THE 2011 Brisbane Young Entrepreneur of the Year Awards are a celebration of achievement and this year the finalists were relentless in their pursuit of success.

Murrarie-headquartered global switchgear product exporter NOJA Power Switchgear has showed its Queensland fighting-spirit.

The company’s finance director and founder Quynh Anh Le is the 2011 Brisbane Young Entrepreneur Award winner after setting up an export company that turned over more than $40 million in fiscal 2011 without help from the banks.

“We had to invest our own funds when we started because the bank wouldn’t give us a loan and going through those stages of the business was difficult,” says Anh Le, one of five directors.

“It wasn’t easy to start the business but our focus was always on building quality products and investing in R&D.”

Patience was a virtue that eventually landed NOJA a Federal Government R&D grant worth $750,000.

“(We) matched that with $750,000 of our own funding to conduct the initial research that yielded the products considered leading-edge technology today,” says Anh Le.

The 2011 Highly Commended award went to Phillip Di Bella of Di Bella Coffee. Di Bella, who won the coveted award in 2010, forecasts growth of up to 40 per cent during FY12 as the company continues to expand.

“We moved into the Western Australian market six months ago and internationally, our expansion into China and India is going well,” he says.

“China is full speed ahead with 50 accounts so far and 200 outlets planned to open over the next 12 months. In Mumbai, four shops are currently under construction and we’ve secured a Grand Hyatt trial that will start in December.”

Rapid growth of the company has placed new pressures on recruitment and corporate strategy, but Di Bells will never go down the tube wondering. He has implemented strong reporting structures to resolve what he deemed communication failures with the objective of turning a weakness into a strength.

Top contenders for the Trailblazer award were car rental company founders David and Richard Eastes of Vroomvroomvroom; video game entrepreneur Shainiel Deo from Halfbrick and 99 Bikes’ Matt Turner.

However, the judges were unanimous with NEXTDC founder Bevan Slattery. The entrepreneur sold PIPE Networks for $373 million to TPG Telecom in 2009. He then floated NEXTDC on the ASX during December 2010.

“We formed the company a year ago as a three man start-up and we’ve committed to building five data systems around Australia with an investment of $300 million over the next three years,” says Slattery.

The company listed on the ASX at $1 dollar a share and they’re now (around) $1.70. NEXTDC raised $40 million through an IPO in March and then a further $50 million through an underwritten placement during July.

Slattery says it’s never smooth sailing starting a business but it’s fantastic at the same time because you have no legacy.

Brisbane Business News congratulates this year’s winner, Quynh Anh Le, and all finalists for their tremendous contribution to the city’s bustling business landscape.

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