I Turned My Retail Business Into A Successful Instagram Consulting Business

Published: March 26th, 2022
Liz Martin
Charleston Weekender
from Charleston, South Carolina, USA
started October 2015
Discover what tools Liz recommends to grow your business!
Discover what books Liz recommends to grow your business!

Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.

I’m Liz Martin, the founder of Charleston Weekender lifestyle brand and blog and co-founder of Cannonborough Collective retail shop. We are now living in the time of the pandemic pivot for many entrepreneurs! After 4 great years in business with a gift and balloon shop, I made the tough decision to close vs. assuming any debt in April 2021. I began Charleston Weekender with a line of gifts and travel accessories like Turkish towels and weekender bags. I also partnered with both local and national brands to promote them on my Instagram.

Our shop, my line, and my social media marketing were very successful in my first 3-4 years of business, but then 2020 hit. Puzzles kept me afloat for a minute there; I sold over 250 in just a couple of months! My business partner also decided to leave me high and dry last summer, right in the middle of the pandemic AND my divorce. Yikes. I tried to keep my business afloat, but it helped me realize it just wasn’t my passion. I didn’t get the second PPP loan but had the chance to get out of my 2-year shop lease without penalty, so I took it and haven’t looked back since!

I may resurrect my products and continue to sell online at some point, but since closing, I’ve decided to focus on working with brands to promote them on my lifestyle blog and Instagram. I also conduct 1:1 and small group Instagram consultations in person and online to teach others all of my Instagram Growth Strategies that have been instrumental in driving both of my businesses in the last 5 years.

I’ve also been a featured writer for a local magazine, Charleston Inside Out, over the years. I have recently been offered a job as the editor and Instagram manager starting this September, so I’m adding that to the roster of my post-pandemic career!


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

As far as marketing goes, I’ve been largely focused on the Instagram game over the years. I grew to about 33,000 followers at one point but lost about 6,000 followers once I started being more involved in local politics following the violent 2020 riots we had in Charleston. I was disheartened about our Mayor’s decisions and began speaking out about saving our community’s small businesses and sharing my opinions about shutdowns and mandates.

It’s time to get back to growing, so I’ve shifted my focus to creating Reels on Instagram. My engagement is best on my stories vs. feed posts, but Reels are really where it’s at if you want exposure and inevitable growth! This month I started setting the goal of sharing 2 Reels a week. I can already tell I get a drastically larger reach on Reels than I have been on stories or feed posts.

I’ve still been largely selling my Instagram consultation services via Instagram marketing (sharing my post and stories), and I haven’t spent any money on ads or other marketing at this time. I fully believe in the power of traditional media forms like print, so I’m very excited to take my previous entrepreneurial and blog experience and help run the show at Charleston Inside Out!

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

I learned I really miss having a business partner, but I also learned I don’t need one! Running a retail shop is hard, and once I had to suddenly take on twice the work I didn’t magically make twice as much, unfortunately. The pandemic took a toll on our tourism-heavy city, and while we did grow our online offerings, I just didn’t have it in me to keep that ship afloat all by myself because it wasn’t my true passion. I much prefer consultations where I get to directly help other small business owners because I have been in their shoes and want them to succeed with the resources they have.

I also learned I don’t exactly thrive on my own. 2020 was one of the loneliest years of my life, and it stifled my creativity and motivation. I’ve worked hard to cultivate friendships and business relationships to help keep me inspired. I have had to make my own “coworkers”, and recently joined a coworking space at a local wellness club. It’s been great for networking and keeping me on my A-game!

Healthy habits are such a key aspect of what makes successful entrepreneurs as well. I’ve gone to a lot of therapy, gotten back in touch with my faith and spirituality, and walked at least 10,000 steps a day. When I’m sticking with my habits and implementing my daily gratitude practice is when I thrive in my business the most.

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

I just sold my house, because the Charleston housing market exploded over the last 6 months! Other states that are more shut down were fleeing here by the masses, and my home appreciated in one year what I thought I would expect it to in 5-10 years. Selling allows me to hopefully renovate something and have a home that also provides me with the income-producing property. Since I already have a lifestyle blog and a social media platform of almost 30,000 followers who always want my travel recommendations, it only makes sense for me to be able to refer them to my own branded vacation rental! I’m hoping to have one in Charleston and also in Asheville NC, close to my family.

I’m very excited to take on my role as editor and social media manager for Charleston Inside Out. I’ll get the opportunity to write articles about the local companies and small business owners I respect so much, and I’ll also get the chance to earn a sales commission on ads, so I’m excited and feel extremely blessed to get to make money doing what I love.

I know my customers miss our adorable balloon and gift shop, so my line of products may return one day. I’ve been cultivating a great tribe of divorcees, and have begun to offer funny divorce cards and gifts (our “Divorced AF” candle was my favorite!), and I know it would do well if I brought it back. I’ve been talking to a local packaging/storage/shipping company so I don’t have to run all of that out of my home.

In 5 years I plan to be remarried with a great family, and in the position where I can work part-time to be able to enjoy the fruits of my labor with my loved ones. That’s the important stuff!

Have you read any good books in the last year?

I’ve gotten more into reading my bible this past year because I don’t know what I would have done without my faith. I know God has a bigger plan for me and that I’ve had all of these difficult experiences and struggles for a reason! Reading my bible keeps me feeling connected and calm.

I learned I really miss having a business partner, but I also learned I don’t need one!

I also just started reading Untamed by Glennon Doyle. It immediately resonated with me about just feeling like you’re a square peg trying to fit into a round career hole. I had a “traditional” career as a speech-language pathologist for 8 years, but it just didn’t allow my soul to connect with my true purpose. It’s a great read for all my fellow unconventional kooks out there!

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

Consistency has always been my magic secret; whether it’s for Instagram growth, being successful at email marketing, or getting healthy. Just do a little each day, even if some days you only accomplish one small task. Those little increments inevitably add up, and 5 years in, I’m so glad I got on the Instagram train when I did!

I also live by the mantra “it never hurts to ask”. The fear of rejection is especially prevalent in females. I often get the opportunity because I’m the only one who asked for it. What’s the worst that can happen? You get turned down, you move on to the next opportunity. You miss 100% of the shots you never take, and I think this is why women are paid less in the workforce. We aren’t underappreciated, we just don’t ask for the things men aren’t scared to ask for!

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

I’m not currently hiring, but maybe looking to expand a team of social media marketers down the road. You can email your resume and a paragraph about why you’d like to work for me (either in person or virtually) to [email protected].

Where can we go to learn more?

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

Thanks so much for featuring me again! Hang in there in our new normal, we’ll get through it together!