tik tok entrepreneurs

9 trailblazing TikTok entrepreneurs (and what you can learn from them)

There’s no ignoring TikTok’s meteoric rise in the last twelve months. While it’s been growing steadily for a few years, its recent jaw-dropping increase in popularity is undoubtedly connected to the pandemic. During a time when people were isolated in their homes, the platform offered an avenue for self expression, distraction, and connection when they needed it most.

As a result, TikTok has become a unique online community with a fast evolving culture. Famed for its unparalleled algorithm, it’s not unheard of for people to go ‘viral’ overnight.

But it’s no longer just for teenagers engaging in dance and lip-syncing challenges. The app has evolved alongside its community and the growing opportunity for small businesses has become too great to ignore. The platform now hosts an incredible array of educators, business owners, coaches, activists, you name it!

tiktok entrepreneurs

9 trailblazing entrepreneurs on TikTok. Illustrations by CriDascalu.

What makes TikTok relevant for me and my business?

So, why should your business care about TikTok, you ask?

TikTok’s algorithm offers business owners a reach beyond any other platform. Paired with its focus on authentic and unmanicured content, TikTok has provided space for a community where things are less about profit and more about fun and engagement—unlike other social media platforms. Rather than focussing on advertising, brands are creating a following and becoming a part of the TikTok community.

This does wonders for brand awareness and creates more personal engagement opportunities with existing and prospective customers. The smallest of businesses can achieve astounding social reach and see immediate results.

More and more entrepreneurs are jumping on this opportunity, making waves as they are taking the TikTok world by storm. These new TikTok stars are business owners, coaches and marketing experts—and they have spotted an opportunity to teach by example.

Not only are they expertly using the platform to grow their business, but what makes them different is that they are helping others around the world build and grow their own successful business too.

While the app is fast becoming the must-have tool for businesses, as with anything new, it can be difficult to know where to start! So, we handpicked 9 trailblazing entrepreneurs on TikTok and asked them to share their tips and tools to help you carve a space for your small business on the platform.

9 entrepreneurs to follow on TikTok for business advice

Jen Ruiz @jenonajetplane

Jen Ruiz only really started using TikTok regularly when lockdowns began in March 2020. The platform has been a game changer for her business, giving her the space to successfully pivot to remote work at a time when all her travel-related income streams evaporated.

Illustration of TikTok entrepreneur Jen Ruiz

TikTok entrepreneur Jen Ruiz. Portrait by CriDascalu.

With over 10M video views, and 2M likes in just under a year, Jen originally started testing remote work content on TikTok and had no idea it would take off like it did. TikTok is now her biggest social media channel and in August 2020, she gave her third TEDx talk virtually about ways to work online.

Using TikTok as an educational platform, Jen shares tips, insights and opportunities to help anyone looking to work remotely, always aiming to be informative, inspirational and entertaining (her ideal mix!).

Jen credits TikTok’s algorithm for helping businesses of all sizes to “reach millions of potential customers based on the quality of their content, not the size of their following.”

How to TikTok like Jen

For entrepreneurs who are new to TikTok and wondering where to start growing their brand, Jen recommends picking a niche topic and then posting consistently (5-7 times a week) at the times your followers are most active. “Use trending sounds and hashtags to get even more reach. If you see a trend doing well, think about how you can put a spin on it to make it specific to your niche and capitalize off the added boost in views for trending content.”

[block_quote author=’Jen Ruiz’]If you see a trend doing well, think about how you can put a spin on it to make it specific to your niche

Sometimes coming up with content ideas can be the most challenging aspect for business owners so Jen suggests using the platform for at least 20 minutes once a day. “When you find a video you like, press down on the video and click ‘add to favorites.’ Over time you’ll curate a collection of videos that inspire you and that you can replicate with your own unique spin.”

Jen’s top 3 pieces of advice for small businesses and entrepreneurs:

  1. Don’t delete your videos, put them on private if you must but also give them time to perform, you never know when a video could have a delayed explosion of views, sometimes months later.
  2. Make original content for TikTok. It’s fine to repurpose other content occasionally but most of your content should be playing by TikTok’s rules, with their text, features and sounds.
  3. Have a call to action at the end of most videos, whether it’s to follow you for more, comment with questions or click the link in bio. Otherwise you could have a video go viral and lose out on gaining followers.

