Unfortunately, there’s no blueprint to follow or formula to crack when it comes to what makes a successful enterprise. Of course, if it were any other way – completely risk free – everyone would be on the case. For some, make or break means amassing huge amounts of capital to kick-start an idea, and for others, it’s about striving for investor buy-in at various stages of growth; but for co-founders, Nik Mirkovic and Alex Tomic, it's almost neither. Launching their DIY teeth whitening venture, HiSmile, 18 months ago with only $20,000 capital saved from a few part-time jobs, the pair are already turning over a massive $10 million. All in the absence of investors.
So what is it about HiSmile, and what is it about the cofounders’ approach that has sent their growth trajectory skyward? One thing is clear from Mirkovic and Tomic, aged 21 and 22 respectively – they are determined to surf the wave of the new-age CEO. And they have been since they were at school with nothing more than a joint “aspiration to make a change.”
Taking a positive view of things and enjoying the process are what really sets them apart from others.
Mirkovic said: “The aspiration to make a change and also the drive to constantly want to challenge ourselves, came before everything else. The business world is the perfect platform for us to express ourselves on a day-to-day basis.
“We felt that the teeth whitening/oral hygiene industry was static and there was no innovation in the market. We definitely thought there was a gap in the market to create the best product and a brand that people wanted to be a part of!”
But while many of their classmates undoubtedly had their eyes on internships, from where did Mirkovic and Tomic get the drive (and confidence) to hit the top of the game, right from the get-go?
Tomic said: “The ability to question things has led to a life of finding ways to make things better and constantly looking at improving. Both of us are extremely competitive, so we definitely feel that we are suited to the entrepreneurial world which is constantly changing and keeps you on your toes. The other big draw for us is the ability to go on this journey with a team. We love the fact that we now have the ability to positively change people’s lives and make an impact.”
Mirkovic says taking a positive view of things and enjoying the process are what really sets them apart from others. According to Mirkovic, positivity has enabled them to attract positive people in return, while their enjoyment of all the wins, set-backs, negotiations and learning points is not something most leaders place enough focus on – instead – looking for fast ways to achieve goals which often ends in disappointment.
“Self-belief and self-awareness are definitely the two driving forces behind our success.”
That might explain the ‘how,’ but when it comes to the ‘who,’ these young, yet high-flying entrepreneurs certainly prove that level-headed confidence is half the game. Tomic says “self-belief and self-awareness are definitely the two driving forces behind our success.”
While HiSmile is forecasted to turnover an additional $40 million over the next 18 months, surprisingly, the lack of investment has been a conscious business decision. Mirkovic and Tomic understand they have a long road ahead and a lot to learn.
“There’s just so much that goes into a business when starting out and for us we wanted to make sure we were involved in the entire process. Without an investment it meant we could value our spend more and also ensure that we were getting involved in all areas of the business.
“We definitely believe in setting up the infrastructure before looking at scaling the business. We aren’t opposed to the idea of investments, however we do see life as a marathon and not a sprint, so the timing would have to be right,” said Mirkovic.
With a “strategy that revolves around change,” led by two innovators with an innate positivity and genuine enjoyment for all facets of entrepreneurialism, their achievements certainly suggest they’re having a decent crack at a formula for the ‘new-age CEO’ – even if there isn’t one for ‘successful enterprise’ per se.
“We both concentrate on Emotional Quotient over IQ, as we feel that that’s where our strengths lie,” says Mirkovic.
Dan Jacobs is the Editor for ShortPress and an experienced business writer across a range of industry sectors.
There are plenty of other inspiring stories from other successful young entrepreneurs as well as insights on what’s motivating millennial entrepreneurs. Check out our content for many other stories of business owners who haven’t let inexperience stand in the way of a great idea.