“COVID happened,” Mallory Whitmore said, “and everything fell apart.”

Whitmore, a former teacher, was conducting federally funded research in schools when the pandemic hit. Schools closed, and even when they opened back up, they didn’t want outside researchers wandering the halls. She had to abandon the project after two years of work.

So, Whitmore changed course and started freelancing as a writer for a baby formula company.

“I had formula-fed both of my kids and had been really passionate about the lack of high quality, research-based educational resources that existed for the formula feeding parent,” she told They Got Acquired. “I had no real experience in this area. I convinced them that my passion was good enough.”

After that contract ended, she started creating formula-related content on Instagram in August 2020. “I quickly realized that I could monetize it,” Whitmore said. She got certified as an infant feeding technician and leaned into building her business through social media marketing.

About six months in, she realized she couldn’t continue to freelance and build her business, and she decided to go all in on The Formula Mom.

“One of the biggest challenges was overcoming my belief that this was too niche, and that my business wasn’t ‘legitimate’ because I was a mom working with moms in an area that isn’t seen as super valuable externally,” Whitmore said. “I overcame this belief by really leaning into the impact I was seeing and hearing, and letting my results be testament of my work’s importance, not society.”

Whitmore said she ended up tripling the income she’d been making from the research grant, eventually bringing in low-6 figures annually. About 80% of revenue came from selling digital products and doing one-on-one consultations with parents, she said. The remainder came from affiliate sales and brand partnerships.

Ultimately, Whitmore hired three part-time contractors for customer service, content creation and social media management.

“I was able to build a 6-figure business putting absolutely no money into marketing,” Whitmore said, “because I leaned into social media as a valid marketing channel.”

She grew her Instagram account to 175,000 followers and her email subscribers to 30,000.

When the formula shortage began, Whitmore also got some media opportunities as a thought leader in the space. “I appreciated the opportunity to be a voice for parents and an advocate for parents during that crisis,” she said.

Pivoting (again) to an acquihire for The Formula Mom

In July 2022, Whitmore faced another decision.

“I got to the place where I realized that I either needed to commit to really hiring a full staff — because my capacity was just at the limit — or I needed to figure out if I could go in-house at a formula company and use their resources to continue the business,” Whitmore said.

Essentially, she said, she could either become the CEO of a small business, or look for a way to continue focusing on her true passion: educating parents about formula feeding.

So she reached out to a company she thought might be interested in bringing her in-house: Bobbie, a formula company.

Whitmore said she had worked with Bobbie before and felt their business values aligned. “I had interacted with basically every formula company on the market and had the absolute best experiences with the Bobbie team.”

She asked if they’d be interested in buying her business.

Over the next four months, they went through due diligence and discussed what Whitmore’s role could be on the Bobbie team. “It was really collaborative, which I really appreciated,” she said.

Diligence was a huge challenge, Whitmore said. “You essentially pick up a second job of doing that diligence process, while also needing to run your business as if the sale might fall through,” she said.

Whitmore did not disclose the sale price, but said the deal was structured as an acquihire and included a cash payment.

She is now working as Bobbie’s education lead, focusing on both internal education for employees and external education. One of the contractors for The Formula Mom is now contracting for Bobbie to do most of the behind-the-scenes work on the site, freeing Whitmore to broaden her focus beyond social media content.

“I really missed the energy of working with other people toward a goal, brainstorming, having thought partners and people to bounce ideas off of,” she said.

Whitmore wants other entrepreneurs to know that it’s possible to build a successful business through social media marketing.

“I think so many people get stuck on not wanting to seem frivolous,” she said. “They get stuck on this idea that growing a social media following is for ‘lifestyle influencers’ and not the serious business owner.”

She said her experience proves that’s not true.

“I was able to build a 6-figure business putting absolutely no money into marketing, because I leaned heavily into social media as a very valid and usable marketing channel.”