One Renton Highlands resident is making a name for herself this summer with stickers. College student Bella Wolfe’s small business spreads positive messages, and has seen success as a result of marketing on the social media video platform, TikTok.
Wolfe got her start with graphic design while taking yearbook in high school. It led to her creating a Redbubble account, where you offer designs and the site sells them on a variety of merchandise. But she said she always hoped to get more independent and make her own merchandise featuring her designs. After being home from Western Washington University during the stay at home order she decided this summer would be the time to start her own business.
Just Be Kind co., which is all handmade and packaged by Wolfe, has the goal to spread positivity and kindness. Most of the merchandise, namely stickers, include short positive messages and quotes, as well as inclusive representation in the art. Wolfe said it always makes her happy to see a positive message on a sticker on her water bottle, and the goal was to spread that kind of feel to others.
Before starting the company, Wolfe was recognized by those that know her as a positive light in people’s lives. Her neighbor in the East Renton Highlands, Rilla Bylund, moved to the neighborhood around the same time Wolfe’s family did 10 years ago. She’s watched Wolfe grow up from selling Girl Scout cookies, playing with kids in the neighborhood, giving Bylund’s family gifts, to going to college and starting Just Be Kind co. Bylund insists Wolfe is the best neighbor.
“Wherever she goes, she just flutters a bit of her sparkle everywhere,” she said.
When Wolfe started the shop in early July, she launched a TikTok account to document the process. It was mostly just for herself, but she still gathered 500 followers before officially launching.
Then she made a video of her excitement as she packaged and shipped her first order of stickers. That video went pretty viral, with nearly 370,000 views. That’s when her shop really kicked off and gave her the 15,000 followers she has today on the platform, some of which have supported her new business in the first month.
Wolfe said people were just drawn to her brand and her message. When Bylund heard about Wolfe’s new business she downloaded TikTok, which she was hearing about for the first time, and followed the Just Be Kind co. account. She was amazed at the amount of content Wolfe had put on there and how many views it had and the hundreds of thousands of likes.
Starting a small business hasn’t been easy, especially as Wolfe also works around 30 hours a week at a local craft store. When the first order video went viral, she was overwhelmed with orders and staying up late to get them ready around her work schedule. Now things have evened out more, she said. Despite the financial hardships of the pandemic, she said starting her store at this time has been kind of perfect. With more people online shopping and using TikTok while sitting at home, she thinks that’s boosted her business. There’s also a trend of supporting small businesses that market themselves on TikTok, Wolfe explained.
In what advice she would give to other small businesses hoping to market on TikTok, Wolfe said she believes people are drawn to her because her videos have positive energy and she shows her real personality. If you are yourself and are passionate about what you’re sharing, people will always be like that and your product, she said.
Just last week, Wolfe finished her first month of Just Be Kind co. by selling to at least one customer in 50 states. Of course she celebrated with a TikTok as she was completing one of her long term goals. She also just launched t-shirts that will be her first new item after gathering the large following.
Bylund said her and her kids also wrote on the street below Wolfe’s bedroom window “Congrats on all 50” to celebrate the accomplishment. She said those who know her in real life know just how kind Wolfe really is. At the start of the pandemic, Wolfe created interactive art on the sidewalks in their neighborhood for kids to enjoy and put paper hearts on neighbors’ doors. She also entertained kids at past neighborhood events and offered stickers and balloons.
Of her TikTok fan base, Wolfe said she’s had comments that others have also been inspired to start similar businesses. Something that has meant a lot to her has also been her teaching stickers being bought by teachers for their laptops and water bottles as motivation for a new school year, circled by fears and anxieties related to the pandemic. Wolfe herself is going to school at Western Washington University for teaching in special education and elementary education.
Bylund and her kids got stickers from Wolfe when the business first started. She loves looking at the stickers and their messages. One of them says, “See the Able before the Label” reminds Rylund of her daughter with Down syndrome, and everything she is capable of doing despite how others may try to define her.
Wolfe did an internship at Bylund’s daughters inclusive preschool, and Bylund saw she was able to create an amazing connection with kids of all abilities. Now she is also doing that with stickers.
“I think people are realizing with just all different kinds of things going on in the world, we need to spread positivity and kindness as much as we can in the things we do,” Wolfe said.
More information on Just Be Kind co. is available at justbekindco.net.