How does a small West Kootenay clothing store become a social media sensation literally overnight?
All it takes is a little creativity from staff and a “Hot Boss”.
JJ’s Fashions in Trail has attracted over 1.2 million followers and over 22.7 million “Likes” on video-sharing app TikTok, the latest and most popular social media platform.
“Our personal accounts have blown up too,” said JJ’s hot boss Rhylan Streloff. “I think mine is at 157,000, the store’s Instagram had 800 followers when we started, it now has 67,000. So it’s been pretty crazy.”
JJ’s, like many local businesses, had been hit hard by the pandemic, so in October, store employees Madicyn Dobie and Paige Witt decided to combine fashion with fun and create a post of two young employees swooning over their obliviously handsome boss.
They convinced Streloff to play along and Dobie filmed and edited a short 15-second video of the two young women popping to the Jack Harlow tune “Whats Poppin” in an effort to get their Hot Boss’ attention.
The video’s success was unexpected.
“He wanted to take the first video we made down,” said Dobie. “Then we woke up the next day and it had three million views.”
Streloff was a little self-conscious and concerned at first, but soon the popularity and growing number of followers helped ease any reservations.
“It was funny, but I was worried because it was a little edgy, and I am always worried about what people think, but in the end we are just having fun,” said Streloff.
And as for the term “Hot Boss?”
“It’s a little strange for me, but I just have to take it as a joke, and have fun with it. Even the coffee bar across the street, they write it on my coffee cup.”
The JJ’s team collaborates on all their videos.
Dobie’s editing skills are impressive and the videos promote the home-grown Kootenay-Life line of clothing, as Madi and Paige struggle mightily to get noticed.
The exposure proved a big help in launching JJ’s online website, and while it hasn’t yet proved a huge financial windfall, its social media reach is off the charts with over 100 million views so far.
“That [the pandemic] was the reason I didn’t take it down, and we kept doing this,” explained Streloff. “At any point we could be shut down and our business has been affected so to get an online store going, and building a following this way, at least we know we have the backup and a little revenue coming in.”
JJ’s has been in business for 37 years, started by Rhylan’s grandmother in Castlegar and continued by his father. Rhylan took over the business after working for 10 years in the oil and gas industry.
Dobie has worked at JJ’s for the past three years, and is a nursing student at Selkirk College with an affinity for social media. Her own Instagram followers boast over 15,000, so collectively the store’s online profile is exploding.
The attention from outside the Kootenays is also growing, both in demand for product and for interviews. Streloff has been contacted by numerous news outlets, including a British newspaper.
“It’s so cool, you hear businesses like to give people freedom to create and everything and it all expands, and that’s all we did,” said Streloff. “We tried to have a relaxed attitude and let Maddy do her thing, and the next thing we know we’re blowing up on social media platforms, so it’s pretty cool to watch.”
In Canada, TikTok doesn’t pay its successful influencers like they do in the U.K. and the U.S.A. using Creator Funds.
Not yet anyway.
Streloff says that may happen in late 2021 or 2022. For now, there are in-app purchases for users to buy and gift to content creators, who can later turn the gifts into money.
“If we had this account in the States or the UK we’d be making a significant amount of money, which is unfortunate,” added Streloff. “But when we do ‘lives’ people give us gifts, so there is a little bit of money there, and there’s a few platforms that have reached out.”
Streloff is all-in going forward, although he would like to see the focus shift more to promoting the clothing and customers.
“But then we probably wouldn’t get as many views,” he noted.
As for Madicyn, she’s thrilled with the results, neither anticipating the incredible exposure for JJ’s, nor their growing status as TikTok influencers.
“We’re literally ecstatic,” said Dobie. “When we hit one million followers, we were freaking out. We’re from Trail, and it’s such a small town and a small area so for anyone whether a business or anything.
“For a million people to follow you when you’re from such a small area - it’s insane.”
Check out the TikTok videos yourself or go to www.jjsfashions.com