How TikTok Accelerated Our Growth And Brand Awareness [Update]

Published: August 27th, 2022
Alex Bricker
Founder, ESL With Purpose
ESL With Purpose
from Fort Collins, Colorado, USA
started August 2017
Discover what tools Alex recommends to grow your business!
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Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.

I started ESL With Purpose in 2017 to create and provide educational games for teachers and English learners. It started with the Phrase It dice and then I expanded by creating the Phrase It cards. In January 2022, I launched a new prepositional game called PREP IT.

The original Phrase It deck sells the best, and is my flagship product, carrying the weight of revenue and sales. At first, I thought my audience would be English learners themselves since I created an online course to complement the phrasal verb card game.

The majority of sales come from teachers and school districts, so I began to pivot my messaging and audience targeting to reach them. I now average 1500k in revenue per month, and the back-to-school season and end of the school year tend to provide the highest surge in sales.

Operationally, I now have ESL WITH PURPOSE and PHRASE IT federally trademarked by the USPTO, which helped me apply and get approval to be an eCommerce seller through the Walmart online store platform. I’m now running the business 100% debt-free, so things can only go up from here.

Tell us about what you’ve been up to. Has the business been growing?

The pandemic reduced our sales by half, and instead of 1k/month, it dropped back to $500/month or less in 2020. School shutdowns made an impact on this, so I created ways to interact with the Phrase It cards online. I made videos with lessons for my English learner audience so teachers could see how the cards might be used.

In 2021, I developed a new game with images, based on feedback from an elementary teacher and customers. The game? PREP IT. It includes 45 image cards and 15 preposition cards for kids and teachers in the Kindergarten - 2nd Grade bracket. With PREP IT, Beginning English language learners can build sentences, practice sight words, and improve their literacy skills.

Watch this video of my kindergartener using the cards.


TikTok has accelerated more growth and brand awareness. I repurpose a few videos on Instagram and YouTube shorts, being careful to upload them ‘natively’ to each platform, or my performance and reach is not as successful.

You might hear things like, “my audience isn’t on TikTok,” yet that would be a lie. It is one of the fastest-growing platforms with billions of users. As it continues to grow, I highly recommend every company have an account on it,

I applied for a business grant in early 2021 from an organization in my state and received 5k in funding to use it for the business in 2022. We had to prove a financial loss in 2020-2021, and it was about half of what we made in 2019-2020. That said, when things opened up again in late 2021, we were able to bounce back and are now on track to make 20k+ in sales for 2022.

With the new grant funding, I plan to pay for highly optimized product photos for my Amazon listings and reinvest in product development. I know improving the quality of my eCommerce listing images will increase sales. I also have a new card game in the works for 2023 that focuses on rhyming words in English.

What have been your biggest challenges in the last year?

One challenge I made was relying on one manufacturer for my dice product, and giving them multiple opportunities to make things right. I realized this manufacturer continued to produce low-quality dice that cost more in overhead expenses, so I had to make the decision to switch manufacturers.

It was a great decision to switch because the quality of the dice was higher, and the new manufacturer customized my Phrase It dice exactly the way I wanted. I was more than impressed and will be getting new product images for the dice and replenishing inventory on Amazon in the coming months.

I’m annoyed that I couldn’t send hand-written thank you notes to my customers on Amazon like I used to, as Amazon removed the ability to see customer mailing addresses in their sales reports. At the end of the day, I’m renting space on Amazon’s platform, and they own my customer’s data. I will have to get creative with QR codes, email, and other ways to communicate value to my customers.

I need to stop spreading myself thin on different social media platforms. With a shift in focus on teachers and their needs, I’m creating a new marketing strategy for Fall 2022 and 2023 year. LinkedIn and TikTok will be where I will spend more effort and energy, and build consistent content plans on both. The challenge will be in staying at it and not getting ‘shiny object syndrome’ with other distractions.

What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?

I learned I have 2 audiences, even though I started out targeting only one of them:

1.) Teachers of K-12 and ESL/ELL teachers.

2.) English language learners. They tend to like my freebie lessons.

The audience that buys products and generates revenue is teachers. I still sell an online course through Udemy for my English learner audience, but it doesn’t generate the velocity of sales like Amazon. Getting clarity and alignment with “who” I’m targeting will increase my current and future sales. My heart wants to do both, yet I think it’s slowing my growth.

I updated my explainer video for YouTube in 2021 and will need to create a new video update that speaks more directly to teachers. See this current video:


What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?

For the remainder of 2022, I plan to generate more reviews and sales for the new Prep It card game, as it doesn’t have enough awareness, ranking, and sales velocity as Phrase It has. I hope to change this and let teachers know about this new, valuable curriculum supplement.

In 2023, I plan to get consistent with 2 social media channels, and email sends, and provide valuable products for teachers, especially by branching out and uploading more content on my TeachersPayTeachers page.

I created a card game called Contraction Action that I wanted to sell on Amazon, but the overhead costs would be too high. Instead, I made it available as a digital download with an eBook where teachers can adapt and use it as they see fit for their own teaching needs. Example:


Another initiative will be to convert my physical card game ideas into digital games, such as a website domain with a ‘drag and drop’ option for learners, thus creating a recurring, monthly subscription model. I’ll need to either learn code myself or hire a software coder who understands games.

My vision is to see millions of English learners accelerate their learning through fun and innovative games. I picture thousands of teachers connecting with their students through the Phrase It and ESL With Purpose games, creating ‘aha’ moments to grow their English skills.

What’s the best thing you read in the last year?

While I want to take ESL With Purpose full-time someday, my current day job is with a healthcare communications organization, running a portion of its digital marketing efforts.

With that role, I discovered a new podcast in the B2B space called “State of Demand Gen” by Refine Labs, and it’s on my top favorites list. The principles gleaned from it apply to B2C markets too.

One of my favorite books is Business Made Simple by Donald Miller. It creates a clear map for entrepreneurs and offers a 60-day, succinct read for getting clear on your business and all the parts to keep it running.

He mentions your business is like an airplane and breaks down the 6 parts you need to understand to make it stay in the air. I recommend this for both seasoned business owners and newbies.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?

You might hear things like, “my audience isn’t on TikTok,” yet that would be a lie. It is one of the fastest-growing platforms with billions of users. As it continues to grow, I highly recommend every company have an account on it, as those who don’t may be able to reach the current and future generations of their customers. Get a TikTok channel and test it out for your brand.

After borrowing and losing money to chase a product ‘opportunity’ that was not part of my brand, I learned the hard way to steer clear of any get-rich-quick schemes. Stay true to who you are and your own brand.

Some people chase businesses or ideas because they are ‘opportunists,’ instead of truly passionate about their original, God-given mission. Clarify your purpose and mission first, and you will be able to endure uncertain economic conditions, being honest and realistic in the process.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

Currently, I’m not hiring for any positions.

I am open to paying for contract work if you know how to optimize Amazon or Walmart listings, images, and A+ Content.

If you’re a TikTok influencer with an educational products audience, I would be open to working with you.

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!