Australia Markets open in 4 hrs 3 mins

Why this successful entrepreneur doesn’t follow advice from other business people

The New Investors video series brought to you by Yahoo Finance reveals the secrets of the most successful entrepreneurs and businesspeople in Australia today. This is the first episode of the season.

In order to turn $24 into five multi-million dollar businesses, you might think there was a significant leg-up on the way or role models to follow.

But for Gretta Van Riel – founder of SkinnyMe detox tea, The Fifth watches, Hey Influencers, DROP Bottle and Skintox Co – she had to blaze her own trail.

As one of the first Australian entrepreneurs to use Instagram as a sales platform, Van Riel didn’t have a lot of role models to follow.

Starting from ground zero, she built her detox tea business from scratch and grew from the plenty of mistakes she made along the way (one that cost her $1.3 million).

“I had people that I could slightly lean on, but no, I didn’t really have mentors when I was first starting out per se,” she told Yahoo Finance’s Editor-in-Chief Sarah O’Carroll.

(Photo: Getty, Instagram/@gretta)

Learn more of Gretta van Riel’s secrets to success by watching her full interview with Yahoo Finance for the The New Investors, My Story video series.

These days, social media platforms are an integral part of nearly all businesses and an indispensable element of online-only businesses. Van Riel was one of the earliest in the country to capitalise on this, and at one point – at the end of 2012, with 200,000 Instagram followers – SkinnyMe tea was the biggest brand on the image-based social media platform at the time.

“I think Nike had about 10,000 followers at the end of 2012,” Van Riel recalls.

“So we, I guess to an extent, pioneered that Instagram presence for some brands and that’s where I started growing my following from.”

It’s not something she could have been taught from entrepreneurs that preceded her. She would eventually land herself formal mentors one year later after winning Shopify’s Build a Business competition.

“They flew us to New York. We got to meet incredible business mentors. I had no idea who they were at the time,” she said.

Among the ranks would be The Lean Startup author Eric Ries, American entrepreneur and early-stage tech start-up investor Tim Ferris, and the editor-in-chief of American business and technology magazine Fast Company.

On the plane to New York, she did her homework, reading up on books written by the mentors she would meet.

But a lot of the lessons in those books she had already learnt herself.

“I read Tim Ferriss’ Four Hour Workweek on the plane on the way over and was like, ‘Okay, I get what this guy’s on about.’

“And The Lean Startup, I was like, ‘Oh, I’m already doing that. That’s fine.’ I read the blurb and was like, ‘I don’t need this book, I’m doing that’,” she told Yahoo Finance.

For Van Riel, it wasn’t so much about having a mentor as it was about developing the right mindset.

“It was just admitting that you’d made a mistake without an ego, and letting that get in the way, and just not blaming anybody else.

“Just saying, ‘this has happened’ and then moving on as quickly as possible, and just focusing on the positives again.”

The New Investors video series brought to you by Yahoo Finance reveals the secrets of the most successful entrepreneurs and businesspeople in Australia today. This is the first episode of the season.