Six entrepreneurs who built their business on social media

Six entrepreneurs who built their business on social media

We've spoken to a tonne of incredible entrepreneurs who've built their business off the back of emerging technologies.

Social media has quickly become the go-to place to become inspired with Instagram leading the charge thanks to its emphasis on image.

We spoke to six entrepreneurs who owe their success to social media; whether that be through cultivating a careful image or growing an e-commerce brand these heavy hitters have certainly made their splash online.




After repaying the initial start up costs of their e-commerce business within the first two days of trading, the founders of FitazFK are muscling their way into the Brisbane Gym market.

The latest venture for founders Georgio Batsinilas (pictured right) and Aaron McAllister (left) is a 650 square metre gym facility in Brisbane's inner city suburb of Kangaroo Point is set to become one of the most prominent gyms in Brisbane.

"Leveraging off our success with the online FitazFK market, we've been working on creating the ultimate gym experience at our new FitazFk gym," says co-founder Batsinilas.

The fit-founders, with an Instagram following of more than 700,000, are confident their latest move will pay off with 250 people piling onto the waiting list within their first two weeks of advertising.

"We've got around 300 people on a pre registration list now which we are working through, and we've signed up our first 100 founding members already," says Batsinilas.

The odds of success are in the duo's favour if previous records are anything to go by having sold more than 50,000 fitness and nutrition guides online and transforming over 38,500 bodies.

"Initially, FitazFK repaid its capital investment within two days and the growth since then has allowed us to not only invest in the gym but also into Ryan Greasley Fitness which paid for itself in just 10 hours of going live," says Batsinilas.

A major factor in the Brisbane boys success story has come from the unique username @FitazFk which grew to 50,000 followers in just four months and a savvy social media marketing strategy.

"If you want to be successful in social media marketing you really need to live it and breathe it."

"I became obsessed! I read lots of books, attended seminars and even joined mastermind groups who really understand the power of social media and we share our knowledge."

"In the process, I also learned a lot from my fiancé, Thessy. She is literally the QUEEN of social media! Her skill to understand the psychographics of her customers is next level."

"If we only cared about likes and based our success of followers we would probably not make much money but would have double the engagement and double the followers."

In addition to attracting the right followers, Batsinilas says it is important to build honest and loyal relationships with key influencers.

"We are in the golden age of influencer marketing - it's not going anywhere anytime soon."

While preparations are underway for the gym to be up and running by the end of October, the entrepreneurs are also planning a trip to China to take their manufacturing side of the business to the next level.

Georgio Batsinilas' 7 Tips for social media success:

  1. Spend time learning what other successful brands are doing
  2. Our social media page is kept to a theme. My theme is built around people coming to our page for aspiration in the fitness space - we want to inspire our customers to be their best version of themselves!
  3. I always post clear images and always make sure I credit everyone I feature
  4. Network! This is something a lot of people miss. Instagram is more than just posting an image. It's about interacting with other brands/pages. You have to collaborate with other pages that are likeminded to yours to gain new followers and get exposure
  5. I wanted to be different and I made sure I was. I created a user name people wanted to repeat. I had a page called Fitaz_health which took me a year to grow to 4k. I created a new page called FitazFK and grew 50k in 4 months
  6. I also made sure I knew every algorithm that was out there at the time and that it was most influential. If Instagram were favouring pages that received heaps of interaction from big pages, I would negotiate with these "bigger accounts" so they would like my posts. Tip - today, Instagram is favouring stories, get onto this asap, in a month it will be something different.
  7. Respond to EVERYONE in comments, DMs, mentions - the lot. You are never too big, and no one is ever too small. That's what is going to differentiate you from being just another brand. You're becoming the customer's friend.


SITTING pretty with 7.5 million followers, Tammy Hembrow has undeniably broken into the top echelons of Instagram.

However, as one of Australia's top ten most followed celebrities, unbridled popularity was not enough on its own for Hembrow.

The health and fitness queen who founded Tammy Hembrow Fitness has expanded into fashion, creating a line of in-demand clothes called the Saski Collection.

It's only been six months since the Saski Collection launched, but it's already broken records that some entrepreneurs take years to achieve.

Customers from over 30 different countries adore Hembrow's collection of unique designs, made for active women and gym goers.

When Hembrow recently launched the second collection, the Pastel Collection, there were over 1,000 people on the site at any one time. The initial collection quickly sold out, with more than 1,000 transactions made on launch day.

Hembrow, one of Instagram's pioneers, understands exactly how to embrace social media in a business context.

"Social media is a tool that is evolving and more companies are embracing the opportunities it has presented," says Hembrow.

"I saw these opportunities early on when I started to build my online community, you need to be smart with your brand. I always suggest being transparent and honest because people can relate to that."

Tammy's top five tips for building your social media brand:

  1. Be transparent - people can tell when someone is fake and with so much saturation in the online market now people want to connect to something real.
  2. Focus on what you're passionate about - You can really tell when someone's account has a certain look and feel because they really enjoy what they're posting about.
  3. Create good content - You want to take the time to set your own content standards and really stick to pushing those standards higher as you invest more time in your account.
  4. Post regularly - You want to have something for people to come back for; my account is my social offering to my audience.
  5. Engage with your audience - I respond to a lot of questions, listen to what people want to see and really listen to the people following my accounts (not every little thing of course; there can be a lot of negativity, but there are also some really useful suggestions and feedback).


