When social media is a gift for new businesses in the holiday shopping season

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Ruben Trujillo used TikTok to his launch business, and likers gave him advice along the way

For Ruben Trujillo, coffee is not just a beverage — it’s his passion.

Trujillo spent several years working as an English teacher in South Korea, where he got deep into the coffee culture, including the pour-overs and the latte art. When he returned to the U.S., he decided to start his own business, Cafe Emporos, selling selling pre-filled personalized coffee filters.

“So I wanted to introduce a coffee experience because I couldn’t have my own coffee shop. It’s like a coffee shop in a little envelope — you’re gifting an experience,” he says.

Trujillo sells personalized coffee filters, where customers can order photos and messages printed directly on the packets. Within each packet are coffee grounds. They function similar to a pour-over filter, where customers can place them over the lip of the mug and pour hot water to brew the grounds.

Trujillo told us the filters were invented in Japan, but he first discovered the filters while living in South Korea.

Then, when he was back in the U.S., starting his coffee business was a lot more difficult than he anticipated.

“I didn’t have any capital, I had no connections here. I had been away for five years,” he said. “So it was this dream that I had, but that’s pretty much all it was.”

Trujillo said he continued to work on Cafe Emporos by selling in-person at farmers markets. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, that opportunity disappeared. He also stepped in to care for his grandmother for five months.

“So not only was my business not working out as I had hoped, over the years, but now I had this other responsibility,” he said.

Trujillo said he was hesitant to move to e-commerce because he “never really had luck” with social media sites like Instagram and Pinterest, particularly because he didn’t know how to use hashtags or other marketing tactics. When it came to using TikTok, Trujillo went through a process of downloading and deleting the app several times, because he didn’t think it would be a good fit for his business. He had made a couple of videos and had about 20 followers.

@cafeemporos

Duet option now on as requested. ^^ teagram and hot cocoa gram coming soon! cafe smallbusiness gift realtor greetingcard

♬ original sound – Cafe Emporos
In his first viral TikTok last year, Ruben Trujillo showcases a hand-pour coffee filter that he sells.

“And one evening, I came into my office and I had this little red background, some Christmas lights up. And all I did was, pretty much, pitch my product, and I just posted it ’cause I didn’t have anything to lose at the time,” Trujillo said.

In the TikTok, Trujillo explains how to use the product.

“Hello, my name is Ruben and I am a small business owner of Cafe Emporos. I make coffee grams,” Trujillo says in the TikTok. “And you can go to my website and upload a holiday message and a picture, and you can send it to anybody.”

Trujillo said the next morning he woke up to around 300 likes on his video. Then, he said, people began commenting on the video with tips for his business, like switching to a business account and adding the link of his e-commerce website in his bio. He said the experience was “really strange.”

“And I remember, I put my website in the bio right before getting in my car, and my speaker was connected to the Bluetooth. When I started driving, my phone started just going off with these sounds. Like when you make a sale on Shopify goes, ‘cha-ching.’ And my car speakers just went crazy,” he said.

Trujillo said he cried for joy. In total, he made 300 sales over the course of several hours, and received more than 14,000 likes on the video itself.

“And on my low days, I always remember that — that I didn’t have anything. I had 20 followers, I didn’t have work, and look at what happened and I was still able to get through that,” he said.

Ruben now has 21,000 followers on TikTok, hundreds of thousands of views, and Cafe Emporos has thousands of dollars in sales.

Related links: More insight from Kimberly Adams

Here is a link to Ruben’s TikTok.

And, if you’ve been a TikTok user for a while, you probably received a message last week about claiming your share of a legal settlement. It’s not a scam. About 89 million TikTok users in the U.S. are eligible for a very small slice of a $92 million payout the company is making to settle multiple class-action privacy lawsuits. Here’s a link to the NPR reporting from back in February about the settlement.

And a piece from NBC News about how to file a claim — worth noting here that up to a third of that settlement goes to attorneys’ fees and other legal costs. So NBC estimates that if everyone eligible actually submits a claim, each user would get about 96 cents.

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The team

Molly Wood Host
Michael Lipkin Senior Producer
Stephanie Hughes Producer
Jesus Alvarado Assistant Producer