From two-digits to seven: How An Entrepreneur Built 5 Multi-million Dollar Businesses

Seven years ago, Gretta Van Riel tried several detoxing methods with her girlfriends, mixing different tea blends, exploring what works best for her. All of a sudden, relatives, friends of her friends, and colleagues got caught by the tea-tox craze and the then 22-year-old started selling her blends online. Thus, SkinnyMe Tea was brewed.

Only one year removed from graduating college and starting out at the bottom ringer of a media agency, Gretta, with only $24 in her bank account, advertised her products on Instagram when no one else wasn't. Little did she know that she was onto something big. After 12 months, SkinnyMe Tea will grow to have 200,000 followers--the most followed brand on Instagram. Nike, the multi-billion dollar worldwide brand, only had 10,000.

"It was back in 2012 – Instagram wasn’t as widely used obviously as it was now. At the time, Instagram didn’t have any features for businesses. So taking a business account was just as simple as changing the account name to SkinnyMeTea. But we started to grow that account quite quickly."

This translated to $600,000 monthly sales for the first six months. So what was her unique "blend" to grow her brand awareness that quickly?

Small, targeted endorsement deals with influencers, deliberately limiting stock and pumping up demand before manufacture. This is how she does it with all her other start-up ventures as well.

“If you build it, they will come” is a Myth

Van Riel explained that the success of her businesses, which include SkinnyMe Tea, The Fifth Watches and Hey Influencer, was due to flipping the well-known "If you build it, they will come" theory that traditional business people have ascribed to throughout the years.

“I think in the past the great kind of eCommerce myth has been build it and they will come. So like create a product, put it online, create some beautiful imagery, press live on the store and just wait for the sales to start flooding in.”

Instead, Gretta wanted to build and identify her audiences first before launching the product. It's an approach she referred to as "market-product fit".

“The main framework that I rely upon is this concept of market-product fit. So as opposed to the concept of product-market fit, where you have a product and you try to find an audience and a consumer to buy that product, it’s taking the reverse approach.”

We can't fault her ways though. With this approach, she has built up 16 million followers across all brands just on Instagram alone.

From Tea-tox Blends to Luxury Watches and now, a Platform that Connects Brands to Influencers

With such a potent formula on her hands, Gretta decided to move towards launching her own watch line called The 5th--limited edition luxury watches that are only sold on the fifth day of each month for five days.

What's great about it is: The 5th actually outpaced SkinnyMe Tea in sales on its first day. 

“We sold over a thousand watches on our first day, which was over $100,000 in sales. So that company actually grew faster than SkinnyMeTea even, which I didn’t think was possible at that time. On our first birthday in the end, we did over a million Australian dollars in sales in a single day on the 5th of December in 2015."

Gretta credited not just the way she's building brand hype but also her cornerstone strategy: influencer marketing.

“So we started to build awareness around the watches in a few ways. We did some giveaways with products that look quite similar in the space, but we also used a lot of influencer marketing, which has been a cornerstone of the growth of a lot of my businesses.”

This led her to her current venture: Hey Influencers--a platform that matches your brand to the right social media influencers, bringing advertisers within reach of the most appropriate target audience.

You can watch Gretta's full interview with Yahoo Finance, detailing her journey from $24 to millions, via The New Investors.


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