Have you ever considered using TikTok to promote your small business? If not, then you’re missing out on an invaluable opportunity to reach a wider audience. In this episode, Gene Marks and Scott Kaylin, the founder and CEO of Kaylin + Kaylin Pickles, advise small business owners on how to capitalize on TikTok’s massive user base and build a significantly stronger online presence.

Podcast Key Highlights

  • What Do Small Business Owners Need to Know About Social Media?

    • There is no perfect formula for building a large social media following.
    • It’s vital for small business owners to play a visible role in their brand’s online presence since consumers on social media really want to see who that person is behind this fun service or the product, so don’t be shy about putting yourself out there.
    • If you’re lucky enough to have user-generated content, share it because it resonates so much more with TikTok and Instagram viewers when they can see your customers enjoying the products.
    • You can always reach out to a firm for additional support with your social media accounts.
    • Organic content tends to work better than paid content when you’re first starting out.
    • Your e-commerce sales are not necessarily the best indicator of your marketing success; use your brick-and-mortar sales to gage your success instead.
  • What TikTok Strategies Enabled Kaylin + Kaylin Pickles to Go Viral?

    • Collaborating with content creators who had a massive following enabled Scott’s business to reach a previously untapped audience on a scale that he didn’t think was possible.
    • Continuing to create his own TikTok content further amplified his efforts.
    • Lastly, to capitalize on his newfound popularity on TikTok, Scott started reaching out to even more influencers and began gifting them his products with no strings attached; this approach ultimately led to lots of positive reviews.
  • How Do I Scale Up My Business to Meet the Demand Once My Brand Has Gone Viral?

    • While every business should have an e-commerce component, this is especially important for those with a large online presence; just make sure your site is able to handle the increase in traffic.
    • In the event that you’re unable to keep up with all the online demand, create a mailing list and send email restock drops so that your customers can stay up-to-date about the latest purchase opportunities.
  • What Can Small Business Owners Do to Maintain Their Post-Viral Momentum?

    • As a business owner, you need to find out what type of content your audience likes and create more of it.
    • Don’t rest on your laurels; invest time everyday into generating more content and continue to grow your following.



The views and opinions expressed on this podcast are for informational purposes only, and solely those of the podcast participants, contributors, and guests, and do not constitute an endorsement by or necessarily represent the views of The Hartford or its affiliates.

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Gene: Hey everybody, it’s Gene Marks, and welcome back to another episode of The Hartford’s Small Biz Ahead podcast. We’re talking pickles today. Pickles with Scott Kaylin, who was the founder and CEO of Kaylin and Kaylin Pickles. First of all, Scott, thank you for joining us. I’m excited to talk with you. You and I were talking before we started recording about where do we go with this, because you’ve got a whole history with your business that I know would be of real interest to our audience. But your TikTok presence, I mean, we have to focus on that because TikTok is amazing. But Scott, just give us a few minutes, tell us a little bit about yourself and the business, where you’re located, how you came to be, and what is Kaylin and Kaylin.

Scott: Sure. So spent 50 years in my life in New York, actually in the fashion industry, having nothing to do with food. Always a big foodie, always loved to cook. Might not know how to, but always loved to. And I didn’t actually realize how much of a pickle fanatic I was until I found myself in Vancouver, British Columbia, where I fell in love with the city and literally realized I couldn’t find a pickle that I would put across my lips to eat. And it made me think and realize that I always had five containers of pickles in my refrigerator. I’ve been an entrepreneur my entire career. I came home one day and told my wife I was going to bring pickles from New York to Vancouver. She looked at me like I was crazy doing that. Built the very first pickle tasting bar up there. And then eventually, as of now, we have a pickle tasting bar in the original farmer’s market by the Grove in LA.

Gene: So you’re in Vancouver now? Is that where your business is?

Scott: No, no, no. I no longer have anything to do with Vancouver.

Gene: Where are you based?

Scott: Los Angeles.

Gene: You’re in Los Angeles. Okay. So you have one location in Los Angeles, and then I’m assuming you also sell your online as well, your pickles. Correct?

Scott: And that is basically the basis of this entire show.

Gene: Just a minute, just to make sure so that we have this right. Do you sell anything else but pickles? Do you?