Evan Van Auken @vanader

Like many people, Evan Van Auken joined TikTok right around the beginning of quarantine to casually browse now and then. He’s a firefighter and paramedic and the first TikTok he shared was a video from a wildfire. After seeing how his very first share got more than 100k views, Evan couldn’t deny the potential the platform offered to creators.

Illustration of TikTok entrepreneur Evan Van Auken

TikTok entrepreneur Evan Van Auken. Portrait by CriDascalu.

His TikToks naturally and successfully shifted to his true passion—entrepreneurship. His content covers business development, investing, and personal growth.

The response has been moving to say the least, “I had no idea this many people cared about business, finance and crypto. I had no idea there were so many people who were confused about starting a business.” This is precisely his audience: young entrepreneurs, business owners, investors and crypto enthusiasts. His content is great for anyone looking for an entry into the business world or to financial literacy and agency.

How to TikTok like Evan

“If you can bring value in any way, get on TikTok,” Evan recommends. He prioritizes value over all, wanting users to leave his videos understanding complex subjects and feeling empowered. That’s why he formats his videos by picking a question and then answering it and explaining it, while keeping it simple.

[block_quote author=’Evan Van Auken’]Just start. Pick 3 subjects and stick to those subjects. Make at least one TikTok a day for 90 days.

Evan says that simplicity and authenticity are key to his TikTok presence. “Get on TikTok. Just start. Pick 3 subjects and stick to those subjects. Make at least one TikTok a day for 90 days. If you are authentic, and real, you will be successful.” Evan’s TikTok page is less about creating and more about inviting others on to his business’s journey. Rather than being taught hypothetical accounts, Evan’s users draw lessons from his own experiences as an entrepreneur.

Evan’s top 3 pieces of advice for small businesses and entrepreneurs:

  1. Start—right now. Post every day and engage with your community. Nobody cares about how you sound or how you look—just start.
  2. Pick a niche and stick to it. TikTok needs to learn what you are so it can serve your content to the right viewer. Use hashtags that describe your ideal customer/viewer. Do not use hashtags that describe you or your brand. Answer and like every comment.
  3. Lighting is more important than any camera, angle, filter, or scene. And it’s 2021—get a microphone! Audio is more important than video on TikTok. Crosspost your TikToks on YouTube Shorts. Use the #shorts.

Sierra Nicole @sierranicoleofficial

TikTok entrepreneur Sierra Nicole’s business expertise comes from her own multifaceted business experience. She is a successful business owner, consultant, credit and funding expert for businesses, a motivational speaker and a real estate investor.

Illustration of TikTok entrepreneur Sierra Nicole

TikTok entrepreneur Sierra Nicole. Portrait by CriDascalu.

Her commitment to empowering entrepreneurs in her physical community in Dallas and beyond found an even larger audience through TikTok.

How to TikTok like Sierra

A TikTok style that Sierra uses is delivering crucial and sometimes intimidating information in the form of captions, while she’s singing along and dancing to a song. In a recent video she danced to the caption “You can no longer depend on one stream of income.”

[block_quote author=’Sierra Nicole’]You can no longer depend on one stream of income.

The format is common on TikTok, but what makes Sierra’s TikTok stand out especially is her content. She has valuable information for anyone who is starting out and growing their business, about what to expect and how to protect your interests in the sensitive beginning period of your entrepreneurship.

Watching her, your focus is drawn to subjects such as financial literacy and corporate law and suddenly you’ve learned something new that you may have been avoiding because it always seemed too complex to tackle.

Sandy Lin @smallbusinesstips_

Illustration of TikTok entrepreneur Sandy Lin

TikTok entrepreneur Sandy Lin. Portrait by CriDascalu.

Sandy Lin started her own business at 19 and she aims to teach young people to make the leap and take agency to create their own businesses.

Sandy is led by her dream to live life on her own terms and she is determined to help other young people do the same.

[block_quote author=’Sandy Lin’]Owning a business is about more than the money. It’s the freedom, the passion and the fact that every day can be magical when you love what you do.

Her content emphasizes financial freedom while equipping young entrepreneurs with tools that she found helpful on her own entrepreneurial path.

How to TikTok like Sandy

Sandy’s videos are playful. She does dance routines and questions & answers, making things extra entertaining by playing different characters herself in different outfits.

What comes through in her videos is how transparent she is about sharing the challenges that overwhelmed her as she was growing her business and how she overcame them.

Taylor Price @pricelesstay

Taylor Price’s goal is to reach an audience of young people and help them achieve financial wellbeing. On TikTok she found a receptive and open audience that has been growing exponentially in the past year.

