Top entrepreneurs named

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EY has unveiled the national finalists in its 2016 Entrepreneur of the Year Awards. The finalists will represent their state at the national awards ceremony in October, where they will be in the running to be named 2016 Australian EY Entrepreneur of the Year.

In New South Wales, the following finalists were announced at the Eastern Region awards ceremony in Sydney on 4 August.

  • Richard Favero – Soprano Design. Founded in 1994, the software consulting firm operates across 10 countries, delivering mobile messages between employees and customers. Its clients include Optus, Telstra and Vodafone, as well as major banks. “Richard recognised mobile messaging as one of the fastest growth sectors in technology and capitalised on this early,” the judging panel said. “With a high barrier to entry, a terrific margin and solid governance structure, Richard has positioned the business to blossom and grow globally.”
  • Mike Ford – SiteMinder. The IT company facilitates two-way information flow between hotels and online booking sites via an innovative cloud platform. According to EY, SiteMinder products are used by more than 20,000 properties in more than 160 countries. “Mike’s resilience and entrepreneurial spirit have seen SiteMinder withstand challenge from competition,” the judges said. “With a significant investment in R&D, this new generation product has been reengineered several times with further growth potential.”
  • Robert Kelly – Steadfast. Founded in 1996, the ASX-listed company is one of the largest general insurance broking networks and underwriting agency groups in Australia and New Zealand. “Robert successfully aggregated the business into what he how regards as more of a ‘mutual’ than a network or roll-up,” the judges said. “Robert combined his years of experience in the insurance sector with an innovative approach to brokerage to create value while mitigating risk.”
  • David Vitek and Roby Sharon-Zipser – hipages Group. The online home improvement platform ( connects people on demand with trusted trades and service providers. The free service received more than one million visitors per month, and the company is targeting international growth in the future. “With more than 40,000 tradespeople registered and in excess of 60,000 jobs posted each month, hipages has captured a market opportunity and grown to scale at a phenomenal rate,” the judges noted. “So much so that David and Roby have captured the interest of blue-chip investors such as Newscorp who have a significant stake in this business.”
  • Dr Andrew Walker and Glenn Keys – Aspen Medical Pty Ltd. The Canberra-based company provides high-quality outsourced healthcare in challenging environments, with clients in defence, mining and resources, oil and gas, government and the humanitarian sector. “Aspen is a global business with a noble purpose. It fills a critical role in the delivery of innovate healthcare solutions, while also being sufficiently agile to capitalise on future growth opportunities,” the judges said. “Aspen’s business model ensures that its services are delivered affordably, efficiently and to the highest quality.”
  • Social entrepreneurs – John Bale and Dr Danielle Clout, Soldier On. The organisation supports the physical and mental health of ex-servicemen and women. They currently operate centres in Adelaide, Canberra and Sydney and expect to establish centres in Melbourne and Perth in 2016.

The Queensland winners were named at the Northern Region awards ceremony in Brisbane on 4 August:

  • Deb Farnworth-Wood – Australian Skin Clinics. The cosmetic and aesthetic services business now has 22 franchises across Australia. “When Deb Farnworth-Wood bought the original Australian Skin Clinic (ASC), it was already an established Gold Coast business with a client base of around 12,000,” a statement from EY said. “Deb has transformed ASC into a commercially viable franchise company.”
  • Jordan Grives – Fonebox. Starting the company in 2008 at just 19, Grives created a business that is now leading provider of inbound telecommunication services for businesses, specialising in inbound numbers. Its point of difference is that Fonebox’s reporting platform provides clients with real-time inbound telecommunications data in a en easy-to-understand format to allow clients to optimise marketing spend. “[Jordan’s] ability to carve out a niche in a competitive market is impressive,” the judges said. “His focus on his team culture is reflective with extremely low turnover of staff in his call centres.”
  • Ralf Luna – Universal Communications Group Ltd. The company provides design and construction services to the Australian and New Zealand telecommunication sector. “UCG has developed its own cloud-based IT work management systems, and state-of-the-art survey and design tools,” EY said.
  • Wayne Romer – Deswick Group Pty Ltd. Deswick provides mining platform software that is used by nine of the top 10 global mining companies, as well as consulting and training services. “From innovative truck haulage modelling to integrated mine planning applications, Deswik’s products result in unmatched accuracy and substantial time and financial savings for clients,” EY said. “The software is now used in more than 150 mine sites across more than 50 countries.”
  • Adrian Rosato – Raw Group Management Pty Ltd. A multi-brand hospitality company that operates restaurants, bars, pubs, taverns and bottle shops, it also provides retail and licensing consulting, and full services management for retail businesses. “rawGROUP’s innovative models for business start-up capital include supplier fit-out funding and staff profit participation,” EY said. “Adrian plans to grow his stable of brands and expand geographically.”
  • Roy Wilson – NuGrow Pty Ltd. This environmentally-minded company specialises in organic and inorganic waste recycling; and composting, soil conditioner and potting mix manufacturing, with four facilities across Queensland. “Roy is currently constructing what will be the largest waste management facility in the world,” EY said.
  • Social entrepreneurs - Denise and Bruce Morcombe, Daniel Morcombe Foundation. The social organisation assists school and parents in educating children about their personal safety, and was founded in 2005 – two years after the disappearance of their son. “Its work includes funding the development of education resources and providing financial assistance for young victims of crime,” EY said.

