The TikTok Strategy That Took This E-Commerce From Idea To $50K/Month

Published: December 8th, 2022
Tom, Joe, & Jaron
Founder, Bro Glo
Bro Glo
started March 2021
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Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

Hey guys, we are Jaron, Tom, and Joe - the three founders of Bro Glo and we started a self-tanning company for men during the pandemic, in 2021.

We started our business by selling one product - a men’s face tanner. We had a crazy idea of making a self-tanner for men since everything on the market was geared toward women. Despite most people laughing at our idea, our face tanner turned out to be a pretty big hit. Over the months, demand grew, so we expanded our product line to include a body tanner and tanning accessories.

Our primary customer base is males in the range of 24-35. With that said, we are still a young company at only a year and a half old, and have begun seeing many women buying our products for themselves and their husbands/boyfriends. Our customers tend to be guys who take pride in how they look and dress so they want to look their best. Our self-tanner helps them achieve that, with a natural-looking fake tan.

As pioneers of self-tanning for men, we were shocked at the rapid popularity we gained through our TikTok account - from zero followers to just under 100k now, with quite a few viral videos ranging from 1m views to over 8m views, and a total of 2.1m likes.

We’ve experienced fast growth, which, thus far, has propelled our business to making average monthly revenues of $50k in a short year and a half of being in business - and we believe we’ve just scratched the surface.



What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

Entrepreneurship runs in our blood. Joe ran his own business prior to Bro Glo (and still does). Tom and I (Jaron) have had several other online brands that were mildly successful, but just never maintained the traction or experienced the rapid growth that Bro Glo has.

The idea of Bro Glo came from Jaron - I am naturally very pale and I married Tom’s dark Italian sister. Throughout life, I’ve heard my fair share of pale jokes but when I was nicknamed “mayonnaise”, by hotel staff, while on my honeymoon in Antigua, I decided to come up with a self-tanner for guys just like me who just burn, but want to be tan.


I told Tom about the tanning product idea and our research showed a white space in the market that looked like it had great potential if we could come up with the right formula and market it the right way.

For our past businesses, we built social media accounts, one of which had 500k followers on Instagram. TikTok is a relatively new platform that has experienced substantial growth, so we decided to take a shot at content creation with our new brand and it was a good decision - our videos literally blew up overnight.

We started with a small batch of one product - 200 Bro Glo Face Tanners - which sold out in two weeks, exclusively from organic traffic from TikTok.

We started Bro Glo as a side hustle in 2021. We all have “day jobs” so we created this brand as a fun challenge. Because of that, we launched with no expectations. It was the middle of a global pandemic and we were all stuck in our homes. Little did we know how quickly Bro Glo would take off.

Our “aha” moment was selling out of our initial batch within two weeks with a viral TikTok video that garnered over 200k views. When we sold out of the initial batch quickly (and unexpectedly), we all looked at each other and said “Ok, let’s order more… maybe we’re onto something.”

Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.

We’ve started other online brands before (less successful than Bro Glo), so we had the experience and knowledge on how to source manufacturers/suppliers for products. In the past, we’ve designed products from the ground up, which gave us a pretty good base to help with Bro Glo.

We started our sourcing process at the beginning of 2020. Luckily we were able to nail down a self-tanner lab pretty quickly. We spoke to around a dozen labs and the one we ended up partnering with stood out far above the rest in terms of personalities, knowledge, capabilities, and capacities. Because we never formulated a self-tanner, we had to make sure we partnered with an experienced lab that specializes in self-tanner and could help us develop our own proprietary formula, and also have the capacity to scale with our business.

Once we signed on with a lab, we were able to start the formulation process. As guys, we started with what was most important to us - natural-looking (not too dark), not sticky or greasy, and doesn’t have a strong perfume or chemical scent. We gave these preferences to our lab and they helped us through the formulation process.

After our initial formulation process, the lab sent us a few formulas and we then tested them on ourselves as well as a few men's test groups. From there, we took their feedback and went back to our lab, and fine-tuned our formula. This took several iterations before we came to the final formula that received the best feedback.

Luckily (and thankfully), we finished up this process towards the end of 2020, just before Covid hit. If we hadn’t finished, it would have pushed our timeline back for the better part of a year.

