From road trips and date ideas, to water activities, hiking trails, and things to do in Arizona, 25-year-old Lacy Cain has made her business Wildjoy the place to go for free or low-cost ways to explore Arizona life across the entire state.
Wildjoy is an Arizona adventure guide and community-driven business that has grown to 252.5K followers, 6 million likes on TikTok and 88.8K followers on Instagram in just three years. TikTok has essentially saved the business from failure.
“No one was doing what I was doing on that platform at that time,” Cain said. “I do very well on video and people relate to me. I knew I was onto something, but I had no idea that we could grow this to be 300 thousand people in less than three years.”
In May 2019, Cain graduated from the University of Arizona, McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship, which was a Top 5 program at the time.
The summer before her senior year, Cain moved to Sacramento for an internship at Siemens, an automation company. She said it was one of the hardest summers of her life, as she experienced loneliness, depression and anxiety. So, Cain decided to take a weekend trip to Yosemite National Park.
“I don’t know why I hadn’t done anything all summer,” Cain said. “But the feeling of that waterfall hitting my face — it was enough to restore all of that feeling of like, ‘Oh my God, I love being alive.’”
The goal of Wildjoy is to evoke that same sense of feeling alive, to make people’s lives more extraordinary.
The last three months of college, Cain said she aggressively scheduled meetings with investors and mentors from the McGuire program, where she was connected with one of their wives, Catherine Sharp, who was a Vrbo/Airbnb host at the time.
“Her consistency and showing up for me every single Tuesday for a year was everything,” Cain said.
Without any mentors now, Cain explained how she’s had to trust her gut and protect the vision she has for Wildjoy.
For the first year, Cain spent a lot of time educating herself, reading and researching about Arizona.
Cain moved to Scottsdale after graduation and launched the company by herself at 22 years old. And nearly failed.
No one was going to the website or even knew Wildjoy existed until one day she received a message from her friend Daniel Wall, who is TikTok famous with 1.3 million followers.
He encouraged Cain to start posting about Wildjoy on the app. She had three months before COVID-19 started in which she gained about 50,000 followers.
During the business’ startup, Cain was still working a serving job and was already tight on money. Then she lost the serving job in March 2020 due to the pandemic.
“It was horrible. I maxed out all my credit cards,” Cain said.
She thought Wildjoy would go out of business, and it might have if not for the TikTok community she had created.
Cain realized that video was the connector she needed, that realistic joy could be felt through video and come alive.
A social media strategist from Tempe Tourism noticed Wildjoy’s success on TikTok and offered Cain its first sponsorship.
“I never thought Wildjoy’s income would come from companies,” Cain said.
Originally, the idea was to have individuals book an experience like Airbnb but for adventures. However, that model didn’t allow for lower entry deals.
“The pivot was, have it be free for the consumers and then all the businesses can pay to be featured on our page and our TikTok or Instagram,” Cain explained.
For example, Candle Chemistry in Scottsdale was featured in a video and for the next several months its foot traffic increased 600%.
Wildjoy also once sold out a VIP event in less than 24 hours for the Chicago Cubs.
Over 30 interns have worked for Wildjoy and come from TikTok, and Cain has mentored other girls on how to create their own successful TikTok channels.
“TikTok is very new media, and many companies are still spending money in traditional ways like billboards and Facebook ads, but all that doesn’t really work anymore,” Cain said. “And so it’s constantly trying to convince people to believe in what I do.”
Wildjoy is now a six-figure company, its content reaching more than 4 million people every month.
“We’re not making commercial content,” Cain said. “We’re just making TikTok videos.”
It’s important for Wildjoy to give back to the community as well, so a portion of the profits are donated to things like the Navajo Nation, domestic violence and animal organizations. It also hosts cleanup events and has partnered with the Kimball Foundation, Courtney’s Courage, and the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess for a drive-in movie to give proceeds to people without jobs during COVID.
Cain only has a few full-time employees working for Wildjoy right now: An audio engineer producer, blog writer and event coordinator. She also hires independent contractors.
Wildjoy’s content is curated for females 18–36 and about 60% of the community is female, according to Cain.
What makes Wildjoy unique and valuable is how Cain packages the places for adventure and shows people how to enjoy it. She doesn’t just see water; she sees a river of possibilities.
“I see the world with sparkly lenses,” Cain said. “People can look at a map all day, but it’s until someone makes it look sparkly that you want to try something.”
The packaging happens after Cain goes to experience a place. She said she looks for all kinds of accessibility or whether a place is dog-friendly.
In addition to the social media content, Wildjoy offers an app, giveaway opportunities, in-person events and soon printable, detailed guides.
“The app is like a $20,000 gift, basically,” Cain said.
A previous Apple employee Robert Johnson created the app, which launched in Feb. 2021.
Cain received a random Facebook message from Johnson in which he said Wildjoy had such a positive impact on him that he took all the data from her page and made the app.
The app is a tool to access Wildjoy’s adventures with a map of about 350 places and categories such as arts, crafts & culture, camping spots, date ideas, family-friendly, farmers market, nightlife and more.
“Most startups never have a thousand downloads,” Cain said. “We had 10,000 the first day. Wildjoy trended No. 5 on all of the apps.”
The Wildjoy Map is only available for iPhone, but Cain said they’re working to create an online version, too.
Cain is also working on downloadable assets or guides which are like hand-drawn journals with lots of pictures. She said the plan is to donate a quarter of the proceeds from the guides to cleanup and empower certain areas.
The guides include details about specific places and topics while the app is a high-level look at every single place.
Cain’s goal for Wildjoy is to expand to other states through locals willing to be her out there. The only place she has decided not to include is Hawaii, as she said she’s here to be a community ally.
Big picture, Cain would eventually love to sell Wildjoy, she explained, and use the money to build a nonprofit. One of her ideas is a technology center that empowers women in low-income situations and teaches them the tools to get into companies like Google.
Owning and operating a business was not what Cain expected as she said there was still so much she didn’t know going into it. But she’s constantly pushing herself to do more.
“It takes every single day waking up and being fearless. Relentless,” Cain said. “It feels like I have to like work my ass off for every single freaking dollar. But it’s worth it because I still hear my friends that live that normal life complaining about the same shit. So I might as well do it with something I’m passionate about.”
Cain always wanted to be an entrepreneur like her dad, she said.
“It has been the only dream I’ve ever had my whole entire life, was to have a company that was impacting people,” Cain said. “And I could cry thinking about it now.”
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