A company from Slovenia discovered that rapid growth and expansion to new markets was possible during a pandemic—with the right mix of digital capabilities.
“I want a refund.” That’s the last thing most businesses want to hear. But for Mic Melanšek and the team at Hooray Heroes, a personalized children’s books company, it came as a welcome sign of success. Consider the video posted to Facebook by one of his customers, in which a woman demands her money back. “I want a refund,” a woman says in the video, “and I want it for my husband—because you broke him.” The video then cuts to a happily sobbing spouse, Hooray Heroes-designed book in hand.
Mic has a hard time holding back a smile when he tells stories like these. From the beginning, online customer testimonials have been among the most effective tools for Hooray Heroes. In fact, social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest have always been integral to its ability to spread the word about what it does and sells.
Hooray Heroes creates personalized books. At first, they were intended for children. A father might go to the Hooray Heroes website and select a book for his daughter. A special gamified process would allow him to select the right features for his child, from hair color to freckles, and add special characters like friends, grandparents, and maybe even himself. It was great for kids—and, as it turned out, adults too. As demand for Hooray Heroes’ products grew, so did requests for couples-themed books that could be given to a boyfriend, girlfriend, or spouse. Many of these customers then began posting emotional videos online as loved ones opened their personalized books.
Hooray Heroes has been digital-first and online-only from the very start. This was driven partly by necessity. Mic, who hails from Slovenia, started with one business partner and hardly any money. But this digital approach was also by choice. Mic notes that his company has nearly as many social media followers online (1.5 million) as the entire population of his homeland (2 million), so he knew that low-cost digital tools were likely to provide the best avenue to get the word out and allow his company to expand to new and much larger markets. He was right. Within a few years, Hooray Heroes expanded across Europe to Germany, France, Italy, and the U.K.—and soon built a strong base of customers overseas too, including the U.S.
Mic describes the effects of the worst pandemic in a century as was little more than a “speed bump” for his business. “We are fully digital and we are nimble,” Mic explains, “so we are well positioned to persevere in difficult situations.” Google Analytics is among Mic’s favorite tools (in fact, he uses an extra monitor just to monitor the data it provides in real time) and it was the first to lend reassurance that things would be okay during COVID-19. It revealed a spike in traffic on Hooray Heroes’ website that presaged surging demand across the world. “We have always used the full spectrum of Google’s offerings,” Mic says, “Google Ads, Google Shopping Campaigns, Google Search, and Market Finder help us break into new markets and Google Workspace tools like Docs help us collaborate across borders.”
Hooray Heroes today employs more than 120 people and has more than 250 partners around the globe. Throughout the pandemic, the team kept in touch with a range of tools—from Zoom and Slack to Skype and SMS—as the company recorded an annualized growth figure of 30%. It even expanded into several new countries (thanks to analyses from Market Finder), such as Canada, Australia, Spain and Belgium, with some of its international markets recording growth rates of 100% or more over the past year. Hooray Heroes has expanded so much in fact that its home market of Slovenia today represents just 1% of its total revenue.
“Despite all of the uncertainties and challenges the pandemic presented, our company found that strong growth was still possible—with the right tools,” Mic says. “Being digitally driven helps us understand our customers, find new markets, and gives us needed flexibility when the unexpected happens.” His team discovered that the products they were selling were perfectly tailored to folks stranded at home and looking for something fun to do to spend time together too. “It made us all really proud to bring so much happiness and connectedness to others at a time when both were so badly needed,” Mic says. “However,” he notes, “we do not yet have a return policy for husbands.”
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