PHOENIX – The COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenge for small businesses that previously relied solely on face-to-face interactions. But thanks to a different kind of viral experience, two Valley businesses aren’t just surviving, they’re thriving.
Their secret? TikTok, the social media app that hosts short-form videos ranging from 15 seconds to 10 minutes.
Blanca Ulloa and Allie Dziewulski founded their Goodyear rental company in March 2020, just before the pandemic was announced. Jump Into Bliss focuses on bounce houses for high-end events for children and adults, including weddings and bachelorette parties.
With stay-at-home orders in place, Ulloa and Dziewulski had little to do but engage with social media, and after a few months focused their marketing strategy on social media, including TikTok. They started by experimenting with different trends in the app.
“When we first started, our opinions were one in 100 if we were lucky,” Ulloa said. “Then one day we woke up and we had one video that got millions of views.”
That video — a 30-second time-lapse of a bounce house setup — went viral four months after Ulloa and Dziewulski launched TikTok.
#whitebouncehouse #arizonasmallbusiness #foryoupage #rareasthetic #jumpintoblissevents
♬ You got it – Vedo
At the beginning of the pandemic, they received almost no business, but after the video, inquiries came in daily. They are now fully booked until October 2023.
TikTok helps grow the party business
After encouragement from her friends and family, Jessica Camacho launched Decor by Jess, a small party decoration business in 2019. It’s all in the family: her husband and sisters are the only other employees at the Glendale business.
Camacho jumped into social media and tried advertising on Facebook, OfferUp and Instagram, where he had moderate success. It wasn’t until the pandemic hit that Camacho turned to TikTok, which he credits with the business’s success during the pandemic.
“A few of my videos have gone viral, so I think that’s helped a lot. TikTok helped a lot,” Camacho said.
#arizonapartydecor #parati #fyp #AZfyp #partydecor
♬ original sound – latishoroficial
The videos she has posted are usually fast-paced highlights or interludes of the decorations created by her business. It also takes advantage of popular trends and audio on the platform. According to one of Camacho’s TikToks, Decor by Jess must now turn customers away.
Camacho said other businesses, such as the Naughty Tacos food truck, which started posting around the same time, have had similar success on the platform.
“I really think their bills have gone up and it’s helped their business,” she said. “I’ve seen that happen a lot.”
Social media use is booming amid the pandemic
Social media use has become more common across all demographics, said Liesel Sharabi, an assistant professor at Arizona State University’s Hugh Downs School of Human Communication, who primarily studies the social uses of technology.
“This is especially true during the pandemic because people spent a lot of time at home,” Sharabi said. “They felt isolated. They were on their phones and computers. We saw a lot of people really relying on social media; it’s their main way of communicating with people who don’t get to meet face-to-face every day.”
With this increase in social media use, especially during the pandemic, Sharabi said it provides many businesses with some “really unique marketing opportunities.”
According to Business of Apps, TikTok had 1.2 billion users in the last quarter of 2021 and is expected to reach 1.8 billion by the end of 2022.
Kelsey Sidowski, who lives in the West Valley, found Jump Into Bliss on TikTok. Looking to rent a bounce house for her son’s 10th birthday, she researched other social media accounts to determine if the business was legitimate.
“I think there’s more to legitimate businesses than TikTok,” Sidowski said. “I think digging a little deeper just to see Instagram and Facebook or something is definitely better than just a random TikTok video.”
Sidowski said she has worked with several other businesses she found on TikTok, but not all of her experiences have been positive. That’s why she researches companies on other platforms.
She has rented houses from Jump Into Bliss for four events: a bachelorette party, a friend’s birthday, and two parties for her children.
“It’s been great just watching them expand so much,” Sydowski said. “They really just seem to take party planning by storm.”