Anyways, after we nailed down our formula, we decided to start with a small batch of 200 units of only face tanner (a formula specifically designed for your face).


Some of the first batches of bottles

Our supplier sent us blank bottles for the first few thousand units we made. Separately, we had the bottles’ labels printed at a printer and sent to us. Once we received the bottles and labels at our warehouse, we manually labeled each one with a cheap labeling apparatus we found on Amazon. We spent hours and hours labeling thousands of bottles.


In the end, our total startup costs were just $974, which is mind-blowing to even us founders. In retrospect, it’s crazy to see how far we’ve come and how much the business has grown in less than two years.


Describe the process of launching the business.

After we ordered our first small batch of products, we started working on the name, website, and branding. Lucky for us, Tom is a techy guy and was able to design our website and take all of our product photography. This was super helpful as we were bootstrapping the business.

It only took a day or two to come up with the name “Bro Glo”. We were sitting around in a room and Jaron blurted it out and we all loved it right away.

As for the branding, we knew right away that we wanted a brand voice that was light-hearted and funny because we, as founders, don’t take ourselves too seriously. We wanted our branding to be a little louder than the traditional branding of other men’s products (aka shades of navy blue, black, gray, etc.). So, we found an artist on Fiverr and gave him some direction and he came up with our label art and Bro Glo mascot - a throwback vibe paying tribute to the 80s.


Our launch was pretty uneventful. One day we finished our website, clicked a button, and made it live.

At this point, expectations were low. We launched to an audience of essentially zero and we were merely dipping our toes in to test our product's viability in the market. Utilizing only a TikTok account to test, we were limited at first since TikTok only allowed a clickable profile link only if you have at least 1,000 followers.

So… our first goal was to get those first 1,000 followers by creating content and posting once a day. Within two weeks, we had the first viral post that hit 200k views and got us well over 1,000 followers.

As soon as we could put a clickable link in our profile, our posts seemed to keep going viral. We started with a small batch of one product - 200 Bro Glo Face Tanners - which sold out in two weeks, exclusively from organic traffic from TikTok.


One of our early batches of orders within the first two weeks of launch

We were so pumped up and excited. The thought that we just sold out of 200 face tanners for guys (in only two weeks), amazed us.


From there we kept going - we purchased 400 more units and they sold out in a week. At that point, everything snowballed. We kept ordering more inventory - 1,000 units, 2,000 units, 4,000 units, etc. - and kept selling out. We couldn’t keep our product in stock.

Use the haters as fuel to do what they thought can’t be done. One day you will look back at them and smile.

As we kept selling out and making larger inventory purchases each time, we knew we were onto something. We risked all the money we made after we sold out and rolled it right back into the business and bought as much inventory as we could.


In retrospect, it was scary and exciting… and totally worth it. What a ride.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

Organic TikTok Growth

You may have heard the phrase “TikTok blew us up.” Well, TikTok actually did blow us up. Since our launch, we have been consistent with posting on TikTok, which has driven millions of new eyes to our brand.

At the beginning (and even now), each video is somewhat of a test of what people and TikTok’s algorithm like and don’t like. We’ve gotten better at it and learned a lot along the way, so things are a little easier now in terms of the type of content we post. So far, TikTok has been the primary driver in organic traffic.

Paid Ads

In terms of paid ads, we tried running paid ads on Facebook, TikTok and Google Shopping. Unfortunately, these failed because we didn’t know what we were doing and didn’t have much experience in the area of paid ads.

Fortunately for us, one day we received a cold email from a small marketing agency, Valley Digital Marketing. We learned that as you gain more of a following, you start receiving more cold sale emails… Most are generic and deleted fairly quickly. However, this guy named Michael took the time to personalize the email pitch and make the copy in our brand’s tone of voice. We’re thankful that he did that because we had a call with him shortly after and ended up hiring him.

Since then, his agency has handled all of our paid ads - starting with Facebook, then Instagram, then, most recently, TikTok and Google. We’ve found that Facebook was the largest underperformer by far, so we transferred that budget to Instagram, where we found better results. Within the past few weeks, we launched ads on TikTok and Google, which, so far, seem to be the most promising of the bunch as we’re seeing good ROAS and low customer acquisition costs.

