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Gretta Rose van Riel

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The OG Instagram influencer, Melbourne’s Gretta Rose van Riel, is easily one of Australia’s most influential marketers and successful, young, female serial entrepreneurs.  Having founded her first start-up SkinnyMe Tea (SMT) at the age of twenty-two with just $24 dollars in her personal bank account, the reigning e-commerce queen went on to successfully start and build four additional multimillion-dollar online businesses, pioneering one of today’s trendiest social media marketing tools – selling products on Instagram.  See how the brainy blonde behind some of the biggest brands leveraged the power of the gratuitous ‘Gram to make a fortune and how you can, too.  So, stop scrolling and start strategizing!

Back in 2012, before the now massively popular pic-sharing app was just breaking onto the social scene following the global Facebook phenomenon and prior to its money-making prowess, van Riel turned her mindless scrolling sessions into a savvy start-up tool.  “At the time, Instagram didn’t have any features for businesses. So, making a business account was just as simple as changing an account name to SkinnyMe Tea. And, we started to grow that account quite quickly,” van Riel tells Yahoo Finance.  By the end of that same year, SkinnyMe Tea had amassed 200K followers on Instagram.  At the same time, legendary athletic brand Nike had only 10K. 

Before the ubiquitous branding/business buzzword “influencer” was yet to be uttered, van Riel began building brands off Instagram alone, forever revolutionizing traditional advertising strategies and brand messaging for e-commerce and brick-and-mortar businesses alike.  Making small, micro-targeted endorsement deals with the app’s like-minded “influencers,” as well as limiting stock while boosting “buzz” before an official launch, are some audacious marketing tactics that would keep any conventional CEO up at night.  Yet, it was these unprecedented, risk-taking tactics that took van Riel’s businesses from seeds to successes – virtually overnight.  SkinnyMe Tea accumulated up to $600K in monthly sales in its first six months!

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The Disruptor from Down Under

Rising social media marketing star van Riel would go on to start other social media-based brands within six short years, like The 5th – a luxury watch company that only offers sales on the 5th day of each and every month, and for only 5 days.  “We sold over a thousand watches on our FIRST day, which was over $100K in sales.  So, that company grew even faster than SMT, which I didn’t think was possible at the time,” van Riel tells Sarah O’Carroll, editor-in-chief at Yahoo Finance.  “On our first birthday, we did over a million Australian dollars in sales in a single day - on the 5th of December in 2015.”  Does van Riel simply possess the auspicious Midas Touch gene for making millions?  Maybe so.  But, it’s more likely she’s discovered her goldmine by tapping into the power of online influencers to generate pre-launch buzz and product demand, while disrupting the entire online advertising landscape in the process. 


Today, van Riel’s unbridled, tycoon-like track record for successful start-ups has since influenced her to move into the tech sector of her entrepreneurial inclinations.  Now, would-be brand innovators (as well as established corporations) can learn all her social media marketing success secrets, including how to leverage the infinite power of influencers to market and sell their products/services, through regular training courses, webinars, videos she’s created with Foundr and Shopify.  “Hey Influencers” is van Riel’s latest capital-generating venture that seeks to play “matchmaker” between brands and social media influencers who best align with the ethos of said brands.  The goal is for these budding brands to reach the most appropriate target demographic, while the influencers are compensated through pay-for-posts, sponsored content, and other attractive, affiliate marketing techniques. 

Think Outside the Brand-Building Box: Gretta van Riel’s Top Tips and Tricks to Build Your Brand

1.         Gretta’s advice to burgeoning brands and start-ups with modest capital is to research the market for your idea/product/service and build buzz BEFORE you plan on launching.  Sounds counterintuitive, right?  But, wait.  “If you are building an audience before you launch a product, you’re mitigating a risk of launching to crickets.” 

2.         Another trendy tool is to create a unique, simplistic product/service that solves a problem.  You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. 

3.         Build an email database to help convert social media followers/fans to buying customers with retention potential. 

4.         Finally, start small.  Launch your new biz with an MVP – “minimum viable product” – and without shelling out much capital.  “If you’re not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.” – Reid Hoffman. 

Now 30, van Riel has since founded Drop Bottle, Hey Influencers, SkinTox Tea, and is set to launch Hey Engage – a platform that helps strategize and facilitate collaborations and partnerships between like-minded brands that aren’t in competition with one other, but who could boost each other’s bottom line.  She unsurprisingly snagged a slot in Forbes’ coveted 30 Under 30 class for Retail and e-Commerce in 2018 and won the breakout Shopify Build-a-Business competition in 2013.  Between her personal and business accounts, the ingenious brand-builder boasts a collective 16 million followers on Instagram.  Fun fact:  She once grew a fresh-faced Instagram account from zero to 48K followers in less than twenty-four hours.  To learn more about the Gretta Rose van Riel and steal her start-up success secrets, be sure to follow her @gretta, @heyinfluencers, @smtofficial, @dropbottle, and @the5th. 


You GoGirl!

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