Scott: I do not.

Gene: It’s just pickles.

Scott: And they’re only pickled cucumbers. We do a little bit of sauerkraut. I always love the person that walks by our pickle tasting bar and goes, “You only sell cucumbers?” How do you pay the bills? How do you pay the bills selling cucumbers? And he should only know.

Gene: Yeah. Well, actually, that was actually going to be the next question I was getting to. I mean, we business owners that do all sorts of things. So you’re making a living selling pickles, right? I mean, and how many types of pickles does your business offer? Your shirt itself has got?

Scott: So these are actually all the key flavors. It’s very interesting. So to give a little back… The pickle tasting bar is basically only 200 square feet. In that 200 square feet, we will do an excess of 50,000 transactions for a year in 200 square. So for those small business owners, that’s a very crazy number. And social media is much bigger now, why e-com? Because of social media. So the premise for the pickle tasting bar is it looks like a bar. There’s a tasting station, and my staff does not sell pickles.

Scott: They sell the experience because the pickles sell themselves. I’ll share one thing with you about that that really changed our business. We opened up a month before Covid shutdown, and we had one of the most successful openings in the market’s history. And they’ve been around for I think over 80 years. So I was very determined to try to stay open. The market’s like an open venue. It’s not a farmer’s market. I mean, we have basically have a mahogany countertop pickle bar, and there were only, I think 10 vendors that stayed open during Covid. And I went to the health department and I said, “I’m essential. I want to stay open.”

Scott: And they laughed at me and they said, “What do you mean you’re essential?” And I said, “Well, I sell cucumbers and cucumbers are vegetables. And vegetables are listed as an essential item.” So they told me I could stay open, but I couldn’t sample. And sampling is a key to our business because we always have between nine and 11 flavors, and that’s the experience. So how do you stay open if you can’t sample? I had to get rid of my staff. I’m there by myself, and I think I might be the first person in history to charge someone for a sample because then it no longer becomes a sample. So I created a pickle flight where someone could pick five flavors to try. We charged them $3, and then if they actually make a purchase, we credit them back $2.

Gene: Smart.

Scott: And that pickle flight kept us open, and it also became an intricate part of our experience. Secrets of LA listed us as the $3 date night in LA. So we have customers that buy containers from us every week and still come and get the pickle flights.

Gene: That is fair. What’s your bestselling pickle? What flavor?

Scott: There’s nothing even close. Camera’s sideways, honey mustard.

Gene: Make it out.

Scott: The honey mustard, which is the one pickle that’s not visually appealing when you see it, people don’t understand it. It is by far, there’s not a single other pickle we sell that’s close in volume to the honey mustard.

Gene: It’s just inspirational. We’re going to get on TikTok in a minute, but it’s inspirational because you’re taking something, there’s not much competition out there of people like you that are just selling pickles. And you always think, I always say to myself, and of course I’m usually wrong, I usually say like, “There’s nothing new that’s out there. You take an existing business and make it better.” And this doesn’t do. This is a really innovative approach, but on an existing product that’s been around since the beginning of time, but it’s taking that one idea, who would’ve ever thought of just building a whole business around just selling pickles?

Scott: The thing is though, we made pickles relevant and cool. I always believe that a pickle didn’t have to be a condiment, that it could actually stand on its own. If you had different flavors and build things around the pickle instead of the other way around. And I’ll share one thing quickly. The first interview I ever did, someone said to me, “Do you realize what you’ve done?” And I said, “Yeah, I built the worlds first pickle tasting bar.” And they said, “No, you’ve taken something that crosses every single boundary.” Little five month olds eat our pickles, 90 year olds eat our pickles. Every ethnic background has pickling history. And whether you make minimum wage or 50 billion a year, you eat pickles.

Gene: Everybody loves pickles. Okay, so let’s scale to social media because you are right. You hit all the different demographics you have. I mean, just on Instagram, you’ve got about 26,000 followers for your Instagram account. Again, it’s Kaylin and Kaylin and pickles. You can just search for it on Instagram, you’ll find it. Same TikTok, 115,000, something like…

Scott: 153.

