The national debate surrounding TikTok has excluded the voices of those who would be most impacted by a ban.
We ask our lawmakers to make decisions in the best interest of their constituents. When it comes to TikTok, many aren’t.
The issue doesn’t just lie within Congress, which has outlawed TikTok on most U.S. government mobile devices. Most states have banned it on state-owned cell phones. The Montana legislature recently voted to ban TikTok within state borders on all phones, whether government-owned or private. It’s important to raise a hand against this trend before it gains any traction in Colorado, where TikTok remains legal on any government or private phone.
Banning TikTok would have dire consequences for small businesses across Colorado as well as our underrepresented communities. As a queer and Latinx entrepreneur, I’ve been fortunate to see my business ventures thrive. The same cannot be said for many business owners from underrepresented communities. Lawmakers should protect TikTok and save an invaluable lifeline for thousands of Coloradans.
Starting a business is no easy feat, but TikTok has made this endeavor much more accessible. In a state like Colorado that is consistently ranked as one of the most friendly for LGBTQ+-owned businesses, TikTok has allowed queer creators to promote their businesses, connect authentically with their audiences, and reach new customers seeking to support queer- or minority-owned ventures.
I would know. I started my entrepreneurial path in Denver, establishing businesses ranging from a sunglasses venture to food trucks. Most recently, I opened my first brick-and-mortar business, Combi Taco.
My business caters to a variety of different people, and without TikTok, it would have been much more difficult and expensive to pursue these opportunities. My TikTok account currently has more than 55,000 followers and my videos have gained more than a million likes. All it cost to gain this following was my own time, creativity, and grit.
TikTok allows me to connect with followers on a more personal level. I’m able to share recipes, show off my vintage food truck, and promote Combi Taco and everything it has to offer. TikTok carries my business to other customers and parts of the country organically. The platform creates free word-of-mouth advertising that minimizes the resources I need to spend on marketing.
In our digital world, every tap on the TikTok app is an opportunity to discover a potential customer. In Colorado, we have already seen hundreds of small business owners capitalize on this opportunity. In Gilcrest, a town of just over a thousand people, Saddle Up Colorado has more than quadrupled its sales of niche horse and ranching products after posting regularly on TikTok. Meanwhile, two young queer women founded a colorful vintage store in Colorado Springs called Electric Goodies and watched their sales explode through exposure on TikTok. A father-son duo founded Jim’s Automotive Machine Shop on their rural 80-acre farm, and their TikTok account now boasts 680,000 followers and 8.6 million likes. These businesses have found success through TikTok during a time when many others have struggled.
With TikTok, anyone can become successful. The platform is especially important for underrepresented communities like mine. Many in my community have had their voices ignored – or even silenced. TikTok elevates our voices. It connects us to communities both locally and across the country.
My path has not been an easy one, but it has been rewarding. As a beneficiary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy , I am committed to lighting the way for the next generation of American small business owners. TikTok connects me to those who stand where I stood.
On TikTok, I can post advice for small business owners, including information about grant applications, technical assistance programs, and networking opportunities for Latinx business owners. It’s crucial that fellow queer and Latinx folks can see what’s possible for them and have access to the tools to make it happen. Small business owners owe it to our communities to show that it is possible to succeed in this country – TikTok just lends a hand.
The bottom line is this: removing TikTok will actively harm the success of Colorado small business owners and the future of our local economy. It will remove an inclusive avenue for underrepresented communities to amplify their voices. I hope Colorado’s U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper, and the Colorado representatives in the House, consider the interests of their constituents. We deserve continued access to the platform that has changed thousands of Coloradans’ lives for the better.
Alejandro Flores-Muñoz lives in Denver.
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