It’s been a busy week for Canberra entrepreneur Mick Spencer from ONTHEGO who kicked it off on Channel Ten’s ‘The Shark Tank’, securing the biggest deal they’ve ever done on the show.
Spencer started his the sports apparel company when he was just 19 years-old, running it out of his parent’s garage in Canberra. Now 25, he’s running a multimillion-dollar company that employs 13 people and is in the process of going global, with export revenue already sitting at 15 percent, and a factory team of 300 in China.
Strategic growth plan
For the last 12 months, the brand has been focusing on gaining traction, strong growth and getting more clients and companies on board.
“The strategy is ‘go where the people are’ and yeah, so we’ve been building up a lot of the foundations of the company to be able to start working with much larger customers, much larger partners and starting to continue to build up a great technology so we can really redefine the custom-made sporting goods industry,” says Spencer.
“Now we’re expanding nationally our National Sales Manager is based in Melbourne, we’re opening a base in Melbourne. We’re working with pretty much every large retailer in Australia now, David Jones, General Pants Co., Rebel Sport, Drummond Golf; who are all interstate, but we’re able now go there.”
It’s this pursuit of growth that spurred Spencer to go on the tv show and pitch his company to investors. On Sunday night, he was successful in getting the ‘sharks’ to invest $600,000 for a 30 percent share in the company.
Having built the brand 100 percent himself and with very little cash, Spencer is has a strong vision of how he wants his company to expand and what strides he needs to take to get there.
“I think we can build a $100 million business a lot faster if I’ve got people who are extremely experienced in the game and who are driven to an overarching vision of achieving a massive company quickly,” says Spencer.
“A company is not all about a founder, I think that’s one big thing that I’ve taken away from my growth story is that a great company is about a team unified towards a united vision.”
Challenges and learning curve
The company has had it’s fair share of up’s and down’s but Spencer says he doesn’t mind a challenge.
“I prefer operating in pain than success. I know that sounds really weird, but I prefer a challenge than having a plan completed. There’s this passion I have every day of waking up and knowing that there’s a hundred people out there smarter, younger, faster, quicker than I can be and I think it’s the hunger to succeed for the customer that is what drives me.”
It’s this tenacity and perseverance which has seen the founder battle through numerous health problems and learn to enjoy the journey a little more while building the brand.
“In business often things happen that can set you back, but it’s been important for me to try to look at that as a learning curve. When you face adversity is often when you uncover the most incredible things. And I think that’s, as much as important in people’s personal journey as it is in the business, because when you have mistakes, and we’ve had tonnes and tonnes of them, you build a better business if you can learn from it.”
Sport and social entrepreneurship
The company’s connection to sport is the backbone of the business and social entrepreneurship forming a key structure in the framework of the brand.
Spencer believes the power of the brand links back to the power sport has to unify people and create change. The idea for the company first came to him when he was volunteering in Hawaii and he knew he wanted to build a company that not only sold products but gave back to communities.
“I realised that a lot of underprivileged areas of the world needed products to play sport because they were playing sport either naked or with not much on. And I realised that by giving away some team gear uniforms it would bring villages together from areas of Fiji and rural parts of Western Australia.”
He created the One-4-One initiative in 2013. “We said, ‘you know what, we’re going to take a portion of every single product we sell and put it into a fund and then we’re going to spend that fund each quarter with our charity partner, Fair Game, and we’re going to match that, whether it’s in cash or goods.”
“So using their infrastructure, their 150 volunteer base, their 32 villages that they work in, we’re able to not just support them financially, but intellectually and through product to enable them to get more kids into sport. That’s a huge part, we’re a brand that is for the people and the beautiful thing about customised sports gear is it brings people together, it has that whole unification. But also from a remote and less privileged community, has an ability to really drive some incredible change in people.”