For 26 years, Joellyn Travis influenced children in the Ozarks as an educator.
Today, she is an online influencer.
It’s been a complete career switch, but she’s having a blast.
The name came from the fact that delivery drivers often leave packages on the porch.
For one year leading up to her launch, Travis researched affiliate marketing — those are websites that post deals from other sites, such as Amazon, and if you click on a deal and order something, the website owner gets a cut.
At the time, she was a principal at Truman Elementary School in Springfield. Travis served as principal there for nine years. She retired in July 2021.
A Lebanon native, she has taught in Lebanon, Marshfield and was an administrator in Springfield.
Her second career started in 2018 when she stumbled upon an amazing deal online on Facebook. She started following the group because she’s a woman who can’t resist a bargain, says her fiancé John Caster.
After a while, she thought to herself, “They aren’t doing this for fun; they are making money.”
Why couldn’t she make money, too?
For a year, Travis joined online groups, listened to podcasts and consumed as much information as she could about affiliate marketing.
“The Amazon policy book is like 250 pages, so it took a lot of time,” Travis said.
It paid off.
Within two months of launching her site, she had 10,000 followers, a staggering amount for a new business.
By October 2021, it was 125,000.
“It grew super fast,” Travis said.
She attributes that growth to the closeness of the communities where she has lived and worked.
“Lebanon is a tight-knit community. I taught in Marshfield for 14 years. I had a lot of connections in Springfield. I just started posting to my personal Facebook page and people were excited. They shared. Our growth is not typical,” Travis said.
'Not something you can walk away from'
When Travis started her research, she was still principal at Truman. She’d wake up early, go online and then go to school. When she got home, she was chained to the computer.
Those were long days, but the days would only get longer.
The summer she launched her website, her daughter went to music camp in Oklahoma and Travis rented an Airbnb, locked herself in for a week and built the site.
When school started back, she’d wake up at 5 a.m. to post deals, then go to school, come home and post all night.
That is when her boyfriend John Caster, a doctor at Ferrell Duncan, took notice.
“She would just work all night and I thought ‘She could probably use help with this,’” he said.
Travis trained him how to post.
“It was horrible at first. It took forever. She taught me everything. I am very tech unsavvy,” he said.
But he got into it and now he loves it.
“When you find some rock-bottom crazy deal and everyone on the site goes crazy for it, that’s the best,” he said.
They work seven days a week and even on vacation.
When they travel, they schedule advance posts but still have to post at least three times a day, so there is never a day off.
“It’s not something you can walk away from or turn off,” Travis said.
They are posting by 6 a.m. and often post all the way until midnight.
They have Facebook live videos on Sunday. While most of their shoppers are female, Caster says he enjoys offering a male perspective.
Initially, Travis just offered Amazon deals. But in March 2020, when the pandemic hit, Amazon cut their affiliate marketers commission by 50 percent.
“That didn’t make the news, but in the world of influencers that was a huge, huge deal. People rely on that for their income,” Travis said.
That is when she realized it was a good idea to diversify and now she posts deals from most major retailers, including Target, Zulily, QVC, Jane and others.
What exactly is affiliate marketing?
Expanding in the world of affiliate marketing works two ways: A website owner can approach companies, but as the potential influencer’s site grows, companies approach them, too. The deals they post are a combination of what they find and what is fed to them from different companies.
When Travis hit 50,000 followers, companies started noticing her. There are also companies that are negotiators between brands and influencers, and Travis joined Brand Cycle Co., which works with her website and major brands to help negotiate deals.
Travis has been invited to The Great Find Product Expo in Orlando this spring, which is a huge deal because companies like Real Simple and celebrities will be there.
“They have everything from beauty products, toys to grilling. A lot of media will be there. As an influencer, I will be there doing live videos and showing people products. It sounds like a whirlwind,” Travis said.
As an influencer, she also negotiates exclusive deals for people in her Facebook group that follow her, and she hopes to be able to negotiate more of those exclusive deals at the expo.
People can shop her site without joining, but, of course, she prefers they join because that is one way companies measure her metrics. Companies also look at engagement with a post and how many people open her emails.
In October, she had to move her original Facebook page because when a group gets too popular, Facebook changes its algorithms so people in her group were not getting many of the deals. As a result, she started a spinoff with some of her core shoppers.
In less than two months, that group is 19,500 strong.
“That is completely organic. We didn’t offer prizes to join or advertise. That is 100 percent organic growth, which is amazing,” Travis said.
Now the family has joined. Her daughter is a senior in high school and launched an Instagram account for her mom. It has 2,500 followers in just six weeks.
Truman, her Golden Doodle named for Truman Elementary, appears in videos and has captured the hearts of followers.
Overall, the career shift has been fun and rewarding, Travis said, but it hasn’t been easy.
“I’ve worked my tail off,” she said.
This article originally appeared on Springfield News-Leader: Former Ozarks principal, teacher becomes online shopping influencer