2023 Australia's Top 100 Young Entrepreneurs 31-40

2023 Australia's Top 100 Young Entrepreneurs 31-40

31. Bridgett Roccisano (31) and Bianca Roccisano (37)

Booby Tape International, Bianca & Bridgett

Melbourne

Since starting their eponymous fashion label in 2017, sisters Bianca & Bridgett have taken the world by storm via their second venture: breast care company Booby Tape.

Available in more than 40 countries and stocked in the likes of Woolworths (ASX: WOW), Coles (ASX: COL) and Chemist Warehouse, the pair have been aggressively targeting untapped markets abroad.

“We’ve been doing a lot of trade fairs and a lot of traveling. We’ve been in Bologna at Cosmoprof - which is the most exclusive and reputable trade fair in the world,” says Bianca.

“Now that we've done America, we're really going to heavily delve into Mexico, South America, Latin America and Canada in a big way.”

“We’ve signed a major distribution deal in Germany. Australia is essentially complete for us. We’re busy finalising and getting distribution deals throughout the rest of the world.”

To complement their famous breast tape, the company also released a body bronzer in partnership with US influencer Stassie Karanikolaou – who is best friends with billionaire Kylie Jenner – six months ago.

It builds on Booby Tape’s pivot towards building a breast care skin line, which was launched in response to COVID-19 knocking back all social events and late-night outings.

Products include a vegan and cruelty-free breast firming lotion, as well as pink clay breast mask and Himalayan salt scrub.

As for the sisters’ minimalist fashion label?

“That’s doubled as well. We're employing more staff and we've got more styles than ever.”

Michael Ramsey

32. Michael Ramsey (34)

Strong Pilates

Melbourne

When Michael Ramsey and Mark Armstrong sold six F45 franchises between them, they had both a cash boost and the awareness that change was afoot in the fitness landscape.

“I saw a very clear shift in the market. Pilates has been blowing up the last few years between Australia, the UK and Canada, and I think that high intensity [like F45] space was getting saturated, particularly when I was exiting F45,” says Ramsey.

The entrepreneurs knew that if they were to succeed in the fitness business again, they would have to find something unique. The answer lay in a ‘Rowformer’ machine that was being used on a very small scale in a US studio.

“We effectively went across to the US, negotiated the exclusive rights on the Rowformer – we’ve used their engineering and turned it into a franchisable model,” Ramsey explains.

In 2019 they founded STRONG Pilates in Melbourne – in retrospect not the easiest city to launch an in-person fitness empire during a lockdown-ridden pandemic, but over the course of the last few years the company was able to expand into less affected areas such as Adelaide, Queensland, Hobart and New Zealand.

“Where we differ from Pilates is we are able to achieve a huge calorie burn - we’re really quite untraditional with our Pilates so we really do focus on heavy strength training; we’ll work on progressive overload,” he says.

“We probably sit halfway between the group strength and conditioning session and a Pilates session, so we don’t have much competition.”

With 23 operating sites across two countries, each with 15-20 Rowformer beds, the business is now also set to launch in the UK this month, with backing from Unlockd founder Matt Berriman.

In March STRONG is set to launch the first operation in Singapore where 11 sites are confirmed for opening over the next three years. The first site in the US has been identified for Jacksonville, Florida with an expected opening in the second quarter, and a master franchise has been sold in Canada which is on track for a launch mid-2023.

By May 2023 the co-founders expect STRONG Pilates will have doubled its footprint since December 2022, with a total of 100 confirmed sites in the offing in total.

Neolink founders

33. Christopher Makhoul (34) and Sean Crook (35)

Neolink

Sydney

From an idea that began at a barbecue between two school friends, freight forwarding company Neolink has become one of the fastest-growing companies in Australia through a potent mix of talent development and sourcing best-of-breed software from around the globe.

At a time when supply chain challenges have been top of mind, Christopher Makhoul and Sean Crook have thrived in a market that is hungry for efficiency and time savings as well as better customer service.