COREY Decandia and Jordan Kallios, founders of Adelaide based swimwear brand Vacay Swimwear, thank the power of social media for their quick rise to success.

Barely three months old, Vacay has already gathered 44,200 followers on Instagram, and has successfully tapped into the US and European markets.

Decandia and Kallios say Vacay is a swimwear brand designed by guys, for guys.

They stock a curated line of men's swim shorts and accessories, with designs based on the pair's favourite locations from around the world.

Whilst the brand itself might only be young, years of work and training on social media prepared Decandia and Kallios to truly launch the brand and tap into the hungry masses on social media.

Whilst at University the pair made money by "flipping" Instagram accounts. They would buy accounts, build up the account's followers, and on-sell to interested parties to make a profit.

They also made money by selling "shoutouts" to other accounts from the accounts they managed, which they say had between 50 and 100 thousand followers.

Their wealth of experience with social media led to the pair promoting their swimwear brand almost exclusively on Instagram (@vacay_swimwear).

Whilst the middle of an Australian winter might seem like an odd time to launch an Adelaide swimwear brand, where temperatures barely get above 15 Celsius, the two targeted the American and European market on Instagram to get those pre-Summer sales.

Now the two boast 80 per cent of their total sales originating from overseas.


WHEN sister duo Daniella Dionyssiou and Natalia Suesskow opened their Brisbane-based clothing boutique Verge Girl in 2007, they didn't expect in just 10 years' time their brand would be a heavy hitting e-commerce and fashion influencer.

The style savvy siblings studied fashion design together at the ages of 16 and 18, later noticing a gap in the market for youth oriented, affordable and on-trend fashion.

After opening Verge Girl stores in the CBD and West End, the girls decided to launch an e-commerce store halfway through 2013 which has since doubled its growth year on year without fail.

Dionyssiou says the company aims to set the standard for on-point affordable fashion with the site being updated with over 100 new items each week.

"We are always focused on streamlining our merchandising and developing our product mix and buying strategy to always stay ahead and provide our customers something new and exciting," she says.

"A huge part of our company values is that we aim to be a style destination, rather than a brand destination, meaning we don't just retail clothing, we sell a style and give girls fashion inspiration.

"I think that's why a lot of girls who might be able to get something from our online store and get the same thing from someone else's online store will go to our website and it will look like a different product by the way we've styled it.

"We also try to sell everything that we've styled the outfits with so customers can get everything from the earrings to the choker, top, skirt - the whole outfit."

Verge Girl's online store is driven largely by its strong social media presence. The brand has more than 256,000 loyal Instagram followers worldwide.

"Social media is our number one tool for maintaining a relationship and communicating with our customers," she says.

"I think when we started getting noticed by a lot of bigger bloggers and celebrities, that kind of thing is probably what made us skyrocket the quickest."


WHEN Karina Irby launched Moana Bikini in 2011 on a shoestring, the Gold Coast beach-lover made it her mission to create an icon around one of her favourite fashions.

Irby fell in love with the cheeky style of Brazilian-cut bikinis while on a holiday in Hawaii, and so decided to bring a few back to Australia and test the market's waters.

She knew she was onto a winner when the first collection sold out almost instantly.

Since then, Irby has perfected numerous seamless and reversible designs for her own Moana Bikini brand which have skyrocketed in popularity around the world.

Most recently she was blown away at the quantity of stock she sold from her most recent collection Island Time.

"We quadrupled our quantities which was extremely nerve racking for me hoping that we'd actually sell them, they are selling and I hope they keep selling out," she says.

Not only has she created an icon, Irby has also amassed an army of social media followers she calls her 'Moana Babes'.

If Irby's 1.2 million plus followers on social media wasn't already enough, LA rising-star model Meredith Mickelson has joined forces with Irby as the new face of the Moana Bikini brand.

Mickelson brings a further 1.4 million Instagram followers to the table.

Award-winning photographer Trent Mitchell was also brought on to shoot the promo material for the new collection which featured Mickelson and Irby in Bora Bora.

"The Moana crew were in Bora Bora just lying there in the ocean at one point, just floating having a great time, when we just looking at ourselves and thought 'my god, how are we going to make this better next year'," says Irby.


IT'S safe to say that most brides searching for the perfect dress have, at least once, laid eyes on a number by Grace Loves Lace.

The brand is internationally loved and recognised as a successful ecommerce business, exporting to 65 countries around the world with products available exclusively online.

The wedding dress disruptor and founder of Grace Loves Lace Megan Ziems came up with the idea of owning her own business after failing to find the perfect dress for her special day.

Uninspired by traditional, repetitive and lackluster designs, Ziems saw an opportunity to showcase her designs to the woman not 'the bride' and Grace Loves Lace was born.

In 2016 the brand won international praise when one of its gowns, the Hollie 2.0, sold out worldwide after being pinned more than 2.5 million times on Pinterest, making it the social media site's most popular wedding dress of the year.

"It grew very quickly and organically straight away, we didn't even have a marketing team or an advertising plan for the first couple of years," says Ziems.

"It was by word of mouth, and the fact that we were the first ones doing something very different which catapulted us worldwide straight away."

Ziems goal was to fill a luxury gap in the bridal market without driving the price too high.

"The price point was crucial. With the knowledge I had, I saw that the inflation of wedding dresses was ridiculous. We aimed for an ethical price point."

In return, brides worldwide continue to respond very well to the affordable offering.

Within only six years Ziems has launched two new international showrooms to accompany her headquarters in Burleigh Heads; the first in California and the second in London.

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