International spa product supplier named Australia's best regional business

Media Release, 23 August 2013

A Blue Mountains ethical spa product supplier which has demonstrated that sustainability brings not only environmental rewards but financial ones as well, has taken out one of the top honours at the 21st Telstra Australian Business Awards in Sydney tonight.

With a passion for building a business that treads lightly on the environment, husband and wife team Naomi and Paul Whitfeld launched iKOU from their kitchen in 2008 – and in five short years has won the 2013 Telstra Regional Business Award.

Tasmanian artisan cheesemaker Bruny Island Cheese Co. was named the 2013 Telstra Australian Business of the Year.

iKOU’s products, including a skin care range, candles, bath salts and organic herbal teas, are handmade using natural Australian ingredients, with the manufacturing process offset by solar and wind power. Its packaging incorporates eco-friendly materials such as bamboo engraved branding tags.

Co-owner Naomi Whitfield, said iKOU was established with a focus to be environmentally aware and socially responsible.

“As global travelers we are aware of the impact a business can have, for good or for bad, on people, animals and the planet – we wanted to create one that benefitted all,” Ms Whitfeld said.

Featuring a 500-strong product line, iKOU is now selling internationally, supplying world-leading hotels and spas including The Park Hyatt, Emirates and Six Senses Luxury Resorts which operate throughout Asia. iKOU has also launched retail stores and one of Australia’s first eco day spas.

“The iKOU business model for potential growth isn’t limited. iKOU is ethical in all areas of sourcing and production and our business improves the lives of others,” Ms Whitfeld said.

Will Irving, Group Managing Director of Telstra Business and Telstra Business Awards Ambassador, said the 2013 national winners and finalists showed more diversity than last year, reflecting a move away from the mining sector.

“There were more technology-based solutions coming from the businesses this year, as well as much more gender diversity in ownership, and a solid focus on substance and sustainability, both economically and in the broader social and environmental sense,” he said.

Mr Irving said the judges were impressed by iKOU's clear vision from the outset to create a profitable ethical business and its tight financial management.

“iKOU has displayed its passion to build a profitable yet ethical business and has been astute by mitigating their risks through diversifying from retail into premium hotels.”

The winners of the 2013 Telstra Australian Business Awards are:

Start-Up Award, Melbourne, Victoria
Finding the Australian health insurance offerings too complex, often plagued with asterisks and small print, Andy Sheats launched with the vision of reinventing health insurance for younger, healthier Australians who want to interact online. Drawing on his online experience from his role at, Andy and his team of insurance and digital experts set about designing hassle-free policies that were easy to buy, understand and use and accessible at all hours. Judges said the company was the epitome of a first-class start-up, based around an effective web-based business model that offered a simple product.

Micro Business Award

ENIQUEST, Warana, Queensland
Starting with little funding and operating from a small tin-shed, Don Pulver has built ENIQUEST into a successful Australian manufacturer of power generation products. The business, which develops unique and highly innovative products that are immune to overseas competition, has grown from humble beginnings to winning contracts with some of Australia’s largest organisations including the Australian Defence Force, BHP and Toll Australia. Judges said the company started operating in Australia when local manufacturing was contracting and the company now has significant export opportunites.

Small Business Award

Bruny Island Cheese Co., Bruny Island, Tasmania
A 10-year odyssey through France, Italy, Spain and Australia to fulfill his obsession with artisan cheesemaking led Nick Haddow to Bruny Island to establish his own specialist cheese and agri-tourism business. Bruny Island Cheese Co., which uses traditional techniques to make its range of cheeses, has grown through using direct marketing channels such as email and social media and its own cellar door retail outlet. Judges said they were impressed by its innovative business model – artisan traditions using local produce, manual techniques and craftsmen combined with latest technology in packaging, marketing and sales.

Medium Business Award

Becker Helicopter Services Pty Ltd, Marcoola, Queensland
Starting from a rundown tin shed, Mike and Jan Becker launched Becker Helicopter Services in 1995 in Noosa and its academy is now internationally recognised, attracting both civilian and military personnel, employing 70 people and operating 18 helicopters. Being the first civilian helicopter training academy to offer Advanced Night Vision Goggles training, which had previously been the domain of military aviators, has been critical to securing multi-million dollar international contracts. Judges said that with seven centres across the Sunshine Coast, the husband and wife team had displayed a tremendous passion for flying which had evolved into a company that specialised in training allied forces and night vision goggle flying.

Regional Award

iKOU, Blue Mountains, New South Wales
iKOU founders, husband and wife team Naomi and Paul Whitfeld, were stunned when a national retailer ordered 1.5 tonnes of their bath salts only weeks after they launched their wholesale spa product range in 2008. Today, their 500-strong product line featuring natural home grown skin care and body products, candles and organic herbal teas can be found in world-leading hotels and spas including Six Senses Luxury Resorts which operates throughout Asia. Judges said the company had displayed a very clear and focused vision from the outset and a passion for a profitable yet ethical business approach. It had been astute by mitigating its risks through diversifying from retail into premium hotels.

Telstra Australian Business of the Year

Bruny Island Cheese Co., Bruny Island, Tasmania

For more information about the Award winners or to nominate for the 2013 Telstra Australian Business Awards, visit the Telstra Business Awards website.