Email Marketing

Because our product is consumable, customers need to re-order (hopefully). So, our agency was tasked with handling all of our email campaigns, and email flows to build and maintain relationships with our customers.

We send out an email about once a week. The great thing about our emails is that they’re either entertaining, funny, or both. Most of our emails aren’t sales in nature and don’t include a lot of images. We aren’t sending out emails with the intention to get as many sales out of an email as possible. The main purpose of our emails is to be entertaining and form a relationship with the people on our list.

As we’ve sent more and more emails out and built back-end email flows, we’ve seen improvement in a lot of metrics, most notable are: customer lifetime value has been increasing as well as an increasing return customer rate. This, in turn, has allowed us to spend a little more on acquiring customers, knowing they’ll be repeat customers with a higher lifetime value.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

Fortunately for us, we were lucky to have been a profitable business within our first two weeks. Additionally, cash flow is king and Bro Glo has also been cash flow positive since the beginning. Outside of our small initial investment, Bro Glo has been a self-funding business.

Our gross margins, before ad spends, are in the 60-70% range. This is after the cost of goods and shipping & fulfillment expenses have been deducted.

To date, the majority of our traffic has been free organic traffic from primarily TikTok. Because of this, our customer acquisition costs have been essentially zero given the traffic TikTok has generated us organically.

As an example, in August of this year, we had a TikTok video go viral with 8.1m views. It ran over the course of about a week. When videos go viral like this, orders come pouring in, and our Shopify app cha’chings all day (music to our ears). This video alone generated over $50k in revenue in just a few days.

As a growing business, we know that we can’t count on TikTok for all of our traffic. We already learned a hard lesson when TikTok reduced our organic reach drastically in the second half of 2021. We couldn’t even run paid ads on TikTok. Long story short, we found out they categorized us as a Pharma company (which we aren’t even close to).

From that tough lesson, we learned that we don’t want to “put all of our eggs in one basket”, so we’re continuing to spread our traffic generation strategies across several paid platforms. Doing this will help diversify our risks as well as create greater consistency in sales with fewer mountains and valleys.

With that said, we are still very early in paid ads, and we will be scaling them in the very near future. Over the last few months, we have been testing creatives, audiences, and platforms and have slowly been increasing our ad spending.

This is cutting into our bottom line slightly, but because we are generating 10,000 to 30,000 sessions a month through TikTok at no cost, we can scale our ads markedly when we decide it's the right time and the proper thing to do.

Even though we are cash flow positive and profitable, we still run a very lean operation, with just us three founders. We have outsourced important things like marketing and accounting, but other than that, the only other employee we hired was Tom’s dad. He acts as a temporary warehouse worker to help pack and ship orders when we get big influxes of them.

One of the larger projects we’re working on is getting our brand on a new sales channel - Amazon. We came to the conclusion that it is the next logical step in our evolution as a business. So, we recently hired a consultant to help us set up our brand on Amazon and essentially run our Amazon business for us going forward.

This is a big undertaking for us as it’s a lot of work, but worth it; we believe Amazon has huge potential for us.

Candidly speaking, we weren’t crazy about going on Amazon until the consultant showed us how many people are actually searching for “Bro Glo” on Amazon. This was the driving force behind our decision, outside of reaching a whole new customer base and audience. We plan to launch on Amazon before the end of the year and we’ll see how it goes.

We have quite a few opportunities and interesting prospects for brand awareness and acquiring new customers outside the traditional digital paid advertising routes. When we go viral on TikTok, our brand gets the attention of a lot of people. For example, we’ve had a couple of Nascar teams reach out to us for sponsorship as well as a lot of podcasts, large websites/publishers, etc. We plan to focus on these areas in the near future… who knows… maybe someday you’ll see a Bro Glo Nascar!

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

We initially launched with one SKU, but now we have multiple (and more on the way). One of the best decisions we made was bundling certain products together. This increased our AOV, while at the same time, the customers saved some money by buying the bundled products. It’s a win/win for everyone.