Founded in 2016, Neolink’s single-point-of-contact model has resonated with customers including large ASX-listed companies, while the way it has set up automated processes, GPS tracking and other tech has allowed for more effective communication with suppliers abroad.

Not only do the pair’s warehouse tracking systems provide helpful forward-looking outlooks for ordering based on inventory depletion or build-up, but a proactive communication approach with factories abroad has allowed Neolink to pre-book space on vessels with more anticipation versus the last-minute call-ups that are so common in the shipping industry.

The company caters to ocean and sea freight, offering comprehensive services from supply chain management to customs clearance and transport to and from more than 800 cities worldwide, supporting more than 600 customers in Australia.

All this has been achieved without needing to look externally for capital.

“We liked the fact that we just answer to really ourselves. It’s not saying that we won’t do that in the future, but we love answering to ourselves,” Crook says.

“I think now we’re reaping the rewards of that. We’re not thinking about the next raise - we're just focusing purely on what has made the business good to this point but also what we’re going to do into the future.

“We’re not burning cash, we know what we’re good at – we are not a technology business, and we’re very clear on that even directly with our customers. The people element of that is so critical.”

Byron Van Gisborne

34. Byron Van Gisborne (37)

Zonda Group (formerly Career Building)

Gold Coast

When Byron Van Gisborne first started Zonda Group (formerly known as Career Building) in 2018, he had no clue how different the business would be in just two years’ time.

Founded as a recruitment company for the construction sector, the startup was forced to pivot when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and jobs in the construction sector all but dried up - a time the entrepreneur described as ‘quite scary’.

This sink or swim moment saw Van Gisborne tactically shift the business’ mandate towards supplying staff into the healthcare space to help run COVID-19 testing facilities and the national vaccination program.

As such, in the two years from 2020 to 2022, the founder claims to have 11x’d his bottom line and grown his back-end team from four to 44.

“Recruitment is recruitment, but we took a lot from our experience in construction which is quite a cut-throat sector. It’s fast-paced, highly competitive and extremely results driven,” the founder says.

“Funnily enough, medical isn’t - it’s a little bit slow moving. That was actually a benefit because we were so used to being in such a brutal industry.

“Our service delivery was so quick and it came as quite a surprise to all of the healthcare providers who were used to other recruitment agencies going ‘yeah, ok, I’ll just fill whatever jobs I want - who cares?’.”

Based on the Gold Coast, Zonda Group also has additional offices in Melbourne, Townsville and Sydney now, all three of which will support the founder’s future plans.

In 2023, Van Gisborne sees room for expansion knowing that he has a knack at finding talented people. As such, the company sees gaps to be filled in the aged care and NDIS spaces where care quality can be improved by top-notch staff. This project will be helmed by a new NDIS-focused entity called Zonda Care, which has already put 65 people to work in the sector.

According to the founder, the company - via subsidiary Zonda People - is currently supplying more than 250 staff nationwide to aged care homes managing COVID-19 outbreaks and is supplying understaffed hospitals in Victoria, New South Wales and QLD with workers.

“Having personally seen the aged care crisis, I am highly passionate about putting my foot down, rolling up my sleeves and doing something to make a positive difference to our ageing populations, maybe it’s because I grew up with my grandparents and was taught to respect my elders, call me old fashioned,” the founder says.

“We have an opportunity to really make a difference to a sector in demand.”

Jack Petersen

35. Jack Petersen (32)

InVista Group Australia, InVista Global, InVista Global Dubai

Sydney

When Jack Petersen started out as an electrical apprentice in 2008, the interest he quickly developed in audiovisual (AV) projects set the vibrations in motion for a business that is now working on high-level AV integrations for schools, hotels, large companies and food chains.

“InVista was born as a unique, boutique company which would handle bespoke projects between $5,000 and $50,000,” he says.

“Since then, InVista has grown exponentially, housing over 30 staff nationally, completing some of Australia's most complex and unique projects on a much larger scale.”

In 2022, a decade on from when InVista Group was founded, the family company came into its own having benefited from the upgrades undertaken in videoconferencing during the pandemic, almost doubling revenue annually yet again.

