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How TikTok is changing the game for entrepreneurs: ‘I went from three orders to 200 overnight’

The social network rewards the candidness and authenticity of small business owners, who can experience unexpected growth if they are favored by the algorithm

Andrea Garte
Andrea Garte with My Agleet’s orders.MY AGLEET

“We closed Arena Roja’s website. It was a very hard decision, but it’s the most responsible thing we can do right now,” said Erika Romero, an entrepreneur from Barcelona, Spain, on a video posted on TikTok, the social network that put her jewelry company under the spotlight, with more than 350,000 followers to date. Although the project began six years ago, it wasn’t until last April that it reached its peak after many bumps in the road. Then, due to the high demand, and unable to provide a good service, she decided to shut down her brand’s website for four days.

She is not the only one who is going through this. Social networks, and specifically TikTok, have become a great showcase for small entrepreneurs to display their products and projects. Jordi San Ildefonso, a Marketing Strategist at Metricool, a company that manages and analyzes social networks, explained the power that this platform has in commerce: “It’s the social network of discovery. The algorithm quickly learns what you like, and even if you don’t follow that account, you will see its videos constantly. If you like what you see, you stay longer. We live in a time in which we don’t mind seeing advertisements, or a brand telling us about their products, because they do it in such an original, fun and quick way that we don’t feel like they are wasting our time.”

One of the first to notice the TikTok effect was Andrea Garte, owner of the brand My Agleet, specialized in selling shoes since 2021. Everything in her business revolves around social media. Before she even got into the business, she posted a photo of herself wearing some shoes from her friend Lucas’ store on her Instagram account; after seeing it, a company bought all the stock of her now partner. That is when she resolved to enter the world of entrepreneurship herself. “One day I decided to start taking the business more seriously, and I uploaded videos to TikTok and Instagram showing what went on behind the scenes, how we managed it, how we packaged. It was an explosion,” Garte explained to EL PAÍS. It was there when she discovered the power of social media: “I went from having three orders, which for me was already a good day of sales, to almost 200 overnight.”

The key to her success has been the closeness with her followers. “People getting involved with the project and feeling part of it is key. There are many stores that sell shoes, and being just one more would have been a failure. We wanted to be different and we succeeded.” The same thing happens to Romero, who publishes on social media every detail of her Arena Roja jewelry: “When I see that everyone is doing something, I do the opposite. If you are the same as the rest, you get nowhere.”

Creativity is essential to stand out from the rest, both at a business level and in social media. Over a year ago, Paula Rodríguez founded Carmelo Cotton, a business based on upcycling that transforms second-hand clothes. “We go to the distributors to select the garments one by one; that way we make sure that we will be able to use all of them. We wash, prepare, classify the clothes... and depending on the use, we cut them to make new products,” she explained. Last April, Carmelo Cotton took off, reaching a demand that at first they could not meet: “We had to hire more people and increased the production. They were a few hectic months and that helped us, but a lot of people got mad at us because we didn’t have enough clothes on the website. Everything got sold in three minutes.” With their unique, one-of-a-kind garments, they get more than 300 orders per month.

Nike and Puma clothes
Garments made by Carmelo Cotton.Carmelo Cotton

The power of TikTok

Karla Fortea combined her two passions, crafts and design, to create Yummy Jewels. Her business is built upon the handmade earrings she creates: wooden flowers, hearts, clouds... Anything goes for this entrepreneur. After starting her business in 2021, one of the collections she designed for Halloween gave her visibility and followers: “It was a before and after,” she said. Like Carmelo Cotton, Yummy Jewels relies on the stock that it manufactures and does not work on demand. “You just can’t keep up, it’s better to only sell what you have. There were times when too many orders piled up and I had to put a notice on the site, explaining that if you purchased something, it would take a little longer to arrive.” Thanks to her latest collection, she has sold more than 200 units in recent month; now she is planning to expand the team. “Until now, I used to ask close relatives to help... But now I need a second person.”

Another success story is that of Prado Rodríguez and Marta Durán, who founded Más 1 three years ago, a handbag business that began as a project for the degree in leadership, entrepreneurship and innovation that they were both studying. “We decided it was a good idea to make bags out of alternative materials, like steel. We made a very basic prototype, but it caught on,” said Durán. Their turning point came in November 2022 when they decided to open a TikTok account. “We upload videos of things that went wrong. That is not common for a brand, which usually shows only the good part. Now you can even make a video about the bad part to engage users. Instagram is like a catalogue, but what really counts is the reality of the process,” Rodríguez explained.

Jewelry
Bags designed by Más 1.Más 1

The Spanish entrepreneurs already had a customer base before getting fully involved in TikTok, but the platform helped them gain international exposure. “In February, we sold more to the rest of the world than within Spain. That’s the power of TikTok, you reach an audience that otherwise you could not,” Durán pointed out. They take an hour to make each bag in their workshop, so a high demand makes it impossible for them to adhere to the pre-established timetables.

The power of TikTok has brought great benefits to all these brands, but it has also made them experience difficult months. “These have been the best-worst months of my life. At first it was difficult to manage because we were not prepared for what was coming. We woke up at 6: 00 a.m. and left the office at midnight,” Garte said. Her business currently receives an average of 70 orders a day, but they expect that figure to increase again in the summer.

Arena Roja
Jewelry by Arena Roja. Arena Roja

Making the decision to close Arena Roja for a few days was not easy for Romero. “We had to do it because we weren’t going to make it; we’re still not there yet. Several friends are helping us. I’ve had a hard time thinking that I made a mistake, or that I should have called more people to be able to do everything. I didn’t know this could happen,” she lamented. Only in the last month, Arena Roja has sold more than 1,300 products.

With a very favorable forecast for the future, all of them are now thinking about new business ideas, and even increasing their staff: My Agleet wants to expand into other products beyond footwear, Arena Roja has just launched lines of bags and silver jewelry, Carmelo Cotton is looking to evolve and create their own clothes, Yummy Jewels plans to hire more staff and Más 1 hopes to attract more international clients. They are entrepreneurs who bet on social media as a means to grow and who, thanks to a combination of their efforts and TikTok’s algorithm, today live off their dreams.

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