2023 Australia's Top 100 Young Entrepreneurs 91-100

2023 Australia's Top 100 Young Entrepreneurs 91-100

91. Peter Hull (35)

Fitstop

Brisbane

With 100 locations across Australia and New Zealand, thriving fitness brand Fitstop is showing no signs of slowing down as it looks to break into the US and Singapore markets later this year.  

At the helm of this fast-growing franchise is Peter Hull, who launched his performance-based fitness offering from his garage in 2017.

Since then, the brand has grown to service more than 20,000 members and is aiming to roll out 24 new locations before June.

“I fell in love with fitness to make a huge impact and my vision has always been how do I create a global fitness community that impacts lives in a positive manner?” Hull says.

“On top of that, how do I create sustainability for trainers, managers and owners so they enjoy the space, get a great financial return and have a lot of fun doing it?

“It's probably a bit of a pinch yourself moment now that we’re actually making it happen.”

In the coming months, the company will launch 10 new locations in California after securing $3.3 million in funding from private equity-backed US fitness group Lift Brands, which owns both Snap Fitness and FitnessOnDemand.

It will be in addition to a significant local expansion comprising 160 gyms planned for its Australian and New Zealand division, aided by a partnership with Vytality Group that will add 80 locations in the Sydney market alone over the next five years.

To motivate gym-goers, Fitstop incorporates a variety of 50-minute sessions utilising cardio and strength training in a group setting, with trainers using data and technology to ensure members can hit their fitness goals.

Hull notes the company has come a long way since the pandemic stuck – a time that saw the company serendipitously roll out and test a Fitstop app that helped retain memberships during lockdowns.

“Fitstop is completely hybrid now. You can come in and train at our facilities, you can use our program and train at home, you can transfer between our locations,” Hull says.

“We've learned that through COVID, you've got to share the journey with people and let them know that things do get tight.

“It's not all rainbows and butterflies, but we're here for the right reasons.”

Aaron Smith

92. Aaron Smith (39)

KX Pilates

Melbourne

From his days as an Australian Pilates pioneer in 2010 before it became popular, Aaron Smith is not only on the cusp of opening his brand’s 100th studio but has transformed the company’s offering to stay ahead of a very competitive pack.

KX Pilates has stayed true to its methodology founded on “Kaizen” principles of small, continuous improvements through dynamic, tailored sessions, but expansion in recent years has stemmed from a hybrid model for at-home workouts and the rapid roll-out of bespoke machines at studios.

An exclusive deal with US-based multinational Balanced Body led to the development of the Balanced Body KXFormer, which has been well received by franchisees and is now in half of all studios.

“The Balanced Body KXFormer is IP protected, and that’s solely for our KX franchise partners,” Smith says.

“In the last seven years we’ve seen a lot of ‘KX copycats’ as we call them, opening up under a different brand but doing everything the same.

“We really needed to have something that was completely different, so you couldn’t go anywhere else and have the same KX experience. It’s awesome that 50 per cent of the KX network has these bespoke reformer machines.”

The ‘Kaizen’ continuous progression of the company will culminate in the launch of a Noosa studio – the 100th for the group - on the weekend of this list’s launch; an operation that is co-owned by Smith’s wife and business partner, Andi Fiorenza.

In 2022 the company opened its first New Zealand studio with a master franchisee partner, and signed a master agreement for Singapore with that country’s first KX Pilates studio due to open in April 2023.

This will be followed by the first studio in Hong Kong later this year while expansion continues in Australia with 12 new studios expected in 2023, as well as further openings in NZ and Indonesia.

Previously Smith had very bold ambitions for the Chinese market, where at the time of writing KX Pilates has just four studios. However, bigger plans were put on hold due to China’s zero-COVID policy; even as the country opens up, KX Pilates’ main focus there will be on its “rebuilding stages getting the right people on the right seats in that business to drive growth”.

In the past year KX Pilates has also set up a master onboarding and training program to help master franchisees with their first studio openings and localising systems to help grow the franchise around the world.

Additionally, the company has launched its DEFINE YOURSELF apparel collection and Smith plans to release his own book under the same title sometime this year.

Joshua Spurway and Myyrah Balasbas

93. Myrrah Balasbas (32) and Joshua Spurway (33) 

Vision Made Co

Brisbane

As a behind-the-scenes manufacturer of sports and health supplements for a wide range of companies, Vision Made Co has been bulking up thanks to a careful eye for detail and an increasing preference for Aussie-made goods due to supply delays from US competitors.

From a business that began with just one customer in 2021, Vision Made Co’s clientele has expanded to more than 20, including two that have just recently secured national ranging deals with Chemist Warehouse.