Gene: 153,000 people following like me, following a guy making pickles online and loving it. I mean, it’s a tremendous, both on TikTok and Instagram. I mean, it’s a tremendous account, and it’s fun, and I can only imagine where it got. So let’s start at the beginning. How did you decide to leverage social media to sell pickles?

Scott: Not complicated, to be honest. Complicated to make it work. And I’ll start off by saying there is no perfect formula. And if anyone tells you there is, they’re lying to you in my opinion. First of all, I believe especially with a small business, that it’s super important if it’s possible for someone to be part of the brand, which is me. I find consumers, especially on social media, really want to resonate with seeing who that person is behind this fun thing or the product. So you’ve got to put yourself out there. So I was comfortable with doing that. It started on…

Gene: I’m going to interrupt you a lot during this because I have to add in a little bit. One is when you look at your posts, it’s your customers that are eating these pickles and loving it. And you’re absolutely right. It resonates so much more, particularly on TikTok and Instagram for business to show their customers enjoying their products, not necessarily all the time the owner often updating…

Scott: If you’re fortunate enough to get user generated content, which we are, we have very dedicated followers. So we started on Instagram, and I was fortunate enough, I work with a very small boutique firm of a girl who actually used to be one of my daughter’s roommates. And she started this small firm, and we started building content, and it started working. I mean, little by little, we were creating content. We were not on TikTok at the time. I’m a very out of the box marketer. That’s my sweet spot, is trying to figure out ways to get people to see things that you can’t normally do. So I noticed there’s a plaza outside the farmer’s market where all these young content creators were starting to do TikToks. They just appeared out of nowhere, and they’re out there for several days and they’re interviewing people. And I’m like, “I got to see what this is. I got to be a part of it.”

Gene: The benefits of being in LA, right?

Scott: Exactly. So when I’m dressed at the booth, I’m usually in a T-shirt over a white shirt. I have a bow tie on, and so it’s a scene. I’m six foot five. I have sleeve of tattoos. So when I walk out someplace, I usually get noticed.

Gene: Cool.

Scott: So I walk out with a handful of pickles and I walk over to one of them. I said, “Hey, I would love for you guys to try this if you want to do some content.” So they all came over and started eating the pickles. And this girl grabs me, her name’s Josette. She goes, “Come on, I’m going to put you in one of my TikToks.” So that’s my first TikTok. I go into the TikTok, she asks me a question, I give a funny answer. She’s got 10 million followers.

Gene: That’s incredible.

Scott: So that’s the first one. It’s a couple of hundred thousand views and two days later. Now, the interesting thing about the honey mustard is that pickle converts 98% of people who hate pickles, hate mustard, honey mustard. And I know that sounds strange, but it is very true. So she brings one of her friends over. She goes, “This guy hates pickles and he hates mustard.” So I give the whole spiel and I’m talking and convincing him, and I have no idea they’re filming it. So he eats the pickles, he flips out. “Makes no sense. I hate pickles, I hate mustard. This is the most amazing thing.” And that TikTok goes to about 2 million views.

Gene: Unbelievable.

Scott: So I call up my social media person that day and I’m like, “We need to get on TikTok.”

Gene: Yes.

Scott: So we open up a TikTok account…

Gene: I’m sorry, but I have to stop you right there. So it gets the 2 million views. Are you seeing customers out of that?

Scott: Oh, immediately.

Gene: How?

Scott: Absolutely immediately. Because they’re coming and saying, “Oh, I saw that TikTok.” And they’re coming to the booth. In a small way, but we actually hear people starting to mention it. So now we open our TikTok account, we start creating some of our own videos. We don’t know what’s going to work, what’s not going to work. I did some things. One of the first ones with a private chef, we made a burger together. Response was decent. It starts growing very small, but it’s growing. And I’m talking to people and I’m starting to engage with trying to meet all these young TikTokers and get an understanding of what they do and how it works and why…

Gene: I’ve got to stop you again. I got to stop you again. So at the very early part of all of this, how much effort were you putting into this? Was this once a day, once a week, like multiple times a day?

Scott: At the very beginning, a couple days a week, a couple hours in those couple of days a week trying to meet with people, trying to create content, trying to see what works. And people constantly telling me, “You got to put out content. You got to put out content and see what works, see what works.”

