From the FYP to IRL

TikTok Canada brought the FYP to life this week with its first-ever celebration of Small Business Month.

The video-sharing app held a meet-and-greet on Oct. 18 in Toronto where guests could interact with and meet some of their favourite small business owners and content creators who use the app to promote their businesses. Including, Erica Rankin from Bro Dough, Tina Nguyen from XXL Scrunchie and CO, Haley Crespo from Haley Made Shop, Connor Curran and Dustin Paisley from Local Laundry, and Mallory Yawnghwe from Indigenous Box.

The creators of Indigenous Box, Local Laundry, and Bro Dough at TikTok Canada’s first Small Business Month celebration. Photo by Jace Koblun

“Indigenous entrepreneurs are doing incredible things and are equal collaborators and partners in business,” said Mallory Yawnghwe, creator of Indigenous Box. Yawnghwe is Cree from Onihcikiskowapowin, Saddle Lake First Nation #125 in Treaty Six Territory. “Indigenous Box gives people the opportunity to learn about and support Indigenous people in this country and to make purchases that align with their social values.”

Indigenous Box is the subscription box and corporate gift service that promotes Indigenous entrepreneurship by creating opportunities for emerging, under-represented and established Indigenous businesses to reach new customers and enter new market spaces.

“Corporations can discover how they can support the local economy. You don’t know what you’re getting,” she said, adding that Indigenous Box recently soft-launched a build-your-own box option.

Yawnghwe said it is thanks to her 14-year-old daughter that Indigenous Box found its way to TikTok.

“She helped our team market ourselves and how to talk to our audience. TikTok helps us grow our brand awareness and connect with people who purchase our boxes or record unboxings all across the country,” she said.

Toronto-based Erica Rankin said she found success in TikTok’s plant-based, gluten-free food space with her creation Bro Dough. Bro Dough was created out of necessity by ex-body builder Rankin because she couldn’t find a protein-heavy, plant-based, gluten-free edible cookie dough at the grocery store she liked.

“I started the business in December 2019. And then I got on TikTok sometime in 2020 and the product went viral in early 2021,” said Rankin. “I used to do body-building and I would make this for myself because I couldn’t find a better version at the grocery store.”

Rankin said she values TikTok for how it allows creators to further engage with their followers.

“TikTok offers content creators and entrepreneurs the opportunity to connect more directly with followers. So responding to comments with videos, lives, stitches, all contributes to more engagement.”

Haley Crespo from Haley Made Shop started her Toronto-based jewelry business in 2021 after being diagnosed with lupus earlier that year and spent some time in the hospital.

“During that time I realized how boring the hospital is. You can only watch so much Netflix, right?” said Crespo. “I had my partner bring me some supplies; tools and beads, to start beading in the hospital. I ended up loving it and it became a passion and grew from there.”

Crespo said something she likes about the business is that she gets to do the packaging and all things creative. She said what works for her is trying to post at least once a day and staying consistent.

The creators of Indigenous Box, Local Laundry, and Bro Dough at TikTok Canada’s first Small Business Month celebration. Photo by Jace Koblun

“I think the coolest thing about TikTok is that their algorithm is so good that my stuff is really pushed out to people who appreciate it. So everyone who sees my content is really supportive and eager to help small businesses. It’s not something that I’ve seen on any other platform. TikTok encourages me to have a lot of fun and allow my personality to shine through,” said Crespo.

Tina Nguyen is another small business owner who showcased at the event. She created XXL Scrunchie and CO. A business that went viral all thanks to a Christmas gift in 2019.

“I made one for my cousin as a Christmas gift because she has really long hair. She really liked it and convinced me to start the business. In the next few weeks I launched it in my studio condo in Toronto and was so overwhelmed with orders that I moved back home so my mom could help me,” said Nguyen.

I started to make scrunchies from basic and easy-to-find satin fabrics but I started exploring other Canadian fabric stores and thought I could really make scrunchies out of anything. So I started venturing out into different fabrics and now we have several different lines and fabrics,” she said, pointing to her line of colourful zodiac-themed scrunchies.

Nguyen said TikTok offers a genuine crowd that offers valuable tips and advice.

“I posted a video of my mom cutting fabric and some of my followers said ‘you should try these scissors instead,’ and recommend a Japanese brand of fabric scissors. And we’ve been using them ever since,” she said.

The creators of Indigenous Box, Local Laundry, and Bro Dough at TikTok Canada’s first Small Business Month celebration. Photo by Jace Koblun

The showcase also featured a panel discussion involving the creators of Bro Dough, Local Laundry and Indigenous Box. The panel was moderated and the group answered questions from the audience after sharing some experiences and lessons learned on the app.

Toronto-based Artist/Illustrator Malik Holligan-Lewis and Toronto-based Viviana To also showcased their small businesses at the Tuesday event.

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