America has over 31 million small businesses that help drive not only local communities, but the country’s economy as well. According to the House Committee on Small Business, for every $1 spent at a small business, around 67% of that dollar remains in the local community.
Before the pandemic, approximately 58% of Black-owned businesses were at risk of financial distress, compared with about 27% of white-owned businesses. Black business owners have always faced historic challenges, and the rise of COVID-19 exacerbated existing barriers.
As a result, in early 2020, Black business ownership declined by 41%.
Aysia Hilliard and Ivana George are two Atlanta-based business owners who have been able to overcome some of these obstacles and grow their brands through the use of social media platform Tik Tok.
George is a 22-year-old who created All the More Apparel in 2020 after having a hard time finding an outfit for a church event.
She came across a verse from the Bible that she thought would make a great T-shirt, so she made the shirt out of vinyl that night and wore it to her event.
After receiving great feedback, George decided to turn her T-shirt into a business.
I’ve always been a creative person,” George said. “And I’ve always had the desire to have my own business and sew my own designs, but I also wanted something that was bigger than myself and had a purpose greater than just making money … And I feel like All the More Apparel is kind of like that for me where I can be creative and put my craft out there, but also give glory to God.”
Two years and 30,000 Tik Tok followers later, George not only makes T-shirts; she makes sweatshirts, tote bags and stickers as well. She started out by fulfilling orders in her bedroom but has since transformed her basement into a work studio that she likes to call the “ATM HQ.”
Being a young business owner is challenging at times for George, but she still finds a way to have fun with her work. To her, everyone has to “start somewhere” and she just happens to be starting her journey as a younger entrepreneur.
“I’m not sure of all of the correct, legal things that I have to do all the time, or I just don’t have the experience as somebody older would, which makes things challenging. But it’s okay,” George said. “It’s nice and fun sometimes to just figure things out as I go. And [I’ve been] realizing that I don’t have to have all the answers and [that] nobody really does.”
Currently, George runs her business by herself and doesn’t have any employees. That may change as All the More Apparel continues to grow, partly in response to George utilizing Tik Tok to gain customers.
“I think 2021 was definitely my best year so far, just growing the customer base after a few Tik Toks of mine had gone viral. That really brought a lot of people over to my feed…and then to my other social platforms,” she said.
Hilliard is a 21-year-old biology and chemistry student at Howard University. She never intended to become an entrepreneur, but couldn’t resist when she came up with the concept for TrapStix when she was 17 years old.
She told her parents about her idea, thinking it was clever but that nothing would come of it. Hilliard’s parents believed that TrapStix was something that she should pursue, so she did.
TrapStix is an online lip balm business with flavors inspired by hip-hop artists like Eminem and Cardi B. The products’ ingredients are listed on the website for anyone with sensitivities or allergies. Each flavor has a different recipe, but the main ingredients are almond oil, grapeseed oil and coconut oil.
Hilliard spent her first three years creating a robust foundation for her business. She would sometimes take breaks from TrapStix for months because she didn’t think the concept would be successful. Tik Tok changed her perspective.
Hilliard credits her use of Tik Tok for helping her understand how to use social media as a tool to progress in her business. The first video she posted in early 2020 went viral, and she describes that as a large part of her success. She now has over 95,000 followers, and the attention she receives on social media helps drive her sales.
Both George and Hilliard have big plans for their businesses in the future. George hopes to have a warehouse and storefront in the future. Hilliard wants to get into retail spaces soon, starting with local beauty supply stores before focusing on major retailers.