February 25, 2024

At any given moment you’ll find Mya Green having a conversation with hundreds of strangers who’ve all sworn she’s helped change their lives. Green is the creator of Pooch Please, a fitness accessory and apparel brand whose hero product, an insulated stomach wrap used for weight loss, has sold in the thousands. The reason? TikTok Shop.

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“I was two months into promoting the stomach wrap before I signed up for TikTok Shop, and it just kind of blew up,” she tells ESSENCE.

She launched her brand in June 2022 while still working a 9-5, and decided to give TikTok Shop a few months later. After posting a video to demonstrate how the Pooch Please! wrap is used, she noticed an almost immediate response from users.

“There was so much positivity right out the gate, I kind of felt overwhelmed because my product inventory was very limited at the time,” Green tells ESSENCE. “I sold out almost immediately and honestly, I’d never experienced this before using other social media platforms.”

Green isn’t the only one that feels this way.

Millions of TikTok users are drawn to the platform because of its surgically effective algorithm that quickly adjusts to micro-interests that span everything from the most popular dance to dating advice. But more than anything, shopping has become a favorite past time for TikTok-ers. Although the e-commerce feature has been in testing for users since November 2022, a dedicated U.S. rollout just happened in September this year.

“TikTok Shop will now bring shoppable videos and LIVE streams directly to For You feeds across the country – and give brands, merchants, and creators the tools to sell directly through shoppable content on the TikTok app,” TikTok shared with ESSENCE in a statement. “From studies led by Material, we learned that 70% of people on TikTok say they discover new brands and products through the app, and 83% say that TikTok plays a role in their purchase decision.”

To date, there are more than 200k registered TikTok Shop sellers on-platform, a number that is quickly growing, particularly among Black women. Elizabeth Adeoye isn’t surprised by its magnetism.

She created a TikTok Shop account for her shapewear brand SooSlick in February 2023, and has since sold over $1 million in GMV with more than 200 million views through the TikTok Shop Affiliate program.

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Before joining, Adeoye primarily her products sold on Amazon and leaned on other social media advertising options for marketing. It usually brought in a low, steady trickle of customers. TikTok Shop, however, was a complete game-changer for her as a Black woman aiming to break through to customers in an oversaturated e-commerce space.

“I’d sold 2,000 units of an item before 06:00 a.m.,” she says, explaining the uptick after being on TikTok Shop for just a few months earlier this year. The orders were nearly double her typical output. “I’m like, oh my gosh, what’s going on?”

She was able to trace the increased traffic to a video she’d posted that some influencers had re-shared on TikTok, garnering scores of likes, reposts, saves and shares. Beyond the wide reach though, Adeoye says she’s been able to create special touch points with her customers in a way she never has before.

“The amount of connection I have with my clients base is unimaginable, because now there’s direct contact with them,” she tells ESSENCE. “They can tell me, okay, this is what we love. This is what we want to see next. I’ve spent a lot of money on market research but now I have this for free, and consumers are here giving me, happily, what they want to see next. So, that also helps trickle down in other aspects of my business, which is absolutely amazing.”

As Adeoye points out, market research is not cheap. Business owners can expect to spend around $15000 – $25000 for a qualitative or quantitative custom market research project, per a 2023 LinkedIn report. This is among the many other costs small business owners have to shoulder, which quickly add up, particularly for vulnerable groups like Black women, the least funded group of entrepreneurs in the US.

Felita Harris, a founding board member of non-profit RAISEfashion, helps BIPOC small business owners scale their businesses by teaching them to use the tools readily available to them, like TikTok Shop.

“Our goal is to provide resources that are the most inexpensive because the founder’s journey is all about making sure they are utilizing their financial reserves in responsible ways,” Harris explains to ESSENCE. “When we heard about TikTok Shop, we’re like, well, great, inexpensive.” And powerful.

RAISEfashion launched its inaugural class of designers and hosted a pop-up where designers ran exclusive live shopping streams on TikTok Shop to showcase their collections at NYFW in September. Harris points out that one emerging fashion entrepreneur joined the platform and within a few weeks, she’d amassed more than a million views, and cultivated a community that converted into customers.

Adeoye says the amount of support she’s received was immense compared to her experience on other platforms.

“Having somebody walk you through the process and also having the shoppable video component is huge,” a TikTok Shop feature she attributes to most of her revenue generation. “My team has never engaged with anyone at Instagram at this level.”

Harris adds: “Business is a huge hurdle. Being a Black woman in business is an even bigger one. So, to have executives, managers, anyone at TikTok help us with admin support and onboarding it really makes a difference. We pour so much love into what we do, so to see a huge company offer something like this, it’s really empowering.”

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