Most of us think of Facebook as a place to catch up on baby photos, keep tabs on your ex, and maybe read some quirky news about 2013's most important corgis.
But, for a small but growing class of small business owners, Facebook is a place to find customers, sell them stuff, and make a decent living.
One really cool aspect of this Facebook-as-a-marketplace industry is that many of these online shop owners are young people running their first business. They are 20-something Web-natives who never even thought of trying to sell stuff anywhere but online and through the social networks where they spent their teenage years.
A couple weeks ago, we wrote about Koby Conrad a 20-year-old who makes his living by running a Facebook community page called The Hippy Bloggers. He posts inspirational photos and videos that "hippies" might like, and then links to his online store, Hippies Hope Shop from the posts.
After we wrote about Conrad, a friend of his named Abrianna Peto reached out to us to tell us her story. It's pretty inspiring.
Peto grew up with four siblings and a single mom in California. Her mom didn't have any help and had to borrow a lot of money. So Peto started working young.
Two years ago, Peto was working at a Subway when she found out she got a scholarship for a college backpacking science trip.
She asked her boss at Subway if she could have time off for the trip. Peto's boss told her if she took the time off, she wouldn't have a job when she came back. Peto went on the backpacking trip anyway.
When she came back, she needed a new job. But instead of working for someone else again, she decided to use $3,000 she saved up to buy a car to start a company.
One of Peto's hobbies was going to a big field and playing a game called "airsoft." In airsoft, the players divide into teams and shoot soft pellets at each other. It's like paintball but not as messy.
Peto liked to paint her airsoft guns with camouflage patterns. Eventually, other players at her local airsoft field noticed and asked if she could paint their guns too.
Peto had found a small business where she could be her own boss. She went out and bought a bunch of equipment, including stencils.
But several months of painting, Peto realized it wasn't profitable enough to continue. So she switched it up, and started using the equipment she'd purchased to make other products – vinyl patches, tactical tees, and gun decals.
She started selling these products online through a shop called MutinousCreations.com.
Around this time, Peto graduated from high school. Then her mom moved across the country for work. Peto decided to stay in California because that's where the airsoft industry is located. But that meant she was "essentially homeless" for a while – living on friends couches and contributing to their rent as best she could.
Peto went through some tough times starting her business.
In December 2012, she got sick but refused to go see a doctor. She was too busy working. She ended up in the hospital for a week, with a $10,000 bill to pay at the end. (" I have insurance but it sucks," she says.)
She realized she had to change her store name when it dawned on her that MutinousCreations.com was "obviously horrible" — "hard to read, spell, pronounce and understand." She picked a new name: Mutiny Shop.
"I t was tough starting over in SEO but worth it," she says.
Slowly, though, Mutiny Shop started to get traction.
Peto says that 2013 sales were in the six figures, and that she now employs two people.
One big reason for Mutiny Shop's success is marketing through Facebook and Google.
Peto markets MutinyShop.com through a Facebook page. She gets "likes" for it by giving away products and buying ads. She likes Facebook ads because how well she can target specific customers.
"Our main market is airsoft and paintball, so I can only have ads shown to people who have liked an airsoft page or added it to their interests."
"Facebook has become a huge part of many peoples lives," she says. "They have over a billion users, half of whom check Facebook on a daily basis. Many consistent users in one place. For this reason, marketing on Facebook is less expensive than any other website we have tried. The ROI is a lot higher."
Two years after using the $3,000 she'd saved to buy a car, Peto now drives an $800 car. She plans to buy a Toyota Corrolla as soon as she gets her 2013 tax returns. "I haven't been able to prove my income to the banks to get a loan! Apparently PayPal invoices and bank statements aren't enough."
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