A man of many ideas, Mark Sellar always knew he wanted to be an entrepreneur. In 2014, he applied for Seven’s television series The Big Adventure, took home top prize and has never looked back. These days, he’s a successful property developer and looks after global company HGT Innovations, producers of viral products the likes of Shader and the Fantom Doorstop. Not bad for a young Adelaide tradie looking for his next step just a few years ago.
“I always wanted to be a property developer and I always had all these idea and apps and whatnot in my head, too,” Mark says. “I was always coming up with different business ideas…I always dreamt of being an entrepreneur.”
A tradie with carpentry expertise, Mark originally tried his luck in an application for House Rules, deciding halfway through that it wasn’t the right fit. “I pulled myself out of the application process, but they said they liked my profile and that they had another show I might be suited for. They sent me through the application for the Big Adventure, I went on the show and it obviously went well for me,” he says.
For a busy man with a head full of ideas, Mark says the show was about more than the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. “I think it was an amazing experience. One of the most interesting things I took from it was being detached from the rest of society…not having your phone, facebook, social media or any of those things that rule my life these days. You’re stranded on an island for a month and you focus on one thing – winning the show. It was a very interesting and awesome experience to not be controlled by your phone. For me, I’ve always been really busy, so it was a good thing to learn that if you focus on one thing, you can achieve a lot.”
Mark put his lessons into practice after winning the million dollar prize, setting his ideas into action. “When I finished BA, I had the time and money to pursue everything that I wanted to as an entrepreneur. The first app I developed was called Kubo…it is now the booking app used for Fitness First. I co-founded that with another Adelaide fellow and we sold that to Goodlife who have partnered with Fitness First.”
Shader products, part of HGT Innovations
Soon after Kubo, Mark moved on to the Fantom Doorstop, his best-selling global product that came to him on a carpentry job many years ago. A simple magnetic doorstop that lies flush with the floor, it’s a simple invention that’s changed Mark’s life.
“I thought it would be a small idea and of course it wasn’t,” he says. “It ended up being a whole business that’s evolved from one product in one store in Adelaide and now it’s in 60 countries around the world. It’s gone from what was going to be a simple ‘lets try this’ thing, to a full-blown business.”
Mark’s innovative idea was the catalyst for an entire range of Fantom Hardware products. “To have 35 different products and distributors over the world is really quite amazing. It’s quite incredible to see how far one little product can go. It’s pretty awesome.”
He’s since developed another global product which has gone viral online. Shader Australia is another arm of HGT Innovations, producing the individual head-shade device which can also feature a phone charger, mini USB fan and even an ice-pack to cool you down.
“When we launched shader, we weren’t sure if it was going to be popular. We launched the product on Kickstarter with a goal of about $25,000. We then devised a very careful strategy to launch the Shader video online in the hope it would go viral. It got picked up and reached 120 million views. It went crazy after that.”
From this success, Mark has gone on to write an e-book to help other burgeoning businesses launch their idea into the world. “It was by no luck or accident our video went viral and the product became a success. With this in mind, I wanted to share my strategies and ideas on how to use social media and crowd-funding services to make your products go viral,” he says.
The idea of Shader came from a sunny day at the beach with his wife. “Usually all of my ideas are circumstantial,” he says. “I think ‘this is annoying, there must be a better way this can be done’.”
Mark Sellar and wife Stevie Sellar
While he spent time in Melbourne following the Big Adventure, he says Adelaide will always be home. “It’s been a fantastic place to run a business…there’s so many grants to help run our business and there’s cheaper rent. I love it here…I’m also always down at the beach in Semaphore. My in-laws live down there so that’s where you’ll find me in summer.”
What’s next? He says he’s always looking for new products and properties to work on, continuing to evolve HGT. “We’re about to launch another product range called Creative Outdoor Australia which is an outdoor company, and we’ve also just become major stakeholders of Recoverite [a local company producing ice compressionware].”
While he says the prize money has been invaluable, he still says hard work is the key to his success. “I live by very early mornings and very very late nights…I get up at 5:30am so I can catch the international distributors and then I’m on the phone all night until about 10pm.”
But he says he wouldn’t have it any other way. “It’s satisfying to be continuously growing. Sometimes it feels frustrating, but then it hasn’t been going that long and were achieving all these amazing things. I suppose work-life balance is difficult, but I’m hoping there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. I’d love to just keep bringing some more products into the HGT range – we’ve got a big long list of products that are our own inventions we’d like to bring into the marketplace…so at the moment it’s full steam ahead.”