Taylor found she could quickly adapt to TikTok’s straightforward and catchy ways to shape content and was enamored by the platform’s encouragement to be yourself and tap into the community feel. “I feel so much more confident to be me—a young female in finance role model to millions of young women and girls all over the world.”

Illustration of TikTok entrepreneur Taylor Price

TikTok entrepreneur Taylor Price. Portrait by CriDascalu.

Taylor is a proud Gen Z and her platform is a testament to her mission of closing the financial literacy gap for young people. She says that the most rewarding aspect is seeing her audience’s questions and their passion for financial education.

How to TikTok like Taylor

Taylor uses the platform to bring awareness to the financial literacy gap and a financial world that still excludes women. While doing this on TikTok, she never feels that she needs to stray from her authentic self-expression. “I never feel as if I have to wear makeup or pretend to be someone I am not in order to get views.”

[block_quote author=’Taylor Price’]Your followers are your friends. If you don’t show up on a consistent basis, you’re ghosting your friends!

Something she never forgoes on her TikTok is consistency. “I like to say that when it comes to posting, your followers are your friends. If you don’t show up on a consistent basis, you’re ghosting your friends!” In order to be able to post regularly, she pre-films a lot of content at the beginning of the week. This leaves room for inspired impromptu videos and alleviates the stress of having enough content.

Taylor’s top 3 pieces of advice for small businesses and entrepreneurs:

  1. Stay consistent!
  2. Be authentic and vulnerable—this is how you get people to trust you. Also, it is so much easier to make content you are authentically passionate about rather than pretending to be someone you are not.
  3. Trends are your friends!

Terrance McMahon @terrancemcmahon

Terrance McMahon currently has over 200k followers on TikTok and has had videos reach over a million views. A managing partner and a CEO of many years, Terrance finds an audience in new entrepreneurs, typically under 35.

Illustration of TikTok entrepreneur Terrance McMahon

TikTok entrepreneur Terrance McMahon. Portrait by CriDascalu.

He found TikTok’s user-friendly platform a great way to reach a tremendous audience, ideal for his goal of teaching. He shares knowledge spanning over three decades for people to learn and carve their own way and his content offers mentorship to millions.

How to TikTok like Terrance

The main advice Terrance has for entrepreneurs on TikTok is to hone in on one favorite idea which will help a small audience solve a common problem. This offers the chance to create authority and a trusting space. Once that is truly established, you can expand your ideas.

[block_quote author=’Terrance McMahon’]Spend 50% of your time generating familiar valuable content and 50% experimenting with the unfamiliar.

“Spend 50% of your time generating familiar valuable content and 50% experimenting with the unfamiliar.” For Terrance, this balance is key. He uses a Kamelleo Flip White Board (who have since become his sponsor) to really emphasize that this is a place for learning.

Terrance’s top 3 pieces of advice for small businesses and entrepreneurs:

  1. Make sure you use a hook in the beginning. (Tell them the big idea.)
  2. Support it with 3 of fewer small concepts. (Ideally in story form.)
  3. Give them a walk way. (A call to action or take action tip.)

Elise Darma @elisedarma

Elise Darma’s success story when it comes to personal branding is a testimony for what her brand strives to do. As a teacher and coach for business owners, she describes her audience as entrepreneurs in their 30s and 40s.

Illustration of TikTok entrepreneur Elise Darma

TikTok entrepreneur Elise Darma. Portrait by CriDascalu.

Instagram is her main platform but Elise sees each social media platform as supportive of each other. She joined TikTok in 2019 “out of curiosity”. She was initially intimidated by what felt like a teen-dominated platform with a distinct language and culture. Once she familiarized herself, she was amazed at how quickly she garnered followers on TikTok. Users have been discovering her business StoryVault through TikTok even though she has less content there than her other social media channels.

She says that what makes TikTok special is how fast your videos can gain a very large viewership. “TikTok is an amazing way to have your videos picked up very quickly and in the most viral way.”

How to TikTok like Elise

Elise sees one great power of TikTok as tapping into what is trending. “TikTok is the place where trends start and then it will filter over to Instagram.” She recommends paying close attention to the “For You” page to learn trends and apply relevant ones to your niche. Incorporating the trends also gives her videos a better chance to go viral, thanks to TikTok’s algorithm.

[block_quote author=’Elise Darma’]Use the tools within TikTok to make your videos funny and entertaining, so they are watched over and over again.

