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The young guns turning ideas into big business

Let’s be Frank

This happened: five entrepreneurs under 30 made a cool $14 million last financial year after shovelling ground coffee into brown paper bags priced at $14.95 a pop. Jess Hatzis and Erika Geraerts decided to put coffee in a bag and try and sell it. The idea came after they had coffee body scrubs in Bali. With the help of friends Alex Boffa, Bree Johnson and Steve Rowley, their first batch of Frank Body scrub was released in January 2013.

To keep costs down, they only sold the product through their website. The scrub was flat-packed in bags and posted to customers all over the world. Just two and a half years later, there is a full skincare line, 12 staff members, a Melbourne-based manufacturer and distributors in Los Angeles, London and Toronto.

Hatzis and Geraerts, who were already running their own communications agency, Willow and Blake, agreed the key was to take a risk. ‘A lot of the time we pitch ideas to a client and they hesitate. We wanted the chance to see a bold idea through without it being filtered down,’ Hatzis says.

They took a tongue-in-cheek tone and were ‘frank’ with their customers. ‘A big part of the social strategy was getting our customers to take photos,’ Geraerts says. A flyer was placed in each package. They encouraged people to post pictures of themselves covered in the dirt-like substance and use the brand’s hashtag. Today they have 661,000 loyal Instagram followers who are happily doing their marketing for them.

To other keen entrepreneurs, Geraerts advises, ‘You want to have an understanding of the market you’re entering and a plan that you want to roll out. Know your values and what your brand stands for.’

'A lot of the time we pitch ideas to a client and they hesitate. We wanted the chance to see a bold idea through without it being filtered down.'

Jess Hatzis,
Frank Body

Draw and score

At just 22, Alexia Petsinis is already living her dream, drawing pretty pictures for a living. What’s the secret to her success? She scrawls images of fashionable women and posts them on Instagram.

It took no time for her to accumulate more than 4800 fans, as well as attracting an eclectic mix of new business opportunities.

‘Using social media, I can reach people in the blink of an eye,’ the Melbourne-based artist says.

She scored a big break in 2015, when the Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival (VAMFF) team invited Petsinis to share her work with VAMFF’s community of more than 20,000 during the week-long event.

‘I would sketch some of my favourite looks live as the models walked down the runway, and the VAMFF team would post them on their Instagram account instantly after the show. This exposed my work to a huge network in a new and innovative way,’ Petsinis explains.

After that, opportunities began to snowball. Celebrity pâtissier Adriano Zumbo was drawn to what he saw on Instagram and invited Petsinis to completed a series of illustrations for his high tea salon Fancy Nance, which opened in June 2015. Petsinis says, ‘I loved working with Adriano Zumbo on a series of creative illustrations. There’s something about his cakes and the colours he uses that I love to reinterpret in my work.’

Although it can be tempting to take all of the new business that arrives through her social channels, Petsinis remains discerning. ‘You have to think about what you are really putting your name to, and be certain that any opportunities you venture into really represent what you stand for as a creative entity.’

She says it is a compliment when businesses approach her purely on her ability to curate her social feed. The key challenge that comes with sharing creative ideas online is protecting her intellectual property. To other young people looking to showcase their work online without getting ripped off, she suggests holding on to strong ideas.  ‘I wait until I have collaborated with a large business or individual that can further leverage my idea through the process of working together,’ Petsinis explains.

Having said that, she says there are elements of yourself that you must show if you want to retain engagement and continue to build a community that cares about your work.

Her final tip is, ‘Don’t show people that you are just out there to make a quick dollar with little effort, people will disengage instantly. You want to create a profile for your business that is filled with possibility.’

'You have to think about what you are really putting your name to, and be certain that any opportunities you venture into really represent what you stand for as a creative entity.'

Alexia Petsinis,
Fashion illustrator

Dare to Blaire

When Sarah Long and Emily Eaton graduated from their Bachelor of Arts (Professional and Creative Writing) at Deakin University in 2012, they believed the existing media landscape was, ‘Overcrowded with conservative opinions and celebrity gossip’.

Rather than battle for coveted positions in existing media, the creative duo went out on their own and launched online publication Blaire Magazine in May 2013.

Long, 26, says the biggest challenge was learning how many aspects must align for a publication to come together. ‘We’d never dealt with publicists, artists and photographers before. Approaching people and communicating with them has been the most challenging part,’ she admits.

'The last thing we’d want to do is work for 60 years then look back and say why didn’t we go for that?'

Sarah Long,
Blaire Magazine

But they’re now both located in Byron Bay, managing 20 contributors, beginning to derive an income through advertising and negotiating with investors.

Long says she, and 24-year-old Eaton, had to continue working part time while they strengthened their cash flow. However, she’s confident that it’s only a matter of time before they’re generating a substantial income. She believes Blaire’s political, environmental and socially focused articles are resonating with their audience. With between 50,000 and 100,000 unique impressions per month, they are wading through an oversaturated digital media market to build a committed audience.

‘We’ve been winging it the whole time,’ Long admits, but says their passion was always going to help them find success. Knowing what she knows now, Long says they’d still take the risk again. ‘The last thing we’d want to do is work for 60 years then look back and say why didn’t we go for that?’

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