The South Australian winners were named at the Central Region awards ceremony in Adelaide on 11 August:

  • Ray Dennis – Lightforce Australia. A specialist manufacturer and exporter of high performance and durable lighting systems, and the first lighting company to patent polycarbonate driving lights. “Under Ray’s leadership, the company’s innovation, agility and unwavering commitment to quality and high performance, together with their ongoing focus on research and development, has enabled Lightforce to open up new markets and export their products to more than 50 countries world-wide,” the judges said.
  • Chester Osborn – d’Arenberg Wines Pty Ltd. A fourth-generation winery that exports to 90 countries and produces premium bottled wines. “Chester’s passion, fresh ideas and innovative approach, has seen the company grow both in size and reputation since Chester took over as chief winemaker in 1983,” the judges said.
  • Tom Skipper and Stuart Duckworth – The Social Creative Pty Ltd. The hospitality offering focuses on major events, temporary pop-ups, fixed venue start-ups and consultancy. “Stuart and Tom balance their innovative ideas with a professional approach to risk, partnerships and capital raising, ensuring the flexibility to evolve their business model,” the judges said. “[They] are a great emerging success story.”
  • Nikki Heywood-Smith- W&L Aged Care Services. The company is an allied health services provider, online learning supplier and consultancy service. “There is a strong emphasis on educating nurses, carers and family members to improve clients’ quality of life, and W&L Learning offers an exclusive library of online training material,” EY said.
  • Social entrepreneur – Ian Steel, Kickstart for Kids. The organisation’s 500 volunteers deliver 40,000 breakfasts to more than 250 schools, and offer mentoring for underprivileged children.

The Victorian winners were named at the Southern Region awards ceremony in Melbourne on 24 August:

  • Jeffery Cheetham OAM – SDI Limited. The ASX-listed company develops, manufactures and markets specialist restorative materials for dentists, and distributes to more than 100 countries. According to the judges, it is a tremendous global and sustainably competitive business, and has a clear family succession plan.
  • Tim Gurner - GURNER™. Gurner is a residential property develop that uses a targeted land acquisition strategy. “GURNER™ now has a pipeline of more than 4,500 apartments worth over $2.5billion under development in Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney and Geelong,” EY said.
  • John Humble – BWX Limited. A vertically integrated body, hair and skin care company that owns, produces and distributes under the Sukin, DermaSukin, Uspa, Edward Beale and Renew Skincare brands. “R&D remains a constant focus, with in-house new product development capabilities allowing BWX to respond swiftly to new trends and opportunities,” EY said.
  • Grant Petty – Blackmagic Design Pty Ltd. The company develops and manufactures creative video technology products for feature film, post production and television broadcast industries worldwide, for clients including Hollywood studios and independent filmmakers. “Grant is a true Australian success story, infiltrating Hollywood with absolute product excellence,” the judges said. “Blackmagic Design has become an innovative global leader with product being the main driver.”
  • Radek Sali – Swisse Wellness Pty Ltd. Swisse sells 260 products including dietary supplements, nutritional food and skin care cosmetics, available in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and the UK, with plans to expand into 30 countries over the next five years. “Radek has made vitamins sexy, bringing the Hollywood to health,” the judges said. “He showed resilience with the challenges faced in the US yet managed to transform Swisse and lead it to great success in China.”
  • Scott Stavretis – Acquire BPO Pty Ltd. The business helped transform traditional call centre and telemarketing services and today offers a range of services to clients globally including customer service, sales, technical support, network operations, back office functions, software development, marketing and animation. “[Scott] picked up on a global emerging trend using VR technology to support businesses and has achieved strong growth to support international expansion, with a strong customer focus.”
  • Social entrepreneur – Bec Scott, STREAT. The social enterprise provides life-skills, support, work experience and training to disadvantaged and homeless people aged 16-25. “Since starting its first street food cart in Melbourne in 2010, the organisation has grown to be running cafes, a coffee roastery, a catering company and shortly an artisan bakery,” EY notes.

The Western Australian winners were named at the Western Region awards ceremony in Perth on 25 August:

  • Grant and Sharon Grosser – SEQTA Software. The company provides interactive software application that enables teachers to complete all their administration in a virtual learning environment, with automated data flow and efficient data entry.
    The company has 75 staff and 430 clients across Australia and Asia. It has recently opened an office in Singapore,” EY said.
  • Dr Matthew Lamont – DownUnder GeoSolutions. Founded in 2003, the geophysics service company provides high-tech geophysical services to explore and develop oil and gas resources. It has six offices across the globe with more than 200 employees. “Driven by some of the largest computer powers in the world, coupled with a focus on new approaches and R&D, [Matt] has positioned the company onto the world stage,” the judges said.
  • Andrew Ryan – InSite Commercial Interiors. The company provides interior design and planning services, construction works and turnkey fitouts. “InSite also partners in the property sector to refurbish and carry out base build upgrades,” EY said. “InSite’s innovative ‘total project solution’ delivers projects in a shorter time-frame at a competitive cost per square meter.”
  • Tony Smith and Andrew Young – Plum Grove Pty Ltd. The grain accumulation and export business operates in all Australian grain-exporting states, with a team of 71 people and an annual turnover of almost $600 million. “Plum Grove operates a successful investment model combining local expertise with Asian food demand. Their mantra is ‘Listen Global, Act Local’,” EY said.
  • Social entrepreneur – Dr David Joske, SolarisCare Foundation. The community-based social enterprise offers support, education and complementary therapies to cancer patients and their families, and is staffed by 300 volunteers across four centres. “David’s vision is to open more centres in Western Australia and potentially the eastern states,” EY said.

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