Katlyn Godoy has been baking sweets since she was 15 years old. Using box cake mixes, she started selling cupcakes for $1 at her high school. When she turned 19, she started learning how to make cakes from scratch. This led her to share short videos of her creative cakes on her TikTok account @itskaystreats, which in only two years has gathered almost 230,000 followers and more than 3 million likes.
But she is not the only one.
With the rising popularity of TikTok, small business owners now have the opportunity to promote their brand for free on the platform. According to the International Journal of Multidisciplinary Educational Research, this type of short-video content has innovated the “micro-narrative” model, which lets businesses share not only an image or idea like a flyer or TV commercial would, but also, a story and a personality behind the brand.
These stories inspire, entertain and motivate viewers to start following a business TikTok account and become consumers.
“I like to record and make content,” Godoy said. “I have different people texting me saying, ‘Wow, you inspire me,’ and I remember I used to be that person that used to text people and be like, ‘Wow, you inspire me.’”
Just like Godoy who is 22 years old, multiple young entrepreneurs choose to promote their business only in the short-video form because of its low budget, fast editing.
“I bought a ring light and then I started making more videos,” Godoy said. “It doesn’t take me more than 10 minutes.”
This convenient form of exposure can let young entrepreneurs be less afraid of starting a business. The first challenge is getting their first 1,000 followers.
“I remember when I first started doing my cakes, one video I had got like 18,000 views and for me that was big because I only had like 1,000 followers on Tiktok,” Godoy said.
These first 1,000 followers can mean that significant exposure is about to start since only then accounts can link their business website in their biography.
29-year-old Alexandra Masa started her online candle business, Gateway Candles, in November of 2022 and in only a couple of months, she surpassed 1,000 followers.
“In order to list your website on your TikTok bio, you must have 1,000 followers,” says a popular audio used by thousands of small businesses to attract the attention of new viewers. This audio was used by Masa and it helped her get more than 33,000 views and the desired 1,000 followers. “I know this account is far from that but I want to see some magic happen.”
It’s videos like Masa’s which show the behind-the-scenes process that may attract viewers, making advertising be seen as entertainment.
To promote Gateway Candles, Masa shares videos of her packaging samples and orders, showing her favorite candle-making tools, stamping her labels, labeling her candles, and weighting wax. These relaxing videos can make people interested in her candle-making process.
“I upload spontaneous videos daily based on the content I have recorded while working on my business,” Masa said. “I also look at trends happening at the moment to use them for future videos.”
To promote It’s Kays Treats, Godoy also shares videos of the process of making her cakes, but she sometimes adds an extra element: a storytime voiceover.
“I know that my followers like to hear stories,” Godoy said. “They like to see me making a cake and talking at the same time, so I tried to do a little bit of both because it’s my niche.”
And for many TikTok content analysts, finding your niche is the most important step.
Vania Portilla is the founder of VCreative Miami, a creative agency that helps small businesses in Miami promote on online platforms like TikTok and Instagram.
In a TikTok video explaining TikTok’s 2023 trend report, VCreative says community-led content is more effective than product-led content for small business owners starting an account.
“Because of this hyper-niche interest, it really helps people bond with each other,” Portilla said. “Just be intentional, don’t overdo it, tell a great story.
So, while handing out flyers requires small business owners to reach out to consumers, making consistent niche content on TikTok can do the opposite, make consumers reach out to a business.
“My niche is doing cakes for show,” Godoy said. “Now, different restaurants and food trucks are reaching out to me.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated Katlyn Godoy’s first name.