She says that embracing video is crucial to promoting your business on social platforms. The main challenge for some is stage fright. TikTok’s appeal comes from the easy to use tools that really make her educational videos pop. “Tips and tutorials are a great way to reach your audience, however they can be a bit boring. You can use the tools within TikTok to make your videos funny and entertaining. They can be so funny that your videos are watched over and over again and that’s what the algorithm loves to see.”

Elise’s top 3 pieces of advice for small businesses and entrepreneurs:

  1. Get your equipment in order. I have a flexible tripod and a phone clip that attaches to the tripod and can hold my phone in portrait mode or landscape mode. I also have a few ring lights. Having that additional light on your face makes the quality of your video that much better.
  2. Start showing up on camera. Come up with a question that you’re asked often in your business and answer that question while talking on camera and post that. If you’re not sure about how to get started, just get started by answering a common question. I recommend keeping your answer to a few sentences.
  3. Explore the green screen effect. With the green screen effect you can take a screenshot of a question you received and pull it up behind you. And then all you have to do is answer that question.

Sam Ogborn @marketingwithsam

Sam Ogborn had her start in marketing working for large corporations like Kraft, Nike, Red Bull and Walgreens. Now a marketing consultant, founder and CEO, her passion is helping people feel more confident about marketing.

Illustration of TikTok entrepreneur Sam Ogborn

TikTok entrepreneur Sam Ogborn. Portrait by CriDascalu.

As an “older millennial” Sam was at first intimidated by the younger population that seemed to be driven to TikTok. She was a passive user on the platform for about eight months before making the leap to becoming a marketing content creator for entrepreneurs and small business owners like herself.

More than any number, she measures her success in joining the platform by the relationships she’s built within the marketing community on TikTok. She shares educational content about the latest tools in marketing and the psychology and art of the trade. Her content speaks to brands, marketing managers, students and anyone else who’s interested in learning the psychology of marketing.

How to TikTok like Sam

Sam’s passion for marketing helps her have a focused and purposeful niche on TikTok. This doesn’t mean her videos are just for marketers, they are catchy and attention grabbing for just about anyone!

[block_quote author=’Sam Ogborn’]Have a smart hook at the beginning to get people to watch your videos all the way through.

She suggests browsing the “For You” page trends and aiming to have people watch your videos all the way through. “This is done by having a smart hook at the beginning with either a text or voiceover.”

Sam’s top 3 pieces of advice for small businesses and entrepreneurs:

  1. Stop making excuses or putting it on the backburner. Put yourself out there, test different pieces of content, and see what happens. In 6 months, there’s a high likelihood that you’ll be grateful you started as the platform is still new for most brands.
  2. Keep videos between 12-22 seconds. That’s the sweet spot where most of my videos see success!
  3. Understand how TikTok plays into the bigger picture for your brand. I use Campsite in my bio which gives clickers many “next steps” they can take if they want to engage with my brand further. This helps me see how TikTok impacts my brand at a larger scale.

Rachel Pedersen @themrspedersen

Rachel Pedersen is a success story of her own. Rachel went from being a college drop-out to a successful and highly sought after Social Media Strategist and educator.

Illustration of TikTok entrepreneur Rachel Pedersen

TikTok entrepreneur Rachel Pedersen. Portrait by CriDascalu.

She built her brand from the ground up and wants to help other aspiring social media managers and strategists do the same.

[block_quote author=’Rachel Pedersen’]Reframe problems into challenges—and then look for solutions.

Her TikTok account currently has over 600k followers and she posts regularly about social media strategy, including strategy for TikTok.

How to TikTok like Rachel

Rachel actively engages in challenges and trends. Her page isn’t singularly dedicated to her brand, but it’s clear that it belongs to a person who enjoys using TikTok.

Her posts are the perfect balance of very personal, easy going content and tips and tools to build a career in social media. By keeping her content real, raw and honest, she has been able to build large, dedicated following who admire her authenticity.

What’s your TikTok niche?

TikTok is still brand new territory for many and it’s understandably unnerving to make the leap into the unknown. The tips above from some of TikTok’s leading entrepreneurs and brand builders are an excellent place to get started, if you want to learn about the platform and all the ways your small business can benefit from it.

TikTok offers creators a space to swiftly engage with a large global audience while having fun and showcasing their brand in nothing but their authentic voice. Want to give TikTok a go? Now is a great time to find your place and explore your niche within the TikTok community.

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