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One of the definitions of entrepreneur that I recently heard and really like is:
“Where once there was nothing, there now is some thing. The entrepreneur is the person who makes some thing where previously there was nothing”
This episode is all about entrepreneurship by this definition. Nik Mirkovic and Alex Tomic were just 2 blokes in south east Queensland. They looked for an idea for a business and they grew it into a $40million + business n just 3 years.
Where there was nothing …. and now there is Hi Smiles!
Theirs is a terrific story. One day it would be great to have one or both of them on my podcast. Meanwhile, here is my version of their start up story.
You can listen right here Healthy Numbers website
You can listen to the full interview on iTunes click here.
You can listen to the full interview on Stitcher click here.
The full transcript of the podcast:
Alex and Nik’s business is the social media famous teeth whitening product, known as HiSmiles. If you are a young woman aged 15-24 you’re probably very familiar with the brand – maybe you even have bought some?
How did HiSmiles start? The idea came at a family dinner back in 2014. Alex and Nik had been friends for 10 years and were discussing the success of business brands such as Facebook and Nike.
They were talking about the important role social media now plays in today’s advertising, and they wanted to be a part of that.
Alex has always had an eye for breaking down how things work and why people get attracted to certain things. He had grown bored of his university studies and decided to quit Uni just six months into his Commerce degree.
A risky move but one which would definitely pay off!
Nik, has a very strong entrepreneurial sense and he spent his time analysing and observing the world around him. He was working part-time in hospitality and spending time researching how he could start up a successful business brand.
Together Nik and Alex had the drive and determination to turn a dinner conversation into something really big – they spent the next 12 months brainstorming ideas and researching consumer behaviour.
Their research revealed a gap in the Oral Hygiene/Teeth Whitening market.
Nik nailed it when he said that “it was a boring industry that didn’t give the consumer much option.”
Armed with a good understanding of market behaviour and consumer trends – thanks to their 12 months of concentrated research they invested $20,000 of their own money, and created ‘HiSmile’ – an easy, affordable, and effective do-it-yourself teeth whitening kit and mouth wash.
The product is vegan friendly and cruelty free – so it ticked all the boxes for the current trend of conscious consumer. They also tested it on themselves to make sure it actually worked.
And they created a clever subscription package too – because once you have white teeth you need to keep them white!
Sales of the first batch of products commenced in December 2014 and the pair focused on the Australian Market.
That initial $20,000 investment quickly turned into $10 million in sales within the first 18 months. Now sales are worldwide.
Their marketing approach: 100% of their marketing budget went into influencer-led social media campaigns through social media on Instagram and Facebook.
At one point they sent more than half of their existing stock to influencers and bloggers to have them advertise and help launch HiSmile to a wider audience.
The strategy paid off
The product has been a huge success with millennials
They have over 600,000 Instagram followers. In less than 3 years they have built an eight-figure business
8 figures means double digit millions – 1 million is a 7 digit business. These guys have built a business that is generating $40m + in sales and growing
Mostly on the back of social media endorsements from beauty bloggers and celebrities.
Nik said: “Social media has helped us massively. I think the biggest thing for us is that Social media has given us the leverage to spread our message for free.” When Nik says g=free he means that “fans” spread the word across social media
HiSmiles target market is young women aged between 15 to 24. They share their content across Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google Plus and Pinterest now caters specifically to this market – the 15 – 24 age group. Their content is visual, quirky and fun! And VERY very targeted.
So if you are 50 year old male, you probably won’t see HiSmiles in your social media newsfeed.
“In this day and age, no one’s really watching TV ads, no one’s really looking at billboards or reading magazines — everyone’s on their phones, everyone’s on Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat.”
Two years in and HiSmile attracts lucrative partnerships with high-end celebrities and influencers across the world. Social media continues to be the number one driver of sales for the business.
One example: Kylie Jenner has posted an image of herself with a HiSmile teeth whitening kit to her 76 million Instagram followers – which received over 1.6 million likes. Yep, 1.6 million!
Kylie has posted a number of times on Instagram and it’s easy to see how sales of HiSmiles lift immediately after each post. Nik and Alex track the results after every post.
There are rumours about how much she is paid for each HiSmiles post – none have been confirmed. So while the reach across social media is free – it’s unconfirmed whether Hi Smiles is paying the celebrities. Is this any different to George Cluny promoting Nespresso? Would anyone doubt if George is being paid to promote the coffee?
Back to Alex and Nik – They had the passion and the determination to start up a brand and they threw everything into its success. They continue to make sure they are involved in every aspect of the business.
Alex sums it all up with this comment: “So many businesses aren’t comfortable with change and because they’re not, they’re going to lose because they’re staying static and not moving with the times or willing to do the hard yards.”
They believe there has been 3 key factors to their success – hard work, visualisation, and execution.
Alex and Nik haven’t looked back. HiSmile is forecast to turnover an additional $40 million over the next 18 months with plans for offices in all the major cities in the world, London, New York, Hong Kong, and LA.
Their ultimate aim is to turn HiSmile into a billion-dollar business by always ensuring they’re one step ahead of the latest changes and advancements.
In the meantime, Alex and Nik continue to learn, grow and inspire young entrepreneurs worldwide.
On a final note, I recently met Alex and Nik in Sydney and I had the opportunity to ask them what role philanthropy plays in their business – with all that money potentially there is such opportunity to do “good deeds”.
It was pleasing to hear that it is definitely important to them and they seem to have some real humility regards having so much money!! and a definite commitment to doing “good’ in the community!
All in all it is a terrific story of just what can be achieved today – with a great idea, strong commitment to making it successful and really looking around at what’s working currently – and applying that in thought through and practical ways.
Action! All about action.