“We’ve always done a lot of education work. We created the standards for hearing augmentation, and since then we’ve been pushed into the next level of brand-new builds,” Petersen explains.

“We were awarded the Green Square Public School, which is the new one in Alexandria - a three-storey mega school basically, a school of the future with zero emissions.

“Securing projects like that has helped us break into a lot of tier 1-style builds, whereas before we were doing a lot of tier 3 and tier 1, rubbing on the edge of tier 1.”

He says relationships with builders such as ADCO, Hutchinson Builders, Lendlease (ASX: LLC) and Mirvac (ASX: MGR) have helped the business to grow significantly as a whole, while work with a dangerous goods logistics company helped InVista dip its toes into an international expansion.

“We partnered with a logistics company here in Australia that’s got 140 sites, and they’ve got a large presence in New Zealand,” he says.

“They need high-calibre work such as high-end boardroom solutions. We had to have phone blockers in the room because some very secretive content is shared.

“It wasn’t our plan to go into New Zealand directly. It’s not a massive market and we don’t have feet on the ground there all the time, but this has given us the opportunity; we are using contractors there but we fly our project managers over there to manage projects.”

However, this is just the tip of the iceberg of InVista’s global ambitions. In November 2022 the group made a soft launch with InVista Global Dubai as a joint venture between the company and Trademark Group founder Sam Jamsheedi.

Whilst that business is based in the UAE, the plan is to bring over the AV expertise and business model developed in Australia and seek out a slice of the numerous transformational projects in the pipeline in other parts of the Middle East, such as Saudi Arabia.

“I think this will turn my business upside down. I think that’ll be ten-fold what InVista Australia is.”

Amber founders Chris Thompson and Dan Adams

36. Chris Thompson (33) and Dan Adams (35)

Amber

Melbourne

Electricity retailer Amber was founded on the principal of helping Australia transition to renewable energy.

Its target of 100 per cent renewable energy might be ambitious, but that’s why founders Chris Thompson and Dan Adams decided the way forward when they established the business in 2017 was to ‘do energy differently’.

The company’s goal is to empower consumers to use energy when there are more renewables in the grid, and let solar, battery and EV owners get more value from putting green energy back into the grid as well. It does that by offering customers access to real-time wholesale prices.

Sydney-based Amber bolstered its suite of tools in December with the $9.5 million acquisition of Melbourne’s Powerpal app and monitoring device, which is used by 200,000 homes to manage their energy consumption.

The acquisition came on the heels of banking $13.5 million in extra funding following a Series B Extension that added NRMA to its investor line-up which already included Square Peg and Commonwealth Bank of Australia (ASX: CBA).

The funds will be used by Amber to develop its solar battery and EV automation software, SmartShift, which enables customers to earn more from their solar batteries and EVs in the energy market.

The company also plans to make it easy for EV owners to charge from renewables, with plans to launch its Amber for EVs product this year.

Among the key initiatives launched by Amber in 2022 was the Amber for Batteries technology, which helps solar and battery customers automate their batteries to charge when energy is the cheapest - through renewables - and then sell to the grid when energy is most expensive. Amber says the technology helps its customers compete with big coal and gas generators in the energy market.

In June last year, Amber launched its #GridSeekingBatteries campaign to help connect the 150,000 batteries in Australian homes to export power to the electricity grid at a time when it was under strain due to the energy crisis.

Amber has grown from 17 employees this time last year to 52 employees at the end of 2022. The company has already started 2023 with 69 employees following a recruitment campaign, which brings its workforce to 113 including the 44 Powerpal employees.

Fergus Creese

37. Fergus Creese (32)

My Careers, Go Girls Foundation

Melbourne

High school is hard enough without the pressure of having to pick a career path well before one is even allowed to vote.

So we’re sure students nationwide would sing praises of Fergus Creese’s innovative career planning platform My Careers, which takes into account users’ interests, personality, skills and subjects to paint a picture of what jobs might be best suited for them. 

Founded in Melbourne in 2018, My Careers is now being used not just by Australian students, but young people around the world as it makes inroads into New Zealand and the US. The UK and Canada are not far behind either as the company develops the platform for a more ambitious international launch.

