Millennial Built $700K Business Afraid He’ll Lose It All

Estimated read time 5 min read

Last year, Joshua Lucas started getting scared he was going to lose everything he worked so hard to get. 

After speculation about a TikTok ban began to escalate following CEO Shou Zi Chew’s appearance before Congress, the millennial took to the platform he credited for his business’ success to share his fears with more than 50,000 followers.

“I’m serious you guys, I’m kind of scared to lose y’all, to lose the community,” he said in March 2023. “Like, where are we gonna go?”

Lucas said he worked full-time as the owner of Crystal Pacifica, an almost exclusively online seller of various types of gems, crystals, and minerals. He and his wife started the business in 2019, but Lucas told Business Insider it didn’t take off until they joined TikTok in the spring of 2021. Since then, they’ve seen their revenues grow from under $30,000 in 2020 to over $700,000 in 2022, according to a document viewed by BI. Lucas said that after business expenses and paying staff, the business made between $80,000 and $100,000 in pre-tax profits. 

Sales on his website spiked the month he joined TikTok, according to a graph viewed by BI. The Oregon native estimated that over 90% of his customers found his business on TikTok because he hadn’t spent a “single cent” on marketing elsewhere. He said the majority of his sales happened during his weekly live selling shows on TikTok. He said he usually worked from “10 a.m. to about 2 a.m. to 3 a.m.” on these days with “good breaks” mixed in, but said the long hours were worth it.

“Without TikTok, none of us would be where we are today,” he said, referring also to his wife, who quit her job to work on the business and has helped on a part-time basis, and their three employees. 

But with a potential ban looming, all of this could come crashing down. 

On March 13, the House of Representatives passed a bill that could effectively ban TikTok if it passes in the Senate and is signed by President Joe Biden. The legislation wouldn’t entirely ban the app in the US. Instead, it would give any company owned by a “foreign adversary” 180 days to divest or sell to a US-based company in order to continue operating, BI’s Madison Hall reported.  

Lawmakers have raised concerns that TikTok’s Chinese parent, ByteDance, could give the Chinese government access to US user data and could pressure TikTok to show or restrict certain content to American users for its own interests. A forced sale or spinoff — which would serve to isolate the company from Chinese government interests and alleviate some national security concerns — could allow the app and its users to continue business as usual. An outright ban would be bad news for the over 100 million US TikTok users, including the millions of businesses, many of them small shops, the company says use the platform to reach customers.


Last year, Lucas said that if a ban happens, it would be “very scary” for his company.

“I’m afraid to lose my team, my dream, and the financial stability that we’ve built through something we love,” he said. 

His biggest concern was that he didn’t know where he’d pivot to reach customers. He hadn’t built large followings on other social media platforms like Instagram, for instance, where he has roughly 5,000 followers. 

Even if some of his customers follow him to Facebook or Instagram, Lucas said he thinks small businesses have to “pay to be successful” on these platforms — meaning he might have to start spending a lot on ads to generate sales. Last year, Meta began offering paid verification subscriptions which can provide users greater audience reach.

While Lucas said TikTok is the best platform “for a small business to flourish” — a feeling other business owners share as well — it’s unclear how much it truly provides an advantage, as many entrepreneurs have also found success through Facebook and Instagram.

“This has been our dream for a long time”

Joshua Lucas

Joshua Lucas at a gem show in Tucson, Arizona

Joshua Lucas

Before the business took off, Lucas worked as a full-time wedding photographer for several years. But after the wedding industry plunged in 2020 due to the pandemic, he said he began actively looking to leave his profession due to the “financial instability.” Joining TikTok in 2021 was a “pivotal moment,” he says, which enabled him to officially “retire” from photography last summer. 

Initially, Lucas says he was hesitant to download TikTok because he thought it was just a “bunch of kids doing dances,” but it only took two months for him to realize it was a great decision. Multiple videos of him mining, “rockhounding,” and “tumbling stones” racked up hundreds of thousands of views, with one reaching over one million. 

After seeing his TikTok follower count rise to over 15,000 in just three weeks, he decided to set up photography lights, two tables in his kitchen, and try live selling, which he started in May of 2021. 

“From 1 p.m. until midnight or later sometimes, we would stay up laughing, talking, selling, and educating our customers on stones of all types,” he said. “This has been our dream for a long time, to own a business we have passion in, and to make people happy.”

Lucas said he hopes members of Congress realize how important TikTok is to so many people.

“Our representatives have no problem throwing all of our lives away,” he said last year. “I don’t feel represented, and neither does anyone in our community, especially those whose livelihood is on the line. I am truly afraid for the future of my business and especially my team who all rely on full-time employment and full benefits.”

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in April 2023.

Are you a business owner worried about a TikTok ban and willing to share your story? If so, reach out to this reporter at