My guest today is Mark Glazebrook, an inventor and creative person based in Melbourne, Australia. After inventing and commercialising a dog toy, The Doy to keep his dog entertained, his daughter asked him why only men were inventors. With a background in social work and social enterprise, he could see a link between his inventions and product development that he could share with girls in schools. Mark wants to encourage girls to believe in their ideas, so he set up a program called Girls Invent in schools in Australia to teach girls how to innovate and commercialise their ideas.
What you will learn in this episode:
• How Mark invented the Doy dog treat toy
• The story behind Girls Invent
• The Girls Invent curriculum and vision for the future
• Mark’s advice for budding inventors
• How Mark helps individuals and companies live On Purpose
How Mark invented the Doy dog treat toy
As is the case for a lot of inventors’ inventions, the Doy dog treat toy came about out of personal necessity. Mark and his family have an active kelpie dog. About 5 years ago, it was home when the family went to work and school, and they began to get a lot of letters of complaint from the neighbours about the barking during the day. Mark was concerned and tried a lot of different products that were on the market, the but the letters kept coming. Knowing his dog was bored, he could see a way to come up with a product that would engage the smart creature in a strategy to feed itself, almost like a game. Mark spent $10 creating a prototype out of a plastic hat, a part from a plumbing pipe and some glue. Low and behold, it worked!
Once he’d proved the concept, Mark began educating himself on the pet industry. He looked at which companies were active, with what products and how his toy was different. He also went to trade shows, spoke to some lawyers and investigated how to progress the idea without spending a lot. Mark applied for a patent and got a professional prototype printed out of a 3D printer, which was much more expensive back then than it is these days. He took the professional prototype and some confidentiality agreements with him to a trade show and met with some companies. Mark has ended up with a licensing agreement, and now has about 6 different pet products in the works, one for cats and one for birds as well.
The story behind Girls Invent
Mark created the company called Girls Invent to encourage girls and women to become inventors. He has a teenage daughter, and has always tried to inspire her to follow her ideas. A few years ago she said, ‘Dad, how come most inventors are men?’ They knew of famous inventors like Mark Zuckerberg, Richard Branson, Thomas Edison, and Bill Gates, who are all big game changers, but where are the women? Mark struggled to give her examples of that same caliber, other than Marie Curie. Together they did some research for female inventors and were blown away by the number of everyday products women had invented that they didn’t know about.
With a background in social work, Mark knew his daughter was asking these questions at a crucial time for considering whether to get into maths and science. He realized other girls might be the same and limiting their horizons accordingly, so he decided to do something about that. Mark got a very positive response from the initial workshops he ran 2 years ago, and since then Girls Invent has grown and is now running workshops in about 150 Australian schools. A lot of people resonated with Mark and his daughter’s story, and could see the same gap. Female investors, past colleagues, and schools spreading the message helped opened doors, and they got a lot of media coverage too.
The Girls Invent curriculum and vision for the future
The core Girls Invent program runs over 6 modules. It is an inventing program with 2 main focuses: creating self-belief in the girls’ ideas and creating an option for self-employment from products and ideas. The 6 modules cover initial idea development and market research, early prototypes and 3D/CAD drawings, design skills, intellectual property and literacy around the legal side of things, as well as going to market. The girls learn about licensing options, self-manufacturing, and developing a business plan, as well as how to pitch, present and promote their product. In 2 years, the program has girls who have pitched their ideas to companies and licensed their products.
Mark wants to make sure that girls everywhere get the opportunity to test out their ideas and see where they can go, and Girls Invent is now moving this into helping young mums who had their education broken because of having a baby. His vision for the company is to take it internationally, and they’re also building an online platform for girls that are not physically able to get to a workshop. They are creating a curriculum that can be embedded in as many education systems as possible.
Mark’s advice for budding inventors
To anyone listening who has an idea for a product, Mark suggests working on it every day. Even if it’s 1 or 2 minutes, you can do something to help the idea take shape, e.g. send an email, do a Google search or write some notes. Inventors also need a certain level of industry literacy, so learn as much as possible. Go to trade shows, reach out to companies, find key distributors and form relationships so you can start to find out the key players are and the right entry point for your idea.
The next step is to make a prototype, and Mark says a professional 3D prototype is a good investment. He also suggests not over-investing in the prototype because companies often value having room for adaptation and modification. Many inventors often forget the most obvious step, which is knowing the market and making sure there is a customer base, so Mark also recommends doing research and testing demand for your product as well.
How Mark helps individuals and companies live On Purpose
Mark has another company called On Purpose, which helps individuals and companies discover what their true purpose is. Given his background creating social enterprises and working in the corporate sector, he knows that sometimes individuals, executives, and companies get distracted from their core purpose by things like quarterly financial targets. He supports individuals and organizations who want to go back to basics and get back to why they do what they do. He’s also done a lot of work supporting men in particular, who often get to a point in midlife where they’ve achieved all the things society says they have to achieve to be successful but are still unhappy. Mark helps men go back to their true purpose and get grounded in what does make them happy.