Here's The Secret Behind That Teeth Whitening Ad You Keep Seeing On Your Feed
In 2014, two guys from the Gold Coast of Australia spotted a massive gap in the global market of oral hygiene cosmetics and in six months had launched what would become a multi-million dollar business.
Nik Mirkovic and Alex Tomic, were 19 and 20-years-old at the time.
Fast forward and now the bonafide entrepreneurs have been named on the Forbes' annual 30 Under 30 rich list and are expected to see a return of $100 million in 2018.
But how tf did they do it? We sat down with the inspiring 20-somethings to pick their brain on starting your own business, Kylie Jenner's priceless endorsement and the extremely bright future of HiSmile...
Did you really start this just two of you?
Nik Mirkovic: Myself and Alex we are really passionate guys and from a young age we always realised whether it’d be business or sport or we’d take on the challenge. So we got really excited by this challenge and this industry because it’s like okay everyone’s doing it this way, how can we do it a do it a different way to really attack the market to make a HiSmile a brand a household name.
What we’re planning for is constantly 6-12 months in the future, which really excites us. We don’t really like to do just do one thing, tick it off, set a goal and then just have that sense of achievement. Our energy comes from the constant day to day grind and trying to achieve something great.
Alex Tomic: When we started this Nick had literally just finished school and I studied a commerce and international business degree for 6 months but it wasn’t where my heart was. I started a sales and marketing business but there wasn't enough opportunity to make true change and that's when myself and Nick were speaking and it’s like ok let's really enter into oral cosmetics and let's change it. Six months of discussions until December where we devised how exactly we could infiltrate the market. And we did it: December 14, 2014.
And how old are you both now?
Does your age ever affect whether people take you seriously?
Nik: I don’t think so. I think it comes back to the person. We’re the ones on top of everything; obviously we’re born into social media and online platforms so for us that's been the biggest upside. But yeah I guess it’s a frame of mind, we just see it as a massive upside for us.
What differentiates your product?
Alex: So we found out speed was a factor, it couldn’t hurt the teeth or a lot of products out there can cause sensitivity and just overall convenience. When we developed our product we made sure that those three factors were thought of which we did and we launched with a product that ticked all three of those three boxes. So, it whitens in ten minutes, very easy, convenient anybody can use it and it’s a formula that isn’t harsh on your teeth.
What would be your biggest tip?
Alex: Constantly keep moving, be agile and be comfortable with change. Almost welcome change. Be the ones to lead the industry.
Nik: There’s never been a time that’s greater for someone to make something happen globally and there’s never been a time that’s harder to make it happen because there’s a lot more noise, clutter that you have to breakthrough in order make it happen. You’ve got the ultimate opportunity but the toughest task at hand because everyone’s competing you’ve got little kids who are starting up businesses that are competing with big, big multinational corporations. like we’re going head to head with Colgate, Oral B from day one whether we like it or not.
Be honest, did you guys pay a million dollars for a Kylie Jenner Instagram post?
Nik: [laughs] We can’t release what we paid, but there is obviously a big expense to working with her and any other big name influencers out there. We started with the free form of influencer marketing; sending the product out. Having people test, review, give us feedback as well as sharing it with their audience if they like it. As we got a bit of confidence, we could then start spending money and having them as paid brand ambassadors and advocates. We eventually scaled up and got towards the level that it made sense to work with Kylie Jenner because we had all the infrastructure in place. The longevity of having her as brand ambassador and bringing awareness and attention to HiSmile was priceless in our eyes
Other businesses might sit in the boardroom and decide she’s got to sell x amount of product to get us the value back. Is that person going to get sacked if it doesn’t hit that number? For us it was always the opposite mindset, it’s like let’s say she sells zero product, doesn’t matter because people are talking about the product. What we could do off the back of that was priceless.
What’s the one thing aspiring entrepreneurs should start doing?
Nik: You have to understand the market and just really pay attention like crazy.
Alex: I think a lot of people go into starting a business because they’re excited by someone else’s story but they don’t have a greater purpose or a reason why they're doing it outside of just making the money. We knew the bigger picture whereas a lot of people go in with a narrow mindset and think I’m going to get this many sales and then they always get heartbroken by the result because they’re not realistic or they don’t have a hypothesis or an objective that can be backed. Look at all things and don't just limit yourself to one mentor or one idol always look at absolutely everything and try to absorb as much information as you can.
Nik: Be prepared to constantly challenge your own expectations and the expectations that others have for you or for anything. You also have to be prepared to play in two extremes. You have to be the most egotistical person and have the most personality. We pat ourselves on the back when we do something well, but equally we kick ourselves in the asses to get going and keep moving.
What does your team look like now?
Nik: So we’re at 48 people in our headquarters on the Gold Coast. But we will definitely have over 100 staff by the end of this year and we’re looking in the next 5 years to grow that to over 1000 staff. For us we’re getting the most unbelievable talent that we could imagine and it's all from the Gold Coast. Everyone is so passionate and wanting to come to work to really reshape this industry together.
Is everyone young?
Nik: I’d say average of around 25 to 30. We’ve got people straight out of high school so like 18 and all the way up to 35. I don’t care who you are, where you come from, what you look like, sound like, if you share the same core understanding and the same core vision that we have you will be on the team. We hire the right people every single time because we do it so based on the mindset they have, irrespective of gender, race whatever it is and I think that's why we win.
What do you guys like as bosses?
Nik: We get in the trenches and operate at the same speed and show you guys that this is not what we expect this is what we live and breathe and this is actually what were about.
Alex: It comes back to anyone thinking of starting a business; you have to love it first. You have to live it, love it, do everything that you can in it.
Was there any point where you were like, ‘Nup, this is too hard’?
Alex: No, the opposite. It was like every day more hunger just kept coming and coming.
Nik: We always knew we had to challenge things constantly. A lot of businesses get complacent because when you start seeing results you tend to sit back and watch those results.
Alex: We’re really proactive. When you’re under stress and pressure is when you perform the best. It’s learning to be comfortable with that stress and not letting it overwhelm you or overtake you. Use it and let that empower you to make the best decisions.
What do you think is the future for HiSmile?
Nik: We’re seeing how we can improve and take it to the next level with new products that again challenge the conventional space of viral cosmetics and really push things miles ahead. In 5 years, in 10 years, we need to reshape this industry and we know that were on the right path to get that change.
Alex: We have a window in the next 5-10 years we’re probably going to be in the top one hundred retail companies globally. That's what we forecast. I’m comfortable to compete with the mobile phone industry and all the industries because we know that the oral cosmetic industry is something that every single human being needs.
Nik: I think we're meant to put GC on the map. A lot of people have that small city mindset where they think I can't do anything from the GC, I have to move to a bigger city. But we have everything we need on the Gold Coast. Just roll up our sleeves and make it something. Nike did it for Oregon. I think we will have branches elsewhere around the world but GC is our home.