That large initial client has witnessed phenomenal growth, yet its share of contribution to the group’s bottom line has declined due to a booming business across the board which is on track to double revenue in the current financial year.

Spurway started his professional career at 19 as the business development manager of Youfoodz, then a fledgling company, before going out on his own to co-found Black Label Blending in 2019.

That endeavour was short-lived for him however, and two years later he joined forces with Balasabas – a Bachelor of Criminology and Criminal Justice graduate – to found Vision Made Co.

To maintain capacity the company plans to upgrade its 4,000sqm production facility at Brendale on Brisbane’s northside this year, to be supported by a capital raise that is in the works.

In parallel, the founders are gunning for Therapeutic Goods Association (TGA) approval so they can manufacture nutraceuticals in tablets and capsules, as well as herbal extracts in powder form.

“In the past, the prevailing attitude was you could only get good sports supplements from America. But when I started learning about what was involved, I knew we could do it better here in Australia,” Spurway says.

“Many of our customers were buying from America, bringing entire shipping containers at a time, but with the extended lead times in shipping and manufacturing, many were waiting 30 weeks for an order.

“We’re now a licenced manufacturer to produce their [clients’] brands here. They have basically cut out their international shipping costs by replicating their products at our Brisbane facility and then forwarding them directly to their local distributors here.”

The group has also bolstered its management team recently, appointing former Bega Cheese manufacturing manager Glenn Fountain as COO, and former Quality Foods & Beverages COO Craig Thompson as CFO.

Chris Morrissey

94. Chris Morrissey (40)

Ever Nimble

Perth

A cyber security-first approach to IT managed services put Chris Morrissey’s Ever Nimble ahead of the curve when it started in West Perth in 2018, and despite a prioritisation of technical expertise over business development the company has grown rapidly since then with offices in four locations.

Having worked in an operations management role for a large UK retailer, Morrissey’s career was reset in 2011 when he had the opportunity to move to Australia, where he started out as an IT support engineer at retailer Dusk (ASX: DSK).

It wasn’t long before he got a job at an IT managed services provider (MSP) where he cut his teeth in the trade, springboarding him into a role as technology manager at mining consultancy CSA Global. He previously had designs to become a founder someday, but it was there at CSA where a culture of entrepreneurialism gave him the confidence he needed to take the plunge.

“That was always the plan – I had a lot of management experience, was able to build teams, but I lacked the technology experience, so I understood that I needed to work from the ground up and work in a couple of different fields in the industry to be good at it,” he says.

“In 2018 the world was starting to wake up when it came to cyber, and we were excellent in that area and still are; it’s what we’re known for, it’s what our customers come for.

“On launching, even though we were quite small, we were using technology that some of our competitors hadn't even heard of. Now four years later everyone’s caught up a bit – especially after the [data breach] news with Optus - but that’s been our focus.”

Customers do however get the whole MSP package; the differentiator for Ever Nimble is that the client or user conversation begins with cyber security. In 2019 the decision was made to set up a Melbourne office, primarily so that early-rising WA-based mining clients could get service earlier, but that also led to Victorian client acquisition.

Later that year, pre-COVID, the group kept on its track for round-the-clock service by opening up a UK office, which in the MSP industry is helpful for doing maintenance or updates while Australian customers are asleep, but also made it easier to work with customers’ operations in Africa where timezones overlap quite well.

It was with the UK launch that life went full circle for the entrepreneur.

“It’s a personal story for me because I actually really struggled to get a job in IT in the region where I grew up, which is a very poor area of Wales,” he says.

“When I looked to open an office in the UK, we obviously looked at London, we looked at Manchester and the big areas, but we actually ended up opening in my hometown of Swansea. I’m particularly proud of that.”

Since then Ever Nimble has opened up a Brisbane office, launched a marketing agency called Electric Peach and technology vendor Tech Lane, and he is also proud to say that 40 per cent of Ever Nimble’s technicians are female – something that is “unheard of in the industry”.

Heuson Bak

95. Heuson Bak (35)

Solar Naturally

Perth

Solar installers and retailers are a dime a dozen these days, but where Perth-based Solar Naturally finds its point of difference is by employing its own in-house professionals rather than contractors to incentivise quality over speed.

Founder Heuson Bak admits his company may not be the cheapest in the market, but Solar Naturally’s growth volumes in both WA and the eastern states demonstrate the premium customers are willing to pay to avoid suppliers cutting corners.

“Subcontractors get paid per job or per installation, and there's not a whole lot of QC going on there because they’re incentivised to get things done as quickly as possible,” Bak explains.

