How two women in RVA found big business by posting on social media

Womens History

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — We’re all guilty of scrolling through social media.  

But in today’s world — some people are getting paid for the time they spend online.

Samantha Kanipe is one of them.

It’s finding the balance between, you know, working our nine-to-five and then working our five-to-nine, said Samantha Kanipe.

She has her day job in Richmond, but on nights and weekends — Kanipe and her husband are the brains behind, “The Richmond Experience.”

I think it was kind of a new idea for a lot of Richmond businesses to pay someone to visit and promote their company on social media, she explains.

The Richmond Experience is about experiencing anything and everything Richmond has to offer.

Whether that’s new restaurants, new exhibits, or new activities — they go check it out.

People love when restaurants are opening or when there’s a new experience popping up and it seems to be happening so often, Kanipe said.

Amy Simpson reports for 8News' Celebrating Women: Women's History special

Afterwards, they post about their experience online.

We’ve been kind’ve able to fill that gap in terms of providing this information to people whether they’re new [to Richmond] or they’ve been here a really long time,  Kanipe said.

The Richmond Experience — and the desire to make money by posting on social media — had a unique motivation for this couple. Neither one of them is a Richmond native.

[It] actually sprouted from the desire to pay off student loans, Kanipe said.

While they started off just wanting to pay off some debt in the beginning of 2017 — now Kanipe says she never could have imagined the reach her website and Instagram have two years later.

We grew to 10,000 followers I think in the first seven months of being in existence.

An added bonus to the quick success — Kanipe says those student loans are paid off.

Meanwhile, in another part of Richmond, Brittany Mullins, has been blogging for more than a decade.

In those times people were blogging as hobbies — nobody was doing it as a business, said Brittany Mullins. I never started [blogging] and expected for it to become my full-time job.

But for nearly six years now, her brand, “Eating Bird Food” has been her main gig.

She has a website, blog, recipes, and workouts — and it’s big business.

I’ve tried to diversify and have different revenue streams and also just always thinking forward, explains Mullins.

Amy Simpson reports for 8News' Celebrating Women: Women's History special

What is gonna happen if Instagram isn’t around? There’s gonna be the next best thing.

Mullins is able to sell sponsored posts on her blog and Instagram with brands she endorses.

She tells 8News those posts often sell for more than a thousand dollars each.

And that is just one stream of revenue for her brand.

The way that I make my most income is through ads on my site — people seeing the ads, Mullins said. 

For the past two months, Mullins reports that her site has garnered more than one million page views.

Growing eyeballs on their pages and posts — translates to dollar signs for both of these female entrepreneurs.

Today, The Richmond Experience has more than 25,000 followers on Instagram.

In the beginning, it was a lot of effort and now I think it just happens more organically, said Kanipe about how to grow a following.

More than a decade into growing Eating Bird Food — Mullins has more than 150,000 followers.

I never thought of myself as just an entrepreneur, Mullins said. 

As I’ve kind of grown into that — it feels so good, she said. It feels really empowering to know that I’m my own boss and what I put in is what I’m gonna get out.

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