Tori Molnar, a 14-year-old from Pittsburgh, Pa., runs Utoria, a direct-selling company for teenage girls that she founded in September 2010. Molnar sources products from trade shows and manufacturers – everything from jewelry and accessories to electronics, books and gifts — and her so-called “Utoria Girls” sell the products for a commission. She has so far signed on 25 sellers, and is preparing for a 2012 launch of She Can Make Change, a related nonprofit that teaches financial independence to young women. Molnar spoke to Knowledge@Wharton High School about the critical role that social media plays in Utoria’s business development, including a campaign that she just launched to raise money to fund the company’s growth.
Knowledge@Whaton High School: How have you used social media to build your business?
Tori Molnar: The Facebook page is our main social media outlet because more teenagers are on Facebook compared to Tumblr, Twitter and LinkedIn. A lot of times girls will see our Utoria Facebook page, fall in love with what we’re about and then go tell a friend. Then that friend tells another friend and ‘likes’ the page. We have several different ways that people can connect with us through social media because not everybody likes the same social networks. People other than girls want to know about our company. We integrate Twitter because a lot of moms are on Twitter more than Facebook. We also use Twitter to connect with media outlets, such as the mommy bloggers. We get a lot of exposure from them. We use YouTube because we do so much training. We don’t want to just hand our girls a kit and ask them to go sell. We [post] training and informational videos on YouTube.
KWHS: Tell us about your latest social media strategy to raise money for Utoria. How does it work?
Molnar: We launched our first IndieGoGo campaign on November 13, 2011.IndieGoGo is a crowd-funding website that is geared toward business. You go on the website, put up a video and some information about your cause, set a financial goal and a deadline and create a campaign. You share it through social media and get your friends to share it through social media, and people can go onto the site and donate money to your cause. You also offer perks as incentive for people to donate more money. For example, if you donate $50 to my IndieGoGo campaign, you will get a hand-written thank you note from one of our Utoria girls.
KWHS: How much money are you trying to raise?
Molnar: My parents gave me $20,000 to start my company, which for a direct sales company is not a lot. I exhausted that fund, and I need a little more money to get Utoria up and going — to order inventory and do marketing to [sign on] more Utoria girls. That’s what my IndieGoGo campaign is all about. I’m looking to raise $6,000. A lot of my mentors are backing me up. For instance, Tory Johnson [a life coach, CEO of Women for Hire, which hosts career expos around the country, and the workplace contributor for Good Morning America] is going to be sharing it on social media, and the Utoria page will be sharing it on social media. By word of mouth and at networking events, you always talk about your IndieGoGo campaign because you never know who is going to [contribute]. Someone could give you $10 or someone could give you $1,000. It’s all about how passionate they are for your cause. My IndieGoGo campaign will last for 30 days.
KWHS: How did you prepare for this campaign?
Molnar: When I was consulting Tory about launching this, she said that my [social media] following wasn’t big enough to get any exposure for the IndieGoGo campaign. If you don’t have any exposure, then you don’t have any funders. We decided that we would hold back the campaign launch for 10 days and have a 10-day challenge where I would try to dramatically increase my social media following. On Day 1 [November 3] I only had 332 ‘likes’ on the Facebook page. Now we have more than 570.
KWHS: What comes next in terms of social media strategies?
Molnar: I would love to start recording daily videos. That’s actually part of my IndieGoGo budget. I put about $1,000 in there to buy video equipment and create a video recording set in my office. I would like to get up to 5,000 Facebook ‘likes’ by the end of the year. I’m hoping to enroll at least 200 girls via social media. I’m mainly focused on the Facebook page, because once you have a following there, you can easily expand that to your social media network.
KWHS: Do you feel social media is a crucial part of any business strategy?
Molnar: Your Facebook page is now viewed more than your actual website. It’s really crucial to have that social media presence because many people don’t even visit your website anymore. Instead, they’ll follow you on Twitter and see what your content is like or they’ll ‘like’ you on Facebook and see what you’re posting and who you are interacting with. They’ll look for what videos you are putting up on YouTube and what you are posting on Tumblr. Your social media is now your first impression.
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