They hit the road at full speed. Two boys from Queensland, Australia who love analyzing markets unleashed a product they believed fills a gap in the ‘boring’ dental care niche. Embraced by hundreds of social media influencers, their brand—HiSmile—attracted hordes of online followers and hauled in around $20-million in just two years. For their astonishing feat, Nik Mirkovic, 21 and Alex Tomic, 23 have been featured on GQ Magazine and have gotten the nod of reality media princess Kylie Jenner to endorse their unique teeth whitening kit to her millions of followers.
And the finish line still stretches far ahead. Propelled by an inner entrepreneurial fire, the two Millennials aim for something even bigger than the multi-million dollar business they seeded with just $20,000 of their own money. In an exclusive interview with Transpired, HiSmile co-founder Nik Mirkovic revealed that they’re in for the long run and “will take it the whole way” until their brand becomes as iconic as Apple, McDonald’s and Nike. Given their track record as shrewd innovators and market disruptors, the duo might just have a fair chance at achieving this.
Here are Nik Mirkovic’s insights on how they growth-hacked their company, why authenticity is key, and the importance of self-awareness to entrepreneurial success.
Mirkovic was just nineteen when he and close family friend Alex Tomic—at 21—launched HiSmile. But even as teens, the two young entrepreneurs spent years analyzing markets before coming up with a product that successfully facilitated their entry into the fiercely competitive, multi-billion dollar cosmetic industry. “We always questioned things, always questioned the markets. There were so many companies that were out there promoting themselves and marketing through Instagram and we were sort of seeing what they were doing right and what they could have been doing better.” Having found very little movement in the teeth whitening niche, Mirkovic and Tomic discovered the market gap they needed to fill and they planned to execute something similar to what Uber did to the taxi industry.
Following their success, the HiSmile founders went on to build their respective personal brands to advise and help other entrepreneurs—mostly Millennials as young as themselves—learn how to make the right business decisions in the new digital economy. The founders have been featured in several publications and media outlets, but unlike other professional “coaches” and “mentors,” the two refrained from sharing “expert” opinions until they had conclusively proven their business credentials. As Mirkovic said, “Let’s first show what we can do then put ourselves out there.”
How to Leverage Social Media Influencers
Like most Millennials, HiSmile’s founders grew up spending an integral part of their lives on social media. But compared to passive users of social media, Tomic and Mirkovic had a deeper understanding of the behavioral dynamic between influencers and other denizens of the online world. They used this in-depth understanding to facilitate on-target endorsements from hundreds of influencers including Big Brother contestant Aisha Jade, Australia’s Next Top Model contestant Brooke Hogan, and reality star Kylie Jenner. Here’s Mirkovic’s advice on how to harness the tremendous potential of influencers:
- Figure out what your target market is. In the case of HiSmile, this turned out to be the 15-24 year-old female demographic.
- Be clear with your intentions and understand what you want to achieve through the influencer.
- Make sure that your product matches the endorser’s personal brand. Even Conor McGregor or Beyonce will find it difficult to sell a product that has nothing to do with their brand nor with their followers.
- It is easier to convert people and get them on board if they can relate to your brand.
- There’s no exact formula on how to compensate influencers, but be sure to give them value for value.
What It Takes to Succeed
Mirkovic attributes their success to a strong self-awareness, being positive even amid setbacks, and learning from the achievements and failures of other entrepreneurs. In lieu of launching a product, he recommends building a movement or a lifestyle that is in sync with your personality. When asked about the biggest mistake in social media marketing, he replied, “People look at the market but they just replicate what Apple or Nike does. They are not taking the time to really study. They are lazy and just copy from what seems to be successful. Don’t put anyone on a pedestal. Look at everything but listen to yourself, follow your gut feel, and execute your way.”
HiSmile founders Nik Mirkovic and Alex Tomic plan on going global. They’re taking steady, confident steps: new offices, larger staff, a bigger warehouse, more brand ambassadors, and broader media engagements.Opinions expressed here by Contributors are their own.