A young entrepreneur has revealed how he went from sleeping rough to building an award-winning tech business worth millions.
At 17, Harry Sanders was left homeless after his parents separated, sometimes living on the streets of Melbourne alongside heroin addicts, but eight years later, the company he founded as a teenager is now the agency for Australia’s largest SEO.
Mr Sanders’ first night after his family’s upheaval was spent under a bridge in Preston, but he continued to focus on his unlikely dream of building a business, even working on his laptop outside in the dark.
‘It’s intimidating when it gets dark. You can hear noises and it feels like you are constantly on edge,” he told The Project.
‘You wake up every morning tired and groggy. I really don’t want to get up and do anything.
Mr. Sanders now runs his own award-winning SEO agency, which is the largest in Australia.
Sanders had founded his own small tech company as a teenager and never gave up on his unlikely dream.
What are Harry’s tips for success?
1. Sacrifice: Harry was forced to skip college classes and parties with his peers because he dropped out of high school and never went to college, instead jumping into the business world early on.
2. Accept your struggles as your path to success: He now understands that the struggles and adversity he has faced have led him to where he is today.
3. Honesty is always #1: ‘Transparency is our greatest underlying value. Sometimes this means falling on our backs when we make mistakes, but companies respect a company that takes responsibility,” he said.
4. Put it all on the table: Harry’s generosity and willingness to take risks have paid off. Putting everything I have into what I do is what keeps me on top. I never stop giving, and I have been given so much in return,” he said.
5. Never lose sight of how far you’ve come: He never gets too caught up in his success because he has seen the struggle and knows how lucky he is to be so successful today.
During the day, he charged his phone and laptop, used Wi-Fi and made work calls from his local St. Vincent de Paul.
Still, Mr Sanders found himself struggling to get Centrelink benefits and when he did, he ended up in desperate housing.
When he was given government housing, he found himself rooming with people struggling with drug addiction.
Sanders said it was “incredibly difficult” to break into Centrelink, even as a homeless 17-year-old, and he found himself jumping through “a lot of hurdles”.
However, her experiences living on the streets and trusting in Centrelink taught her valuable lessons that she still applies today.
No matter how much shame and exhaustion he endured during his “very bleak situation,” Mr. Sanders persisted.
His daily grind paid off when he finally earned enough from a handful of clients to pay for a room in a share house.
“I remember moving, just walking in and sobbing, like oh my God, I have a room, I can close the door and this is my room.
“That was a life-changing moment.”
Among the strategies she used and still swear by are sleeping eight hours a night, researching her industry, and wearing clothes that reflect her “real” day-to-day life.
Today, Mr. Sanders’s agency, StudioHawk, has three offices: in Prahran in Melbourne, in Surry Hills in Sydney and in Hackney in London.
He owns a property in London and is building his dream home in Melbourne.
StudioHawk is worth over $4 million and has won awards for SEMRush Agency of the Year and Optus Media Marketing & Advertising Business of the Year.
But Sanders, still the youngest person on his team, is far from done.
“My vision is to lead and grow StudioHawk to be the largest dedicated SEO agency in the world, and have a lot of fun doing it,” he says.
That doesn’t mean he’s out to join the billionaire club of superstar tech.
Harry Sanders’ first night after his family split dramatically at age 17 was spent living under this bridge (pictured above) in Melbourne’s Preston. he is now a billionaire
He now owns properties in London and Melbourne and has offices in both cities and in Sydney.
“Unlike Elon, my mission is not to get to Mars,” he said.
‘I just want to leave the world a better place by providing opportunities and education to at-risk youth or others going through difficult difficulties in their lives.’
In addition to StudioHawk, Mr. Sanders works with the homeless youth organization Lighthouse Foundation.
If you are homeless, you can call Link2home 1800 152 152, Domestic Violence Line 1800 656 463, Link2Home Veterans and Ex-Service 1800 326 989 or Child Protection Helpline 13 21 11.