Expansion could prove a boon for My Careers too; though he’s captured a large slice of the 9,500 schools in Australia, the market size pales in comparison to the more than 40,000 senior schools in the US.

While initially designed with high school students in mind, Creese recognises there’s an untapped market in adults looking to change careers, re-skill or up-skill.

“What we’re really trying to do is create a global platform, so no matter where you are in the world you can figure out what other education options there are in which country or state that you’re looking at visiting,” Creese says.

“The main thing we’re doing is to make the platform accessible to all users from students right through to adults, to solve the national skills gaps shortages across Australia.”

Carl Hartmann

38. Carl Hartmann (39)

Lyre’s, Compono

Sydney, Brisbane

Having trouble recruiting staff with the right fit for your fulfilment software scale-up in the expensive high-end labour market of San Francisco? One solution here would be to hone that craft, find success and perhaps once you’ve sold that business to a French multinational, take those learnings and co-found a recruit-tech business in Brisbane.

But why stop there? Like the first business, this new venture could involve a fair share of international travel and boozy corporate meetings. That alcohol is taking a toll on your body, and you wonder whether others feel the same.

Turns out they do, so you take matters into your own hands and co-found a non-alcoholic spirits company. Within a few years your product is not just in Dan Murphy’s but “more countries than Tim-Tams”.

This oversimplified tale of Carl Hartmann’s business journey since 2009 shows just how prolific an entrepreneur he is: founder of Temando which was sold to Neopost in 2017 after the multinational took a majority stake for $50 million two years prior; co-founder of data-driven recruitment platform Compono since 2017 with Rudy Crous; and co-founder of Lyre’s since 2019 with Mark Livings. 

Hartmann says Compono finds itself in “the right place at the right time” as a Software as a Service (SaaS) business that help businesses recruit, train and maintain their employees through intelligent solutions based on data, science and technology.

“You’ve got two trends at the moment – companies just trying to find people in general, and post-COVID you don’t have to find somebody who’s 5km down the road. It doesn’t matter where they are anymore,” Hartmann explains.

“You’re seeing all these tech companies that are just laying off huge amounts of staff, but what they’re also doing is looking to replace them overseas - if you want to have a profitable company, it’s very difficult to do with high-end labour.”

At Temando the entrepreneur had learned first-hand that amazing CVs didn’t always match with the requirements of a business depending on its stage in the journey, prompting a rethink in the approach to recruitment that also took into account preferred work behaviours, values and working style.

“The missing link was how to make finding the right talent scalable and repeatable for any hiring manager,” he says, noting the platform integrates with 1,500 job boards across 110 countries.

Hartmann believes using Compono has contributed to the success of Lyre’s, his most recent venture which is growing rapidly and occupies most of his time from his remote working base on the Sunshine Coast.

As a post-exit founder, he had the emotional intelligence to step aside from the day-to-day running of Compono thanks to the appointment in April last year of former Xero (ASX: XRO) exec Trent Innes as CEO.

Named after the Australian lyrebird, Lyre’s is on a mission to have its bottles behind every bar in the world and is already in more than 70 countries with its products including non-alc negronis, martinis, margaritas, absinthes, amaretti and more.

“Lyre's exists to change how the world drinks. We've painstakingly recreated all the major spirits, in a non-alcoholic format to allow consumers all around the world to enjoy their favourite drinks in a low or no alcohol format,” he says.

“Currently Lyre's is number one globally by every metric in the non-alcoholic spirit category.

“On the capital front, we've attracted over $80 million in venture capital with our last round being valued at over $500 million, making us the best funded and most valuable brand in the fast-growing non-alcoholic space globally.”

Sidekicker founders Jacqueline Bull and Thomas Amos

39. Jacqueline Bull (33) Thomas Amos (36) 

Sidekicker

Melbourne

As the unceasing quest for more talent escalates amidst staff shortages, businesses around the country have been increasingly turning to a casual staffing platform that has been in the game for more than a decade.

