Scrolling on TikTok while sitting in the shadow of her purple LED wall lights, Sarah Perl accidentally stumbled into what would soon become her business. Then a sophomore in college, Perl found herself connecting with the videos of tarot card readings on her for-you-page. At the same time, she felt a strange calling to be on the other side of the screen.
Grabbing her tarot card deck, Perl posted a series of videos captioned “the one you see is the one you’re meant to hear.” Thinking nothing of it really, Perl walked away as her phone hummed while her videos silently racked up millions of likes.
“Business found me,” Perl, now aged 23, tells Fortune. Adding that she knew she’d found her calling when she got the dopamine rush of the breakaway reaction to her first video. From there, Perl went from tarot readings to the self-help world of “manifestation,” coaching people on how to believe in a new reality to the extent that their future changes. Perl is one of many creators offering these services online—with many building thriving businesses—and tapping into a long-running American tradition of spiritualism. It’s been especially attractive for young adults experiencing financial fatigue or loneliness.
Graduating with high student loans into a volatile economy, most (98%) of Gen Z is experiencing working burnout, per Cigna 360’s Global Well-Being Survey 2022. Earning entry-level salaries and given less time to build wealth, younger generations are hit harder by the inflated economy. Many have turned to adding extra gigs to make ends meet, and when that doesn’t work others turn to the supernatural and entrepreneurs like Perl for a hail mary.
Whether you believe in tarot, manifesting, or anything of the sort, one thing is for sure: Perl has changed her own life by preaching the power of manifesting. She has more than 2 million subscribers to her TikTok account, @hothighpriestess, a coaching business approaching $1 million in sales this year, according to documents reviewed by Fortune. “I just turned 23 years old. If I could do it, anyone can,” she tells Fortune.
And true to what catapulted her to fame, Perl claims that reaching internet stardom and running a company is all about how much you believe in yourself and the potential of achieving your dream.
Perl was making it big with tarot readings, but she was looking to get bigger. ”I asked myself how I could impact the largest amount of people in the least amount of time,” she explains, taking multiple requests for creating a dream life and streamlining them by making an online course to direct them all to, called “Manifest Magic.”
In true manifesting fashion, Perl insists that setting a price is tied to what you believe you’re worth. “Start believing you’re a luxury and people will pay luxury rates to be in your energy,” she says, adding that “energy” is something people will pay a premium for. “ Start believing you’re valuable and you could charge anything for what you offer.”
Now, the courses have become passive income for Perl as she explains that she went from working two jobs as a full-time college student to a young entrepreneur—she went from making $100 on a daily basis to earning upwards of $50,000 in a single day. “I used to say this one affirmation ‘I get paid to exist’ and it came true,” she says, adding she attributes most of her company’s success to her own mindset. How you view and regard yourself is just as important when you’re setting prices, as Perl notes that “perceived value is just as important because you can truly sell anything if you make people believe it’s valuable.” She notes that setting higher prices often attracts better clientele in her experience.
Of course, it’s worth noting that while reframing one’s mindset can be a factor in setting up change for many, others have pointed out that it’s not the whole equation and warned of the dangers of investing too much in self-help.
“It’s okay to imagine yourself happy, but at the same time, imagine yourself doing what it would take to actually become happier,” says Tal Ben-Shahar, director and professor of the world’s first degree in happiness studies, at New Jersey’s Centenary University. “Otherwise, it’s detached, it’s not connected to anything that is real, because you don’t just become happy, you don’t just become successful.”
What, like it’s hard? Yes, sometimes.
Growing up during a recession and entering their early career amidst layoffs, Gen Z has an earned dose of healthy skepticism regarding how much their company will provide for them during times of difficulty. If an institution won’t save or pay them well, perhaps the internet will. A third of Gen Zers report that the best avenue to get ahead in terms of money is “some form of self-employment,” per Instagram’s year-end 2024 Trend Talk, Hence, a rebranded American Dream has been made in the form of becoming a girl-next-door turned millionaire self-starter social media star.
Much like the American Dream, not everything is what it seems, as the pathway to stardom (and then making money off of a following) is deceptively difficult. Influencers have recently come out to explain that getting big sometimes means accruing debt or living paycheck-to-paycheck.
But Perl argues that social media stardom “actually isn’t difficult,” and there’s an easy formula to success. What’s often stopping people from their new career, business venture, or viral account, is their own ego, she says. “There is nearly zero risk when it comes to starting a social media career,” she claims, adding that if you’re able to overcome that fragility “you expose yourself to potentially an infinite pool of possibility with infinite opportunity.”
That’s not to say there hasn’t been trouble along the way. During college, Perl had to juggle running a business while a double major with two other jobs. It was challenging to say the least, but her love of what she was doing propelled her. She speaks of a “lonely journey,” as she struggled to find mentors and get advice “especially as someone who immigrated to America and came from a poor family.” Eventually finding her people and helping others start out too, Perl has come out strong to find a career that while unconventional is the one she’s always dreamed of. Speaking highly of the freedom she’s able to exercise when running her own company, she adds that she’s able to travel, give back to her family, and just wake up at her own pace because of her entrepreneurial lifestyle.
She encourages others to cash in, too. “Someone with half the talent as you is making ten times what you’re making right now just because they believe in themselves,” adds Perl.