This article first appeared in BRW in the week following the airing of Episode 5 of Shark Tank Australia.
When the double doors open and someone walks through the Shark Tank ready to start their pitch, there are a number of things that go through my mind. Do I know anything about this industry? Could I add value beyond investment to this business? Is it scalable? Am I going to have to fight another Shark for this?
For more than a decade my world has been almost exclusively spent in the online and business-to-business space. When I was approached to take part in Shark Tank, I knew it was an opportunity to open myself up to new ventures, but I’m not sure I ever imagined I would invest in the deal that took place last Sunday night.
I have found myself the proud shareholder of a wonderful Australian story of innovation and design, which will forever reshape the way we complete a simple domestic household chore. That’s right, I’m a shareholder of HEGS – pegs with hooks.
“I never thought I would be in the HEGS business,” I declared after my successful bid against Steve Baxter at the end of the segment. And that’s true, but I’m so glad I took a gamble on this incredible Aussie business and its founder.
That would be the energetic Scott Boocock. He has a big laugh and an infectious can-do attitude. His positivity is contagious. Simply put, he is a “yes we can” kind of guy.
I have been approached hundreds of times to review business ideas from friends and strangers alike, and the first question I always ask is, “Are you building a better mousetrap or are you changing the game of rodent management”. I’ve never been one to focus on ideas that do things slightly better – I’m always about the game changing ideas with a big vision for future growth. But Scott presented something so simple and effective, that I just couldn’t go past it… so I didn’t!
HEGS held its AGM in Adelaide last week, so Scott took the opportunity to induct the shareholders into the business. It was fascinating meeting all of the key suppliers during the visit. Our first stop was to Techno Plas, where the HEGS are molded.
Techno Plas CEO Nigel Wilkinson highlighted the common assumption that everything is cheaper to produce in China, but the truth is this: the raw materials cost the same no matter which country you are in. So the real difference is transportation. I loved learning about the sophistication of the robotics used and the quality management systems. I felt the passion Nigel has for his team and the work they do.
I loved learning that the bags and the spring component are produced just down the road. All elements are then delivered to disability employment service Orana and Bedford Phoenix for finishing and packing. This part of the process could be fully automated, but providing jobs for people with disabilities is much more rewarding. A business with the sole purpose of making money is just not sustainable. HEGS is the very definition of conscious capitalism – it’s business with a noble purpose.
We were taken on a tour of Orana and Bedford Phoenix by Gordon Griff (GM), Mark Watts (Snr Business Development) and Sally Powell (CEO). I was struck by the variety of work they do there – everything from polishing Qantas cutlery and rolling it into napkins, to creating flat pack furniture for Bunnings. This is a large and busy facility, which has bespoke machines for certain clients.
There were teams working hard to meet deadlines, others laughing while they packed and a good dose of curiosity as we walked around. Each team is made up of people with different strengths, selected based on the clients requirements.
This is social enterprise at its best. Operating its canteen from the early hours to late in the day ensures all employees have healthy meals. I could feel a deep sense of community and purpose everywhere we went.
Sally highlighted that the team love having deadlines and knowing the difference they are making to our clients – they just get things done. The company believes in making a profit, but doesn’t distribute it to shareholders. They use the profits to run the employee programs like tutorials in reading and writing.
HEGS is fast becoming a global export, and is set to join such Australian greats as Wi-Fi, insect repellent, the power board and the esky.
I’m truly delighted to play a tiny part in the HEGS story. This is a new world business – it’s built for scale, with wonderful Australian industrial design, and it’s already contributing greatly to the local community.
I’ve always been fascinated by the rapidly changing nature of business, and I’m finding that at times I need to keep up. The truth is that through this experience, my thoughts on innovation have been slightly altered. Here’s what I’ve discovered… It’s incredibly exciting to create a mousetrap with hooks.
And so much has happened in just a week – HEGS if getting amazing reviews in the US…
“Hegs are the best thing to hit your clothes line since, well, clothes pins. Hegs lock on your clothes line when put on at a 45 degree angle and stretch your clothes while they dry. Hang multiple clothes on each hook. Available May or June 2015 in the North American market.”
Tulin Sinmaz says
Go Hegs and Go Aussie Innovations. I love reading this blog, it is so inspirational.
Sue Bell says
Naomi, I was watching Shark Tank this morning, when I noticed the production line for Hegs! I am so proud that People with Disabilities play a very important role in this Australian made, packaged and dispatched product! My son Matthew works at Disability Services Australia at the Seven Hills business in Sydney. While shopping recently, he noticed the Betty Crocker Frosting cans.
“Hey, Mum, I put the lids on those cans!” He was so proud and full of self esteem to see his work in the community. I am sure the workers who package these pegs have the same feelings of pride and self esteem when they see this product in their community.
Naomi could you please encourage more small businesses to think of these packaging/distribution businesses that employ People with Disabilities.
With Appreciation, Sue Bell
Maria Licastro says
Yes I love that these are Australian design and made, that they help locals. I will always support Australian made, however imagine how disappointed I am that I purchased about 18 packs for myself and to share with all my family because I was so impressed. Now I have at least 1 pack of all broken hegs pegs. They just have not lasted at all, I am not sure if I have a faulty batch but boy oh boy am I disappointed, what a waste of money, and also a little embaressed because the people I bought them for are probably too polite to tell me their’s have not lasted either. They have alll broken in the same exact spot. Certainly have not outlasted my normal pegs, as you claim. Have contacted the office but as yet no reply.