Founded by Thomas Amos and Jacqueline Bull in 2012, Sidekicker saw its number of casuals - known as ‘Sidekicks’ – increase by 150 per cent to 25,000 last year, securing work across seven industries including events and exhibitions, aged care, warehousing and logistics, and business support.

It is an offering that provides flexibility to the Sidekicks themselves, while a two-way rating and review system incentivises accountability and reliability for all parties involved.

“We also have more than 20,000 fully vetted and ready to work candidates in our platform each month, a 53 per cent increase from mid-2022,” the founders wrote in a statement.

The registry of unique business users rose by a quarter in that same period to reach 3,000, hailing from companies such as Ticketek, Youfoodz, Crown Resorts and the Brisbane Racing Club, among others.

With 142 of its permanent staff across offices in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, Auckland and Wellington, Sidekicker expanded its geographical footprint in 2022. This was bolstered as well by $20 million funding from SEEK Investments, which also went towards upgrading the platform.

“We expanded our services into four new cities. We launched hospitality on the Gold Coast, launched our aged care offering in Victoria and opened up our services in Wellington and Christchurch in New Zealand,” the founders said.

“We won major clients including being added to the panel for The Victorian Government Staffing Services Tender. We delivered thousands of staff over the year for major events including the Royal Melbourne Show, Sydney Easter Show, The Gold Coast SuperCars, and the Grand Prix.”

In 2023 Sidekicker will be focused on building its business in South Australia within the hospitality segment, and launching its aged care industry services in NSW as well as increasing the role types provided for aged care customers.

Jack Delosa

40. Jack Delosa (35)

The Entourage

Sydney

Renowned for his company’s business coaching, events and community building, Jack Delosa is only in his mid-30s but has already left an enduring legacy that has propelled numerous Australian entrepreneurs to greatness.

Founded in 2010, The Entourage is Australia’s largest business coaching provider to SMEs with a combined audience of 850,000 high-growth businesses, as well as 500 SME clients that have gone through its programs Accelerate and Elevate, with a cumulative annual revenue of $800 million.

In the words of the Roman philosopher Seneca, “when we teach, we learn”. The achievements of Delosa’s proteges are a sign of his success, but in parallel The Entourage itself has been growing and striving higher.

The Entourage is back on a fast-growth trajectory now, but this wasn’t always the case. In 2016 the company was thrown into extreme distress when government regulatory changes swept through the vocational education and training sector at short notice.

“This meant The Entourage was three months away from a monthly loss of $800,000, and necessitated a restructure from a team of 90 to a team of 40,” Delosa explains.

This is clearly not a situation that any business owner, let alone business coach, wants to find themselves in, but the entrepreneur and his team managed to bring the group back to profit.

This put the group in an ideal position to help clients navigate the immediate changes that were thrust upon businesses everywhere in 2020 with the outbreak of COVID-19. Delosa says this meant The Entourage’s clients outperformed the market by 310 per cent, and “in many instances made pivots that brought permanent improvements to their underlying business models”.

Team numbers are now closer to where they were at 70, and over the past year The Entourage has built out its “done for you” growth services division, launched an accounting and advisory arm that offers CFO, accounting and bookkeeping services, and online master classes with leading Australian entrepreneurs such as Boost Juice founder Janine Allis, Booktopia (ASX: BKG) founder Tony Nash, and Matcha Maiden founder Sarah Davidson.

“We find that a lot of business owners don't have a good relationship with their numbers; this causes some low-level anxiety in how they manage their business and it slows down decision making,” he says.

“We coach business owners and their managers to understand how the finances contribute to their overall growth, and in doing so enable them to make better decisions to grow faster."

With this momentum the company now has a “five-year north star” to be the global leader in business coaching and development for SMEs, with Delosa having visited the US on a reconnaissance trip in 2022 to meet with high-profile founders, business owners and investors.

“The fundamentals we're putting in place now will see us reach $100 million within that time frame" says Delosa, who has also made investments in companies such as Mr Potato and Tradesquare, as well co-purchasing an island in the Whitsundays.


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