After originally starting on Instagram in grade 7 with a couple of friends for fun, Maja Wilbrink soon realised the opportunities and has since built a network of over 1.7million followers (with a main account of 1.4million). Using this leverage, she started a mini online store selling one product which generated $5k in profit in the first day, whilst also making a passive income of up to $10k/month through selling promotion for brands and artists.
City where you’re from: Born in Sweden, currently living in Brisbane, Australia
Hobbies: Travelling, writing, reading, posting on Instagram
Favorite quote: Most importantly, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition – Steve Jobs
Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur?
Growing up as a fairly academic student, I always assumed that my natural path after high school would be to go university and get some sort of degree. Something that scared me for a long time though was that while I love learning and enjoy the subjects I do at school, there has never really been anything that I felt passionate enough about to say confidently, “I want to do this for the rest of my life”. For a long time, it never even crossed my mind that there were other opportunities out there simply because I hadn’t been properly exposed to it. I’d heard of entrepreneurs around, but it seemed so far away and unreachable.
I was lucky to join Instagram with some friends when it first started getting popular. Back then, it was a lot easier to build pages from the ground up and I found it fun to see them grow. Having the work pay off in real-time was something extremely rewarding to me, which I think is one of the characteristics that makes me love entrepreneurship as well. Gradually my friends lost interest and I was the only one still posting on the page. It was only a couple years later when I started noticing a few other large accounts posting advertisements that I realised there was a whole underground ecosystem of businesses built on Instagram. I discovered this whole community of people who ran pages just like me and began networking with all these awesome talented people, who I found I had a lot in common with.
Instagram served as the gateway to entrepreneurship for me and has opened me up to so many other opportunities that I would have never have discovered before. It helped me realise that entrepreneurship is something I’m passionate about. My dream is to be able to work on something every day that I genuinely enjoy and that makes me want to get up in the morning. Entrepreneurship can lead to endless opportunities when you’re in charge of your own life and creativity.
Who are your biggest influences?
One of the biggest influences for me has definitely been Stephen Johnson, the CEO of Flipmass, which is a company I work with part-time on the Influencer Relations team. I started talking to Stephen by accident one day after stumbling on his Twitter, which led me to discover the whole underground influencer community that exists on Twitter. He’s taught me a lot about entrepreneurship through his own experiences and we’ve had a lot of important conversations. He helped me clarify and understand myself a lot more. I always had these thoughts in my head, and he helped me put them together and realise what I truly want, so I’m extremely grateful for that. Meeting people who see the world in a similar way that you do is a powerful thing, and his passion is contagious.
My parents also have always been supportive of what I do, even if it challenges some of the things they believe in. When I was first starting on social, I was just always on my phone a lot and I never took the time to properly explain what I was doing. It was only after I started earning money and it came in through their Paypal that I started to explain. They’ve always been supportive, even if it doesn’t make complete sense to them. My mum made an Instagram account just to follow me, which was really cute. In recent conversations I’ve had with them about the decision of going to university, they’ve been extremely understanding of my thoughts, even if it challenges some of their traditional beliefs about the importance of university. The world is changing so fast and the world today is so different to the one they grew up in, so they’ve been really considerate about that. I value their advice a lot.
On top of that, I’m constantly inspired by fellow influencers and friends through social. My favourite thing about social has definitely been all the relationships it has brought to my life. I find a lot of people involved in the space are like-minded, and it’s fun to bounce ideas off other people and just hear about all the cool things people are doing. It constantly motivates me to hear all the projects my friends are up to, and reminds me of what’s possible.
What are you working on? How did you come up with this idea?
Being in my last year of high school, that still takes up a large chunk of my time, but outside of that I work on continuing to build my Instagram network. I sell advertisements for brands and artists to help them drive sales and followers. I also recently started to experiment with creating a mini online store through teechip.com. My first shirt design made more than $5k in profit within 24 hours of launching purely through posting about it once on my Instagram. In a month, it made over $20k in profit. I came up with the idea to start up my own mini store purely through noticing lots of brands having successful results on my page, and trying to create a design I thought my followers would be interested in.
I also work as part of the Influencer Relations team on Flipmass, which is an app designed to help influencers with all their business interactions, so I help onboard users, handle transactions and sometimes introduce new advertising clients through my contacts.