Because of the bundling, our AOV increased by roughly 68%. Increasing the AOV gives us more margin to work with when it comes to marketing and acquiring customers. While it may have seemed like a small and simple decision to bundle some of our products, it had a profound effect on our business.

On the other side of things, we found that one of the most challenging parts of launching a business (especially during a global pandemic) is logistics.

Despite receiving a handful of offers, we never took outside investment. While we’re happy that we didn’t and were able to bootstrap the business, it was definitely challenging.

In the beginning, we kept selling out as our TikTok videos went viral. We sold out 4 or 5 times and it was nearly impossible to keep in stock. Each time we reordered, we reinvested all of the profits from the prior batch, allowing us to order more inventory each time.

While this is a good thing, it also meant that we were out of stock for at least 1-2 months due to the lead time of our product. A good problem to have, but also a big problem as we would miss out on a lot of potential revenue.

Up until about 6 months ago, we were shipping our inventory entirely by air, which is very expensive and a tough pill to swallow when you see that the shipping cost is just as expensive, if not more expensive than the products themselves.

Thankfully, over time, we were able to order large enough quantities that we could start shipping by sea, which drove down shipping costs and improved our bottom line.

Entrepreneurship isn't for most. It can be very stressful and lonely at times. A lot of people won't understand you and your work ethic. As founders, we eat, sleep and breathe our business because we are super passionate and we enjoy the journey. Don't let those hard days make you question why you're taking the hard path that is entrepreneurship.

One day, however, you'll look back on that hard path and all those bad days and times and think to yourself, "It was worth it."

As I said, there are a ton of things we did wrong along the way, but that's what separates the good entrepreneurs from the bad. The good ones, get through it, keep moving forward and learn from their mistakes. We're firm believers that the harder you work, the luckier you are.

We work long and crazy hours, but we wouldn't be where we are without hard work, good times, bad times, etc. Stay passionate and try to stay organized, do your best work, learn from your mistakes, and make progress every day.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

Our website is hosted on Shopify. We’re big fans of Shopify and have been using it for a long time. We actually have been on Shopify for years with other brands we’ve created in the past. Shopify has only improved and made things easier for entrepreneurs (especially startups) over the years.

Within Shopify, we subscribe to several apps, the biggest being our email system, Klaviyo. Klaviyo has been a paramount tool in our business as it has helped us grow and maintain our relationship with our customers and potential customers. Although seemingly expensive, Klaviyo pays for itself in multiples.

A couple of other key apps we use on Shopify are Loox (reviews system), Bundles (so we can create product bundles), Appstle (enables us to sell subscription plans), and HoneyComb Upsell & Cross Sell.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

Honestly, we don’t have very much time to read or listen to podcasts. Bro Glo takes up a lot of our time in addition to our day jobs.

However, it may sound cliche, but we have followed StarterStory since pretty much the beginning of its existence. When we have time, we all like to read through the interviews for inspiration and useful tips and advice from a lot of successful entrepreneurs who have been through and are going through a lot of the same experiences that we are.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

The biggest piece of advice we can give you is to stop overthinking and just start. The three of us founders all suffered from "analysis paralysis" before we launched Bro Glo and one day we just decided to go for it and start.

It's natural that everyone wants their business to be perfect when they launch, but it won't ever be perfect. It's always an ongoing task to improve and get better.

It's better to just do it and figure things out as you go. If you try to achieve perfection, you'll never get there, which means you'll never end up getting anything done and just keep spinning your wheels.

Another key piece for us has been consistency. We are all avid believers of consistency. There are always going to be roadblocks and problems that pop up along the way - they're inevitable. But, if you're consistently working on your business, there will always be progress.

Whether it's solving the problems that pop up along the way or improving your product; seeing those small bits of progress add up is a rewarding feeling. Always keep moving forward and work your butt off to build an amazing business with happy customers.

Entrepreneurship isn't easy and it isn't for everyone, which is fine, but it's so rewarding seeing positive customer reviews or emails from customers saying how much they like your product. Believe in your idea, work hard, and don't give up. Work through the tough times, stay consistent, and the rewards will eventually come. Use the haters as fuel to do what they thought can’t be done. One day you will look back at them and smile.

Where can we go to learn more?