specializing in restaurant marketing. Today it earns six figures, as seen in documents confirmed by Insider.
She got here by gaining restaurant industry experience, studying marketing, and having the confidence and wherewithal to spot an opportunity to combine her two areas of expertise. The hospitality industry was devastated by the pandemic, but the The National Restaurant Association is expecting some type of bounce back this year, with food and drink sales projected to hit $731.billion.
During and after college at the University of North Florida where she studied communications, Chen worked in restaurants. She made sure to build savings because she knew one day she wanted to start her own business.
After years as a waitress, she got a job in marketing at a local place called Oceanside Grill where she learned the operational aspects of the restaurant business. When she launched her own marketing firm focusing on social media management, graphic design, video creation, and hiring in 2019, Chen landed her first clients selling marketing services door to door.
“I would say, ‘hey I found your social and saw you weren’t active and I wanted to give you some tips on how you can get more customers in the door,'” she told Insider. She would leave behind her business card and wait for them to call.
Today her company has 17 clients and makes over six figures a year, according to documents provided to Insider. To Insider she reveals what her typical day is like, from walks on the beach, to endless Zoom calls with clients.
She wakes up at 7 a.m. making her first of many cups of coffee
Chen’s day typically begins at 7 a.m.
The eponymous restaurant company she founded has always been remote, which has allowed her to work from wherever, whenever. It currently has two-full time staffers including a graphic designer, a social media manager, and a part-time copywriter.
Before the pandemic, Chen used to work from local coffee shops, but now that she’s working from home, she invested in a top-tier coffee machine that keeps her going throughout the day. “I truly don’t know a marketer who doesn’t love a good cup of coffee to get all of the creative juices flowing,” she added.
After having her coffee, she then either makes breakfast or “treats” herself to a breakfast from a restaurant nearby. “Whenever I eat out for breakfast I usually take my computer so I can work on a few things while I’m out,” she continued. “The area I live in is peaceful and not very crowded so it’s usually just me getting things done while enjoying pancakes, eggs, bacon, and whatever else I decide to have that day.”
Around 9 a.m. she prepares to Zoom with her clients
After finishing breakfast, she prepares for her meetings with clients, which have been happening over Zoom since the pandemic struck.
Normally, she said, she would meet them at their restaurant to work on rebranding various parts of it, such as the menu, or develop new general marketing strategies. “We work on the strategy together and then I re-assign to my employees who took over most of the tactical things for me,” she said.
This part usually takes up most of her day. Meanwhile, Chen also makes ads for her own business, which she then runs on platforms such as YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook to help attract new clients.
Chen always finds time to take a ‘breather’ during the day
Like most, her workload depends on what day she is having. “It’s not the same every day,” she said. “Some days are super chill and others are hectic. All holidays are really busy, and the start of each season – spring, summer, fall, and winter.”
Once Chen finishes the bulk of her workload, typically after lunch or in the early evening, she goes to get some fresh air. Her favorite place to go is the beach because it’s close to where she lives. “Taking a walk along the beach really helps to clear my head and gives me the boost of energy I need after being on the screen for so long,” she said.
Often during the day, Chen hops on the phone with her mentor Bruno DiFabio, a pizza chef who’s been helping her “learn the ropes” of the restaurant business for the past two years. Together they chat about ways to help grow her business.
And he isn’t the only mentor Chen has had these past few years – at 19, she met local business owner Nate Mayo, who does social media marketing and photography for various Jacksonville-based restaurants, and has a viral Instagram account that highlights popular food places in the area. Chen snagged an internship with Mayo around 2016 and began working for him, which inspired her to launch her own company.
After her ‘breather’ she goes straight back to work
She typically holds more meetings with restaurant owners throughout the evening, especially since the “lunch rush” is finished, which is usually around 2 p.m.
Chen says to manage the workload of having two jobs she makes sure to always take some time off. She books vacations and takes breathers such as the walk above. Chen also sometimes gets up an hour early to clear her head and prepare herself to stay focused for the day ahead.
After her breather, she usually goes back to work but likes to make a “quick snack.” She likes to recreate YouTube recipes, such as the snack she made pictured below. “I found this on Youtube years ago and have been eating it ever since,” she said. “Brown rice cakes, almond butter, and chia seeds are really filling and hit the spot when you are not a big lunch person.”
Around 6 p.m. she takes photographs outside
Chen’s favorite time of the day is “golden hour” – around 6 p.m. when the sky is a golden-tinted yellow. Chen takes advantage of the good quality light to take photographs of food she is seeking to help advertise.
Sometimes she has to hire someone to help her do it, as work can get busy. “I don’t really get a chance to do food photography anymore,” she said. “When I do have time to go, I love it.”
She eats dinner around 7:30, this day choosing to grab Mediterranean food. Afterward, she spends time studying – reading new books to help her gain knowledge in different areas outside of marketing. She’s currently reading “Zig Ziglar’s Secrets of Closing the Sale” by Zig Ziglar and “Spin Selling” by Neil Rackham.
She goes to bed around 11 p.m.
Chen says she doesn’t really “finish” work until around 11 pm. “People always need me all day,” she said, of her marketing exec job. “It’s a management role so I always get my team texting me at all hours.”
But when the calls finally stop and the text messages slow down, Chen has time to think about her next business idea – a podcast agency that helps brands and entrepreneurs achieve success in podcasting. She’s already started running ads for the venture.
“I’m working toward seven streams of income to be a millionaire by 2025,” she said, adding that she has a dream board of other projects she would like to helm. Asked about possible burnout, Chen let her ambition answer for her. “Just keep your focus on what you’re working hard for,” she said. “If you want it bad enough, you’ll make it happen.”