Meet Oliver Brocato, a 21-year-old serial entrepreneur and a pioneer in the viral marketing arena.
He is the founder of Tabs, a DTC aphrodisiac chocolate brand designed for two. He grew Tabs from 0 to 100k+ customers in his first year of business without spending a dollar on paid ads.
Off the back of Tabs’ success, Oliver’s set up a TikTok agency that helps brands go viral.
For more details, connect with him on Twitter.
Today, we sit down with Oliver to learn more about his journey as an entrepreneur.
Q. Tell us a little more about your journey as an entrepreneur – how did you get started?
Oliver: Well, it all started when I was 14. I was a freshman in high school and the fidget spinner trend spread across my school like wildfire. I knew I had to jump on it, so I convinced my grandpa to lend me $500. I bought a 3D printer and skateboard bearings with that to make my own fidget spinners.
After the high school, middle school, and elementary school markets dried up, going online was the next logical step, so I put my fidget spinners on Amazon, eBay, and Etsy. Etsy was the most successful for me and my listing became one of the most popular ones. That was my first taste of eCommerce success and I was immediately hooked.
When the fidget spinner trend died, I started a social media management company and ran Instagram accounts for local shops. Eventually, I realized it wasn’t sustainable. So, I pivoted to running ads on Facebook, Google, Instagram, Snapchat, etc., and I started a small social media marketing agency.
I had my first experience running a brand when a friend’s mom hired me to move her clothing brand online. I set up the entire online infrastructure for her. Then, I was poached by a friend to work on an app that was seed funded by Alexis Ohanian, Reddit’s co-founder.
They were pioneering on TikTok back when influencers had no idea how to monetize and were taking deals for pennies on the dollar. There, I streamlined the entire influencer collaborations process and the app became number four on the social network section of the store. It was right below Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp.
That was crazy because those are multibillion-dollar companies and we were a team of six. Eventually, I got let go and they brought in a big agency. Then, when leggings started blowing up on TikTok, a friend brought me into his company and we were one of the first people to go viral with TikTok leggings. Eventually, the trend died out and the company was sold. All these experiences allowed me to gain skills and experience from an early age.
Q. What inspired you to start your own business?
Oliver: After the TikTok legging trend died out, I went into business with one of the guys I worked with. This time we would be 50/50 partners and create something of our own. So far, I had been working on other people’s projects, but I had never really worked for myself. At that point, we both understood eCommerce and TikTok well, so we wanted to create our own product.
One day, I was just scrolling on TikTok and saw this video of a random girl talking about sex chocolate. The video had 8 million views and 2 million likes. I did some research and found out that the product was sold regionally in certain sex shops, but these shops had no online presence at all. We had a lightbulb moment there because that was an intrinsically viral product.
If we put our skill set and experience to work, we could blow it up, So, that’s what we did. It took us a year to develop the product, from the chocolate formula to the packaging and everything in between. We built it from scratch and made it completely proprietary. That’s how Tabs Chocolate was born. When we launched last year, the business skyrocketed immediately.
Q. Have you ever worked with a mentor or has it been entirely self-taught?
Oliver: Well, it has been self-taught, but I’ve also learned from a lot of people over time. I’ve accumulated skills and knowledge from working with others, making mistakes, watching YouTube videos, doing courses, etc., so I’d say it’s a bit of both. The more time you spend in the game, the sharper you become.
Q. What do you think most people miss when it comes to building a brand or drop shipping? And what advice would you give them?
Oliver: Well, most people think they can build a successful product overnight and get rich quickly. That’s what we did, but I wouldn’t say it happens overnight. I mean, it took seven years of working on other businesses that didn’t pan out, building our skills, learning, etc.
People do go in, disrupt the space, and find success quickly, but I don’t think anybody can do that. Beginners certainly can’t because it takes time and experience to sharpen your instincts, which is what allows you to recognize big opportunities.
I think that the biggest thing people miss is that getting into eCommerce and building a successful brand is a process. It takes a lot of failures, and that’s true for business overall. It’s not linear, it’s a roller coaster and there will be lots of ups and downs. Not everyone has the endurance or will to keep going. So, my advice would be to stick it out!
Q. What’s one thing that helped your business grow so quickly?
Oliver: Well, I want to preface this by reiterating that the product itself is viral and it’s basically engineered for TikTok. It’s very easy to sell because you can explain the entire premise of the product in a 3-second clip. That’s very valuable. It would be harder to find the same success with, say, a deodorant brand.
That means that we’re riding a wave instead of fighting against a current. Our product is prime for social media and we intentionally made it that way. Now, one of the strategies that helped us grow so quickly is that we worked with a crazy amount of micro-influencers.
When you work with bigger influencers, you’re not paying for their distribution channel, you’re paying for their brand name. Micro-influencers offer a lot more bang for your buck, so we found undervalued assets. We secured them for low rates and we get amazing short-form content from them to disseminate the product to the masses. It has been one of the most successful growth hacks I’ve tried.
Q. What would you say has been the most satisfying moment you’ve had in your business career?
Oliver: It might sound a bit cheesy, but one of the most satisfying moments I’ve had is when my dad told me he was super proud of me. I love that man, so it meant a lot to me.
In terms of business, the first sale I ever made was super satisfying. It was very validating because you hear of people making money online, but when you actually accomplish it yourself, it’s amazing.