Gene: Who was doing this? Was it your daughter’s friend or?

Scott: She’s actually in New York. So we would be creating the content and she would curate it.

Gene: So you would be creating, and who would be… Is it you holding up the camera or did you pay…

Scott: I would have staff helping me do it. It was very organic…

Gene: And collaborative.

Scott: We were trying things, very collaborative. And then I’m sitting on my couch and my wife, my younger daughter calls you up she goes, “Dad, you’re going viral.” And I’m like, “What are you talking about?” And she goes, “Go onto your TikTok. You’re going viral.” And I open up my TikTok and there’s a very famous TikToker… She’s got about 7 million followers. I had no idea who she was, and she loves pickles. And someone told her about our pickles, and she lives in LA. Now you’re talking about someone that probably gets 50 to $75,000 just to come and do a post for you, if you can even get her to do it. Now, she came on her own and did a three-minute TikTok.

Gene: Really? Three minutes at your place?

Scott: At our place. She did the experience of trying to find us in the market and did the entire pickle tasting. And she flipped out. I mean, that’s when things started to really explode. So the funny thing, one of the interesting thing was, and this is what I can share, is you’ve got to be conscious and watch and look at things. So this video takes off and all of a sudden all the comments are coming from young girls named Kaylin because it’s a very popular first name, spelled in all different ways, thousands of comments. So I’m noticing that. And now I started my e-commerce business that happened in around, I believe it was around May of last year.

Gene: Of last year. So you went through Covid, you went through 2021.

Scott: This is 2022. This is 2022.

Gene: This was your brick and mortars at the storefront in LA, in the shop, in the market?

Scott: Correct.

Gene: And nothing online while all of this was growing…

Scott: Correct. I started… So in 2022, I rebranded everything, and it became about… I thought about what I was doing and we were making people happy. That’s what we do. So it became all about the smile and all the colors. Kaylin and Kaylin basically started in 2022.

Gene: And it was because of Kaylin, because all these young women were coming and they all started…

Scott: No, no. That had nothing to do with it. It’s my life that had nothing to do with it. So we rebranded in 2022 and I started… We opened up our Shopify site and we started an e-comm business, and it was doing… We would do 10 orders a week, 20 orders a week. Monday morning, I would come in, I would literally pack the orders myself and carry them to the post office.

Gene: Not much out, you’re saying?

Scott: I was planning on pushing the e-comm for 2023 because we had so much else going on. So then this woman hits, I get about 800 orders, which is crazy. Okay. Overnight, 800 orders.

Gene: And you were not prepared to fulfill these orders?

Scott: No, no. But look, that’s the small part of what happened. So now because content is out there from her, we’re starting to get creators reaching out to us because they see this and it’s going crazy on TikTok. What the craziest thing part was, within 10 days, our own very first created video, which was a pouring video with music of our honey mustard, went viral at the same time. And those two videos collided, and that came from the people telling us to constantly be doing our own content. And finally, one of those things hit at the same time that Tana posted. And our own video, that first one, I think is close to 4 million views right now.

Gene: Yes. It’s amazing.

Scott: So even the crazy, I tried to get in touch with her, and now creators are reaching out, and this is something I will share to people watching this. Gift product, that’s your marketing. Gift product, whatever it may be, a service product. And don’t ask for anything, don’t have expectations. If we got in touch with a creator or a creator reached out, I would say, “I’m going to send you pickles if you think they’re worthy for you to post about them, post about them. If you don’t want to, enjoy the pickles.” You know what, 95% of everybody that we send product to post it, and it becomes something, “If you really enjoy this, I’m a little business. If you want to help me because my product’s great, then do it.”

Gene: Got it.

Scott: And that’s how that was the next stage of how things started to progress.

Gene: Got it. Let me ask you another question on all this. So first of all, giving away stuff for free is really, really important for any business or whatever endeavor because that’s how you attract customers into it, which makes complete sense. The other thing I’m just getting out of these stories as well is that you stumbled, but then you actually had a strategy for going after people that already had a presence on TikTok, that already had followings and getting them to enjoy your pickles so that you could leverage off of their following. Which seems to be a really great strategy for building a following on a social media platform. You try to go after people that already have followings and get them to…

Scott: The thing is they need content.

