Sunshine Coast businesses win Australia's top awards for SMBs
Two businesses that began their operations from tin sheds on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast and who both now count defence customers among their growing client lists have taken out top honours at the 21st Telstra Australian Business Awards in Sydney tonight.
Warana-based manufacturer of power generation products, ENIQUEST, was named the national winner of the Micro Business Award, while Marcoola-based Becker Helicopter Services Pty Ltd; which is one of the largest helicopter flight training providers in the world, won the national Medium Business Award.
They joined three other businesses as winners of the 2013 Telstra Australian Business Awards, including Tasmanian cheese company, Bruny Island Cheese Co., which was named the Telstra Australian Business of the Year.
ENIQUEST was formed in 2004 by electrical generation expert Don Pulver whose vision was to develop, manufacture and distribute innovative electric power systems that were Australian made at a time when local manufacturing was contracting.
Focused on developing unique and highly innovative products locally, ENIQUEST has expanded from selling spare components for the in-service generators of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) to delivering generation solutions to clients such as the ADF, BHP and Toll Australia.
Mr Pulver, who has grown the business from a solo operation operating from a small shed with a single table and donated computer, attributes ENIQUEST’s success to its commitment to local manufacture and Australian innovation.
“With extensive knowledge of electrical generating products, I had the passion and resources to develop a new range of products that were immune from competition from cheaper overseas manufacturers,” Mr Pulver said.
Fellow Sunshine Coast business, Becker Helicopter Services, was launched as an idea by pilots Mike and Jan Becker in 1995. One year later they had secured the funding, accreditation and a helicopter necessary to offer their first Helicopter Pilot training course.
The husband and wife team were confident that the commitment they had for quality training would position the business for success in an industry that was traditionally run by old tired pilots who had lost their passion for flying. By delivering Advanced Night Vision Goggle training, the business gained an even greater advantage to grow.
With its fleet of 18 helicopters and 70 staff, the company is now an internationally recognised training provider that has major contracts to provide training services to global organisations including Allied Armed Forces and sells training manuals and DVD’s worldwide.
Jan Becker said when the business started there were no innovative, visionary helicopter training companies and she and Mike had a dream to change the face of helicopter pilot training worldwide.
“Our vision is to lead the industry, be the catalyst for innovation in Helicopter Aviation Excellence and pursue the highest International Safety and Training standards by teaching advanced pilot training,” Ms Becker said.
Will Irving, Group Managing Director of Telstra Business and Telstra Business Awards Ambassador, said the 2013 national winners and finalists were even more diverse than recent years, reflecting the weakening of mining-sector driven growth.
“There were more technology-based solutions coming from the finalists this year, more gender diversity in the finalists’ leadership, and a strong focus on substance and sustainability, both economically and in the broader social and environmental sense,” he said. “ENIQUEST and Becker Helicopter Services are both shining examples of the variety of successful small and medium businesses in Australia.
“The judges noted that ENIQUEST was a standout, particularly its commitment to being an Australian manufacturer using local components at a time when local manufacturing is contracting. While succeeding locally, the business also has significant export opportunities as it is creating and manufacturing solutions that nobody else can do.
“The judges were equally impressed by Becker Helicopter Services which, despite some early setbacks, kept the vision alive and now trains armed forces personnel from Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Britain and France on the Sunshine Coast. They have taken their passion for flying and created a truly successful business.”
The winners of the 2013 Telstra Australian Business Awards are:
health.com.au, Melbourne, Victoria
Finding the Australian health insurance offerings too complex, often plagued with asterisks and small print, Andy Sheats launched health.com.au 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 realestate.com.au, 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
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, Qld
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 Telstra Australian Business Awards or to nominate for the 2014 Awards, please visit Telstra Business Awards website.