Like many Kiwi kids, Mark Ballantyne wanted to be an All Black when he grew up. Fast-forward 20 years, the University of Waikato alumnus is living a different dream a world away from hometown Tauranga as he carves out a successful career with a direct sales and marketing start-up in Canada. With standard attire a suit and tie instead of a black jersey, Mark still credits rugby with being the “constant” that’s helped him settle into a new country and make valuable connections in the Vancouver business world.
Born in Hamilton, Mark moved with his family to Taumaranui briefly before settling in Te Puke and, eventually, Tauranga. The youngster took up rugby aged 4 or 5, and went on to join junior club Te Puke Sports. He continued through the school years and played a couple of seasons with Tauranga Boys’ College before switching to league in his teens. He helped set up the U17 team for the Otumoetai Eels who he still plays for when he’s home. He dipped his toes back into Rugby Union when he moved to Canada last year and joined Vancouver club, The Meralomas. It was thanks to a club contact that he got a landscaping job when he first arrived in the country.
But ambitious Mark had bigger goals and wasted no time using his Bachelor of Management Studies (BMS) to land the role of Assistant Manager with Zip Marketing. He oversees a team of 10 with a role encompassing recruitment, training and development of new staff alongside direct sales and promotion for clients like Canadian Tire (Canada’s version of Walmart).
“I’ve been able to talk with guys who started from nothing and are now running huge numbers of sales offices in many different countries. To see what’s possible with a bit of hard work is inspiring.”
Sports mad Mark says he never pictured himself in business or marketing, much less a manager, but now he can’t see himself doing anything else. It’s fair to say since his final year at Tauranga Boys’ College, where he had to choose a fill in class, took Business Enterprise and aced it, Mark’s taken the ball and run with it.
He won an award through the Lion Foundation and was offered a first-year (school leaver) scholarship to study a Diploma of Business at BOP Polytechnic (now Toi Ohomai) eventually pathwaying to the University of Waikato’s BMS, majoring in Marketing and Psychology, at the Tauranga campus.
He loved studying in his hometown, being just a stone’s throw from the beach and enjoying a close bond with lecturers and peers. His advice to youngsters weighing up the options of study and career paths is to embrace the chaos.
“Going through high school and university can be overwhelming with seemingly constant life-changing decisions. Just roll with it. Don’t place too much emphasis on what you think you should be doing but find what you enjoy.”
When Mark spent the last semester of his degree studying at the University of Aalborg in Denmark he discovered travel was what he enjoyed. Travelling alone for the first time took Mark well out of his comfort zone but he developed a passion for it as he got to explore Europe. It fuelled his desire to work abroad and after returning home to graduate, five months later he was off to Canada. Mark’s made a lot of progress quickly, with business trips to Vancouver Island, Toronto, Mexico and New York under his belt already, he’s keen to see what other goals he can smash.
“I started something at Waikato that continued to build momentum and taught me all the skills I need to go out there and make things happen. That’s what I intend to do.”