Sellmark founder learns to pivot to stay successful

February 22, 2023
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James Sellers visits one of his favorite spots in Mansfield. (Photo by Bobby Quinten)

By Bobby Quinten

Mansfield Record

When asked about his favorite spot in Mansfield, Sellmark Corporation Founder and CEO James Sellers responded with three options.  All three restaurants are near Methodist Mansfield Medical Center.  

“My wife Mirna is giving birth any day now, so I need to stay close,”  he explained.

Mirna and James shared beef vermicelli bowls, chicken spring rolls, and hot tea at Pho Palace 2 in the Kroger shopping center on East Broad Street.

By his own account, James Sellers grew up a “curious and interested” young man.

“I loved taking things apart and putting them back together,” he recalled.

He particularly developed a fascination for high-tech gadgets connected to the military, law enforcement and national defense.

Originally from Kalamazoo, Mich., Sellers graduated from Plano High School. The CEO then earned his bachelor of arts degree from Southern Methodist University in 1995. He majored in pre-law with emphases in history and political science.

“I considered law school for a while, but in my mind with a law degree I could become either a lawyer or a politician.  Neither career really appealed to me,” Sellers recalled.

Sellers earned his MBA from the University of Texas at Arlington in 1998.  As he worked various jobs during this period, Sellers discovered a problem found in many businesses.

“Too often in businesses, sales and marketing do not coordinate together well, if at all,” Sellers said. “I thought I could provide a full-scale marketing entity that also could organize, plan and train a sales force for clients.”

James Sellers founded Sellmark as a brand-building sales consulting firm in 2000. Much of Sellers’ inspiration came from his father, an advertising man.  

“After all, our family name is Sellers!” he laughed.  “Like my dad, I enjoy bringing ideas to the marketplace.”

Sellmark contracted with domestic and international clients to market and sell businesses’ products. The global economic downturn after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks set the fledgling business back.  Sellers admitted not receiving his first full Sellmark paycheck until 2007.

As Sellmark slowly grew, Sellers established a corporate headquarters in Mansfield in 2003-2004.  

“Back then, I thought that Mansfield was a great place to build a business,” he explained.  “It had plenty of amenities and a lot less traffic than other areas.  The city had great parks and great schools. All of that is still true today.”

In 2007, after years of helping others build their brands, Sellmark pivoted.

“I returned to my original vision of Sellmark selling and marketing its own brands,” he said.  “We identify a need. Develop a brand. Take it to the marketplace. It was a watershed moment for us.”

Sellers found his company’s niche outdoors. In addition to giving his son a passion for sales and marketing, the elder Sellers also instilled in James a love for nature.  

“Dad was a naturalist,” Sellers said. “He would take me on hikes in the woods, where he taught me to be more deliberate about nature and the outdoors.”

The child who loved being outdoors and tinkered with gadgets wanted to enhance the enjoyment of nature for people of all ages. Sellmark began designing and manufacturing optics accessories for firearms popular among hunters.

“By nature, we are hunters,” Sellers explained. “So, our products enhance the experience of being human.”

Their Sightmark brand includes rifle scopes and night vision accessories.  An additional Firefield brand markets optics accessories to younger generations. Sellmark also markets to active and retired military and law enforcement individuals. In 2009, Sellmark established a strategic partnership with European optics brand Pulsar for North American distribution.

Today, Sellmark Corporation employs 115 people at its Mansfield headquarters on Heritage Parkway.  In 2017, Sellmark established a sales and distribution office in Sofia, Bulgaria, with 27 employees to service its expanding European clientele. After acquiring a lighting systems company in 2022, an additional 30 employees work in North Kingstown, R.I.  

Sellmark declares on its website the organization holds to eight corporate values. The company’s founder said his philosophy of leadership starts right there.  

“You must follow yourself those values that you claim to stand behind,” Sellers declared.  He particularly emphasized ethics, hard work and continuous learning in our conversation.”

Sellers continued, “It is my job to provide positive leadership.  That helps the team stay the course until you achieve your goal.  Communicate to your team what success looks like.  Help your team reach its potential, then push them to achieve.”

Sellers called management and peer-to-peer leadership “the biggest magnifier” for Sellmark’s success. He is a serious believer in learning and development for both existing and potential leaders.

“As a leader, you must know your own strengths and weaknesses, as well as those of your teams and your systems. Develop your talent and systems accordingly if you want to go to the marketplace successfully,” Sellers explained.

Sellers believes those principles moved Sellmark successfully through the coronavirus pandemic.  Now he seeks to take Sellmark “truly global” in the future. Currently, Sellmark’s brands and products are found in more than 50 countries.

“Businesses who want a global reach must do a better job of understanding other countries and their cultures.  Frankly, we see opportunities that others do not see,” Sellers said. “We are able to stay 20 steps ahead of our competitors.”  

He particularly sees global opportunity in marketing Sellmark brands and products to defense and law enforcement entities worldwide.

While the CEO wants to lead the marketplace in all key industry categories, Sellers said Sellmark is laying the foundation for an even more ambitious goal.

“I want our brands to be household names,” he said, adding “It is about winning. It is about everyone reaching their potential and being successful.”

Despite Sellmark’s success, Sellers believes his greatest personal achievement is meeting and marrying Mirna.  Dr. Mirna Masri Sellers is a chiropractor and the owner of Get Wellness in Mansfield.

The couple attributes their successful relationship to “a focus on being friends first.” They married in February 2020, shortly after they both recovered fully from COVID-19 contracted during a January business trip.

(For the record, Dr. Masri gave birth on Valentine’s Day to their daughter Sofia, five days after the lunch at Pho Palace 2.)

Recently James and Mirna Sellers created a foundation and acquired 6,700 acres in Freestone County for preservation and education.

“If the pandemic taught us anything, it taught you to pivot and focus on things that outlast you,” James said.  “It is not all about zeroes in a bank account.”

The Sellers want a place where children and families can learn about nature and the outdoors life in a safe and creative environment.  In effect, James Sellers someday will market Mother Nature.

When asked what he would change if he could change one thing in his journey, Sellmark Founder and CEO James Sellers said, “The things that I would want to change are things that I cannot control. So, I just try to learn from those things and move on.”

Then he added, “I do wish I was a better writer.”

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