Gene: They do.

Scott: They do. Creators need content. So there’s two kinds of content. There’s paid content and organic content. Now, for us, paid content, it’s not something that makes sense, it just didn’t work. I think I’ve paid two creators since I started this, and then when they see it and they hear other people doing it… We’ve had, and I’ll tell you the real, there’s one pinnacle part that changed everything. But we’ve had between 40 and 50 million eyes on our brand this year.

Gene: Amazing.

Scott: Predominantly because of TikTok. So things are slowly growing where you have more content that’s working. I mean, I’m starting to get phone calls from people’s agents and I’m like, “Look, we don’t pay. We’re a small business.” And they’re like, “My client doesn’t care. They just want to make sure they can get pickles.” So it’s starting to grow.

Gene: Hit all of that pickles.

Scott: December 28th, I’ve finally taken some time off. My kids are visiting from New York. I wake up in the morning and my site has literally exploded. I cannot figure out why. There are so many e-commerce orders. It’s just exploding. I call up my social media person. We don’t know what’s going on. I have to shut the site down.

Gene: Oh my gosh.

Scott: I get in, by the time I shut the site down. I’ve received more orders in 24 hours than I’ve gotten in the entire year. And it’s not hundreds of orders, it’s thousands of orders.

Gene: Oh my goodness. Okay.

Scott: October, a woman reached out to her. So her name’s Positively Paige, she’s a mom who does reviews with her husband on TikTok. She has about a million followers. She goes, “I’m pregnant. I’d love to try your pickles.” My pleasure. I send her pickles, and she reaches back out and she says, “Look, I’m very sorry. I’m having a really bad first trimester.” She goes, “I can’t eat the pickles.” Don’t worry. I reach out a month later. I hope you’re feeling okay. I don’t hear anything. So Paige felt really bad that she never tried our pickles because we sent them to her.

Scott: So she went on my site and she ordered $80 worth of pickles and did a review. That review is currently at somewhere around 8 million views. I got in touch with her, and then I got in touch with her and she posted again and says, “I sold out their site. The owner’s so sweet. He called me a Christmas miracle.” And so now I’ve got thousands of orders. I have no place to pack the jars. I have no shipping people.

Gene: What’d you do?

Scott: I have nothing. So now also my sites shut down. So we put out an email blast and a post that says, “If you want to learn about our restock, please give us your email.” 25,000 emails in two days we got. So we made it through. It took us about six, seven weeks to catch up on what we got. And then I sat and said, “If I open my site up, I’ll go out of business.” Because now we’re crazy on TikTok. I mean, it is everywhere. We’re getting emails and all this stuff. And so I said, “Okay, how do I manage this but not go out of business?” So I thought about what a shoe brand does, and they do drops. So we would call it pickle restock drops, and we would say, “Okay, we’re going to tell you day and time.” We would send out a day and time, and in seven to 11 minutes, sold out.

Gene: Yeah, yeah. We have a guy near me in Philly. He does ice cream on the streets of Pop Up Shop, same concept. And he comes up with a couple flavors, then he drops it, tells people in TikTok in advance, and then there’s a line around the block for the ice cream, and he sells it out in a couple of hours. And that’s what he…

Scott: We were not sold out at our retail location.

Gene: You were online is when you were selling?

Scott: That’s what our retail location was always fully stocked.

Gene: Yeah. Yeah.

Scott: I mean, I had people calling me to ask if the retail location was stocked, and I had a woman, she asked me three times to make sure she drove four and a half hours.

Gene: For pickles.

Scott: Bought eight containers of pickles, and then drove home. So TikTok, and actually a month ago was the first time we opened the site. So for 10 months we’ve been doing the drops. The site’s fully open now.

Gene: But meanwhile, you’re on TikTok all the time. I mean, you’re posting multiple times a day. You still kept all that active. Tell me about what you’re doing with TikTok now. What’s the commitment? Who’s making these videos? What’s it costing you? What’s the investment here?

