PHOENIX – The COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenge for small businesses that previously relied solely on in-person 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 event rental company in March 2020, just before the pandemic was declared. Jump Into Bliss focuses on bounce houses for high-end events for children and adults, including weddings and bachelorette parties.
With stay-in-place orders in effect, Ulloa and Dziewulski had little to do but engage with social media, and after a few months, they focused their marketing strategy on social media, including TikTok. They started by experimenting with various trends on the app.
“When we first started, our views were like one to 100 if we were lucky,” Ulloa said. “Then one day we woke up and we had a video hit a million views.”
That video – a 30-second time lapse of a bounce house being set up – went viral four months after Ulloa and Dziewulski started on TikTok.
At the start of the pandemic, they were getting almost no business, but after the video, inquiries came in daily. Now, they’re fully booked through October 2023.
TikTok helps party business take off
After encouragement from her friends and family, Jessica Camacho started 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 of the Glendale business.
Camacho jumped onto social media and tried to market on Facebook, OfferUp and Instagram, where she had moderate success. It wasn’t until the pandemic hit that Camacho turned to TikTok, which she credits for the business’ success during the pandemic.
“A few of my videos went viral, so I think that helped a lot. TikTok helped a lot,” Camacho said.
The videos she has posted are usually fast-paced highlight reels or timelapses of the decorations her business has created. She also takes advantage of popular trends and audio on the platform. According to one of Camacho’s TikToks, Decor by Jess now is having to turn clients away.
Camacho said other businesses, such as the food truck Naughty Tacos, which started posting around the same time, experienced similar success on the platform.
“I do think their accounts have grown, and it’s helped their business,” she said. “I’ve seen that happen a lot.”
Social media use boomed amid 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.
“That’s especially true during the pandemic because people were spending a lot of time at home,” Sharabi said. “They were feeling isolated. They were on their phones and on their computers. We saw a lot of people really relying on social media; it’s their prime way of communicating with the people that couldn’t see face-to-face on a daily basis.”
With this increase in social media use, especially during the pandemic, Sharabi said it afforded many businesses some “really unique marketing opportunities.”
According to Business of Apps, TikTok had 1.2 billion users in the final quarter of 2021 and is expected to hit 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 its other social media accounts to determine whether the business was legitimate.
“I think that legitimate businesses have more than just a TikTok,” Sidowski said. “I think digging a little deeper just to see Instagram and Facebook-wise, or anything else like that, is definitely better off than just some random TikTok video.”
Sidowski said she has worked with several other businesses she found on TikTok, but not all her experiences were positive. That’s why she researches companies on other platforms.
She has rented bounce houses from Jump Into Bliss for four events: a bachelorette party, a friend’s birthday party and two parties for her children.
“It’s been awesome just watching them expand so much,” Sidowski said. “It seems like they are really just taking the party planning by storm.”