Student studying service aces New South Wales Business Awards

Media Release, 03 July 2014

A business helping students to instill life-long learning skills was named tonight as the 2014 Telstra New South Wales Business of the Year.

Elevate Education Pty Ltd was launched in 2001 by 21-year-old high school friends, Douglas Barton, Edward Seung and Dorjee Sun, with financial backing limited to their three credit cards.

Today, the business develops and facilitates study skills workshops attended by 175,000 senior students a year, at more than 800 high schools across Australia, South Africa and the United Kingdom.

Mr Barton, chairman of Elevate Education, says it’s the largest provider of study skills seminars in Australia, with 37 per cent of the market. With seminars delivered by presenters with an average age of just 21, he believes its success is based on the young presenters’ credibility and ability to relate to students.

“Our workshops help students to develop effective study and 'learning-to-learn' strategies that engages them in study, helps them to maximise their performance in their final years of high school and develop life-long learning skills,” he said.

“The infrastructure that supports our programs – survey and benchmarking diagnostics and online follow-up – is unique. It ensures that students consistently apply the learning skills so that the seminars are more than a ‘one-off.’

“It took three to four years for us to begin to earn salaries equal to the jobs we had given-up to start the business. But we had a vision for the company, believed in it and persisted,” Mr Barton said.

Elevate Education has also published a book that documents the company's research into the study techniques of the country's top students, ‘Science of Student Success’, that is now used as a recommended text in schools.

In the UK, where it launched in 2011, it runs a social media campaign called #studybuddy, which is an exam preparation support program delivered to students via Twitter.

Two businesses with successful e-commerce models were among the other winners of the Telstra New South Wales Business Awards – Booktopia, Australia’s largest online book retailer that sells one book online every ten seconds, and pet products retailer Pet Circle (formerly Paws for Life), an Alexandria-based start-up launched in 2011.

Bondi Chai, whose owners manage the chai latte business from Port Stephens, took out the Micro Business Award while Byron Bay-based boutique brewers Stone & Wood Brewing Company won the Regional Award.

Will Irving, Telstra Business Group Managing Director and Ambassador for the Telstra Australian Business Awards, said: “All the winners are brilliant and inspirational businesses whose owners are recognised for their professionalism, innovation, leadership and creative use of technology.

“Elevate Education Pty Ltd is a business that was built on an innovative idea and underpinned with really strong values. It is delivering a product that’s valuable, not just to its customers but also to the Australian community.

“Telstra Awards Judges said Elevate Education’s Chairman Douglas Barton has shown determination and persistence in expanding the reach of the business in Australia and overseas. The business inspires him and this rubs off on the other employees,” Mr Irving said.

More than $800,000 in prizes will be shared by winners of the 2014 state, territory and national Telstra Business Awards - a program that has celebrated Australian small and medium businesses since 1992.

Winners of the 2014 Telstra New South Wales Business Awards announced tonight at the Westin Sydney are:

Telstra New South Wales Business of the Year
Elevate Education Pty Ltd, Sydney

Start-Up Award
Pet Circle (formerly Paws for Life), Alexandria

Researching for his business Pet Circle (formerly Paws for Life), Mike Frizell discovered that the pet supplies market was growing year after year without fail. He established trust with suppliers and customers and created a smart logistics chain that was profitable. This year Pet Circle (formerly Paws for Life) will offer nearly 10,000 products. Telstra Awards Judges said extraordinary inventory control and logistics solutions were a key component to the success of the online business. The business was well planned and patiently executed with the owner exploiting a growing industry and attracting significant talent in marketing, management systems and financial control.

Micro Business Award
Bondi Chai, Port Stephens

Martin Buggy and Melissa Edyvean discovered the chai latte phenomenon while visiting New York in 2000. They created their own uniquely milk-soluble pre-mix and launched the award-winning Bondi Chai Latte in 2005. Today it sells in cafes and supermarkets in Australia and is exported to India and many other countries. Outsourced manufacturing, packaging, warehousing and distribution systems are managed from a home office in Port Stephens. Awards Judges said Bondi Chai had excellent numbers, an impressive global strategy and an amazing distribution model. External mentors were important to their success.

Small Business Award
Elevate Education Pty Ltd, Sydney

Medium Business Award
Booktopia, Lidcombe

Booktopia has grown rapidly since its inception in 2004 as a side project for a web marketing consultancy. Today it has 90 employees and ships more than 2.2 million books, ebooks, DVDs, audio books and magazines a year. Booktopia operates in a new 10,000 square metre centre at Lidcombe. Judges said the business features strong personal vision and leadership of its owners, extensive use of technology to drive marketing success, outstanding financial growth and product innovation. Its customer service is a key differentiator and it demonstrates a strong commitment to the community and the book industry.

Regional Award
Stone & Wood Brewing Company, Byron Bay

Stone & Wood Brewing Company was launched in Byron Bay in 2008 to reflect the style of traditional village breweries in a contemporary business model. Every year since they’ve nearly doubled turnover and, in 2014, they added a second, larger brewery in Murwillumbah. Telstra Judges praised the strong management, sound financials, excellent long term planning and sustainability of the business, saying it combined the best from the corporate and small and medium enterprise worlds. In addition, they said the founders had a very strong commitment to the local community.

Winners of the Telstra New South Wales Business Awards progress to the Telstra Australian Business Awards, which will be announced in Melbourne on 7 August. For more information about the Award winners, or to nominate for the 2015 Telstra Australian Business Awards, visit the Telstra Business Awards website.