Scott: Of course. So the thing is, the first thing I’ll say is going viral once happens, and it happens to a lot of people, that’s not the success. The success is being able to continue to have a following. We started to see what would resonate that people liked from our videos. So as I said, I had this small boutique firm, which was basically two people. I will tell you that in that two year period, what I paid that small boutique firm has almost tripled.

Gene: Yes, I would believe that. Good for them. They started out you at the beginning, right? So fair.

Scott: And honestly, I think it’ll go many multiples more as we grow. This person’s been very dedicated and grown with me. So it’s for a small business, when you’re investing thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars a month, not necessarily in an ad, in a person that’s helping you curate is important.

Gene: What does that boutique do for you? What value are you getting for the money that you’re paying?

Scott: So they do multiple things, to be honest. So they manage my Instagram. The Facebook is very small, and our TikTok and managing means creating all the posts, taking all the content that we get. I literally, even today still look at every DM that we receive, even though sometimes there’s 1000 of them or 100 of them. I will scroll through them personally every single day. But the firm is also looking at those, answering them. I was also very fortunate because the person who owns that firm is a graphic artist. So she’s also helped me a lot with a lot of…

Gene: Your branding, your logos, your…

Scott: Well, the logos and stuff were done before, but the creation of that, the ads that we do, she became self-taught through herself on Shopify. So she helps a lot with managing the website because the website interacts very much with our social media.

Gene: Got it.

Scott: So time investment, I mean, it’s every day. I mean, there’s stuff that happens on a constant basis to be conscious of it. They’re always looking at trends. This sweatshirt I’m wearing, for example, there are two women that created a sweatshirt similar to this with all the pickle brands that went very viral on TikTok. They actually reached out to me. They did a review on my pickles. So I was like, “I want to do something similar to that. So I will not be a genius to say I created this.” But we did our own version of it with our own flavors. So it’s a constant.

Gene: We only have a couple of minutes left. So I do want to ask you, all of this stuff that you’ve learned has happened in a relatively short period of time. You’ve been an incredible success on TikTok. You’ve built your business around it. It’s become your primary way to promote your business, and you’ve done it really well. So give me some advice. So we have people watching this that want to be you. They want to also succeed on TikTok. They want to create not only an audience, which is nice, but they want sales. They want people coming. Give some advice to those people that are looking to do that.

Scott: So first of all, put yourself out there. You’ve got to put yourself out there. You can’t shy away from being…

Gene: The camera.

Scott: And just do as much content as you can because you don’t know what’s going to work. There isn’t an exact formula. You’ve got to constantly, constantly, constantly be putting it out there. Now, very quickly, we didn’t do TikTok ads. We didn’t do TikTok shop, and we’re about to start to now because I was sold out for 10 months technically online. Now, the other thing for me, especially if you have a brick and mortar business, people say, “Well, how do you know it’s actually working?” I know because hundreds of people come on a weekend from all different ages to my retail location that say, “I saw you on TikTok. That’s the pickle on TikTok.” If you only have an e-comm business, it’s not always as easy to quantify. But you’ll see traffic, traffic should build and sales should build when you have a video that more people are watching.

Gene: Great, great, great advice. Scott, it’s a great story. You have a great business. I am buying some pickles from you and some merchandise, and I love what you’re doing, so keep doing it. I think the information that you shared today will be of great value to all of us. So thank you very much for your time. I want to wish you best of luck going forward and keep making those pickles.

Scott: Appreciate the platform. Thank you very much.

Gene: You got it. Scott Kaylin is the founder and CEO of Kaylin and Kaylin Pickles. You can find him both on Instagram and TikTok. Please check them out and please buy their products. My name is Gene Marks, you have been watching The Hartford Small Biz Ahead podcast. If you need any help or tips or advice in running your business, please join us at smallbizahead.com or SBA.thehartford.com. Thanks so much for listening or watching. We will see you again soon. Take care.

Gene: Thanks so much for joining us on this week’s episode of The Hartford Small Visit Ahead Podcast. If you like what you hear, please give us a shout out on your favorite podcast platform. Your ratings, reviews and your comments really help us formulate our topics and help us grow this podcast. So thank you so much. It’s been great spending time with you. We’ll see you again soon.

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