How is your IG service different and unique?
The most important thing for me whenever I promote brands or artists is that it’s a symbiotic relationship, where we mutually benefit, and providing real value. I take time to talk to all of my advertisers and make sure the post is optimised to do as well as possible for them. I’ve found a lot of pages will post anything as long as someone pays well enough, but I’m very careful in the kinds of advertisements I post to ensure my audience stays high quality. I view my page as a community, so I only post advertisements that I think people may be genuinely interested in. If I don’t think an advertisement will succeed or doesn’t fit with my brand at all, then I’ll decline it. Because of this, around 90% of my customers turn into long-term consistent buyers, which is a lot better for everyone involved.
Whenever artists reach out to me for promotion I also take time to develop a relationship and make sure the post does as well as possible for them, by optimising it based on what I know what works well with my audience. I love helping artists out and spread their passion – it makes me so happy to see people following their dreams. As a result of this, I’ve had artists reach over 10million impressions and gain 15k followers from one post.
What has been your favorite moment with it?
My favourite moment with my Instagram so far was definitely a couple months ago when I randomly decided to feature a 15-year-old extremely talented unknown artist I found on my main Instagram account (which posts art related content and has 1.4million followers). Within 5 hours, she had gained 4k followers and she ended up reaching 20k followers. The post itself went viral and got 500,000 likes, with thousands of comments from people who loved the artwork. I spoke to the artist after it happened and she was so incredibly grateful and said the post had encouraged her to find a way to live off her passion for art.
I also used to run a positive quotes Instagram, and would always get the most incredible (sometimes emotional) messages from people explaining how the page had helped them through a difficult period in their life.
I think it really speaks to how powerful social can be when it’s used for good. We have the ability literally at our fingertips with social media to make an impact and help people. It’s definitely one of the things I love most about it.
What’s the vision?
My goal with my Instagram page is for it to be the largest art related Instagram, and eventually a fully-fledged established brand and community. I’ve had positive responses from other advertisers and with my own mini store, so I’d like to build a whole brand around it within the next few months. I’ve also been talking to an app developer recently to potentially create an app based on the page.
Which untapped marketing channels do you take advantage of?
I’ve found Instagram stories to be surprisingly effective when promoting my product. I encouraged customers who had already bought from me to send photos of them in their shirt once It arrived, and then featured it on my story. I ended up having hundreds of organic happy customer testimonials featured to my story (which gets about 150k views), so that created a loop of customers. It was useful as well since the Story only lasts for 24 hours, so I wasn’t spamming my followers in any way. It helped drive a lot more sales than I was expecting, and retargeted the people that had already seen the advertisement on my page as a normal post.
Give the readers the best entrepreneurship advice you have.
The power of the internet and the resources available online should never be underestimated. We live in an unprecedented era today where we literally have access to almost all the information you could possibly need to start a business. No matter what you’re stuck on, you can almost always find a solution or service to help out with just a few clicks. Read, watch, absorb and then, most importantly, execute on what you learn. One of the best things about the Internet is that it enables people to make a living doing what they’re passionate about.
Teach us something about influencer marketing.
Knowing your audience demographic is incredibly important when buying promotion from influencers. A lot of brands seem to think that throwing money at people with a lot of followers will generate a return, but it sadly doesn’t work like that. Something I also find impactful is to make the post fit, as much as possible, into the content the page posts, even following the same styling and format. This makes the advertisement look a lot more organic and natural, and feel less like a blatant advertisement.
What are some of your favorite books?
It’s not a book exactly, but I’m obsessed with the magazine ‘the Collective Hub’. It’s filled with stories about entrepreneurs and people following their dreams, and always leaves me feeling really inspired after I read it.
Where do you see yourself and your product in a couple years?
Right now, I can’t say exactly where I’ll be as I’m still figuring the details out, but more broadly I hope to be working on something I genuinely enjoy surrounded by like-minded people, as well as continuously travelling. I may end up working with the Flipmass team full-time in their office, and I’d love to also continue running my ventures on Instagram. I think the power of digital and social marketing is only just beginning to be tapped into, and so there are still endless opportunities out there waiting to be discovered.