U.S. Markets closed

How this Instagram star used her social media success to launch her own business

At age 23, Dawn Archer felt her life spiraling out of control. She weighed 220 pounds -- her heaviest yet -- was in a deep depression and often found it hard to get out of bed in the morning.

“I just wanted to sleep all day and eat anything that I could find,” says Archer, who lives in Richmond, Va.

Her personal and financial life were a mess, too. Working as a graphic design intern and making $23,000 a year left Archer in a constant state of anxiety.

“To be honest I couldn't pay any of my bills. Once I graduated from college, I had a lot of student loan debt so I was working 40 hours a week but I was still living negatively,” says Archer.

It wasn’t until her suicidal thoughts began that she realized it was time for a drastic change. “I was driving one day and just saw myself driving off of the bridge,” explains Archer, “I have such a great family and such strong faith but I just thought -- this can’t be life.”

Archer, now 28, decided to turn her life around by using exercise as therapy and began to document her journey on her Instagram page. Little did she know this would later become the starting point of her nationally known brand, SWEAT.  

Leading a healthy lifestyle began with baby steps for Archer, like walking to the store instead of driving. Although she says that it was never about losing weight, her results spoke for themselves as Archer began dropping the pounds.

“I was already posting my progress and what I was eating,” she says. “Then I started to notice my number of followers increasing and people were asking me for some additional info on my meals.”

Putting her graphic design skills to the test, she wrote her first e-book on “How to meal prep” and sold it for $5 while only promoting it on Instagram.

Archer saw Instagram as the best way to market herself and get wide exposure. The success of Archer’s first two e-books is ultimately what gave her the confidence to quit her job as a graphic designer.

“I moved back home and decided I wanted to teach fitness classes,” says Archer. “So one day I posted on my Instagram: if you want to work out with me, meet me at this parking lot and bring $5.”

Within a matter of months, Archer’s SWEAT classes jumped from 5 to 50 people attending at a time.

The idea for the “SWEAT 2014 tour” came after noticing that her followers were starting to request her to travel to their city. In November 2013, Archer was at 75,000 followers and set a goal for herself. “If I reach 100,000 followers by New Year’s, I’ll travel to all 50 states in a year to teach my class.”

From the 6 months teaching in a Richmond parking lot, Archer saved $40,000 and by New Year's, when she reached 118,000 followers, she sold her car, bought a one-way ticket to California and began her drive around the country. “I taught a class in a different state every Saturday for an entire year. In every single state I had at least 1 person working out with me,” she says.

Archer made $130,000 during her time on the road. With that money, not only did she use it to keep traveling, but she was also able to continue teaching classes by opening her own SWEAT studio in her hometown.  

It’s been three years since Archer began documenting her journey on Instagram. Today, she has 218,000 followers and 6 different streams of income generating from the SWEAT brand, which also consists of workout apparel, workout DVDs, and private consultations, all for $5 each. She owns a 3,000-square-foot studio with over 800 active members enrolled in her classes and shows no signs of slowing down.

Says Archer: “I just want to continue helping people. And if I helped one person get out of bed this morning and actually want to live their life, then I’m doing my job.”



Are you a parent returning to work? How to explain gaps on your resume

Are online stylists worth it? We tried Stitch Fix and Trunk Club and here’s the truth.

$100K in debt, 1 semester left but 1 step closer to graduation

Interview confessions of a former recruiter: 5 things to avoid