“With 1500 volts running through those electrical wires - it can actually kill you. There is a lot that people can do to get work done quicker and cheaper, and we’re just not about that,” he said, adding the company is frequently enlisted to fix up the shoddy work of others.

“We've built our reputation on building quality solar systems, and we're probably not the cheapest people in the market but we do things properly, and the volume we do says a lot about how people want things done as well.”

Amidst rapid growth in its home state, Solar Naturally expanded to Sydney in 2018 and then Brisbane in 2019.

“Now we acquire about 100 customers each week between those two cities,” says the entrepreneur, who notes rising electricity prices on the east coast over the past year have been a strong driver for demand, with those states now accounting for 40 per cent of revenue.

“WA is probably an anomaly market in that we’ve only got one electricity supplier and it’s government-backed.”

He says the residential solar market in WA has matured somewhat, although the numbers certainly aren’t declining, while solar panel installations for commercial projects are booming.

“The commercial space seems to have taken off over the last three years. In the last two years we’ve seen that grow by about 50 per cent,” Bak says.

Blair Norfolk

96. Blair Norfolk (37)

Biome Australia (ASX: BIO)

Melbourne

Having firsthand experience of what it’s like to live with several autoimmune diseases, Biome Australia founder Blair Norfolk has been on a mission to help others with health issues since he fell down the probiotics rabbit hole over a decade ago.

Founded in 2018, Biome Australia has been busy maximising the clinical research previously conducted by Health Science Innovation – a small-scale startup that was backed by Norfolk, as well as Dr Jaroslav Boublik and CFO Douglas Loh.

The effort has paid off as Biome’s probiotics, plant-based supplements and sports supplements hit a record high of $3.4 million in sales for the December half, reflecting an 87 per cent increase year-on-year.

The vast majority (97 per cent) of the company’s sales have been driven by its flagship probiotics brand Activated Probiotics, which was rolled out to 370 Priceline pharmacies across Australia five months ago.

Announced in May 2022, the landmark deal took the company’s distribution footprint to roughly 3,000 stores nationwide.

“Being able to help patients or children with asthma with a probiotic that can significantly reduce their symptoms or potentially save their life from an asthma event - it's a pretty incredible position to be in,” Norfolk says.

“We are quite a holistic business. While we do have really nice revenue growth, at the end of the day these are all patients that are taking the product and that's what really motivates and inspires the entire team.

“We're a B Corp and we take that quite seriously. Everyone in the business is there for the same reason - they're not just taking a salary. They're very passionate and motivated individuals who really care about the end goal, which is potentially saving lives and helping people. We do that through clinical research.”

Biome Australia currently has three ongoing clinical trials - the first of which is assessing the effectiveness of Biome Lift Probiotic in reducing symptoms in patients with subthreshold depression, while another is looking into the effect Biome Osteo supplementation has on bone metabolism and mineral density.

The final trial is analysing the influence of probiotic use on absenteeism and immune health among children aged 2-5 years attending childcare centres.

Preliminary results for the first two trials are expected in Q3 FY23, with the last one to roll out its findings in Q2 FY24.

Lana Hill, Nick Hill, Andrew Walker and James Walker (Provided)

97. Jamie Cerexhe (30) and Doug Vincent (34)

Mastt

Sydney

In a bid to alleviate the “clear and consistent trend” of cost blowouts and lengthy delays in large capital works projects, in 2019 Jamie Cerexhe and Doug Vincent set about building software to address a major contributing factor – the prevalence of outdated data, which leads to poor decisions.

Their mission to “kill the spreadsheets” in large government and private engineering projects resulted in the creation of Mastt, utilised by the likes of GHD, WSP, AECOM, Jacobs, Aurecon, Australian Government departments, and Dar Al Arkan.

Designed for project owners and project management consultants, the Mastt platform provides access to real-time information, more accurate risk assessments and a better sense of construction timelines.

“It’s very systemic that people have incorrect data and very old data, and they're just trying to make decisions based off of that,” explains Cerexhe.

“Our vision is to help consultants and asset owners more efficiently allocate capital across their construction portfolios, reduce risks, and help them stop huge cost and time blowouts, which are really common in the industry.

“Our platform is divided into three sections - we do all the financial management, risk management, and then all schedules for time-based stage gates, and we’ve got the reporting layer on top.”

In terms of how data is put into the system, Mastt has automated bulk update functionality that is used at the beginning of projects more often, as well as an interface of smart forms for new claims or project variations with pre-fills.

“We also have integrations of different platforms, so you can automatically reconcile data,” Cerexhe adds.

The company raised $9.5 million in a Series A funding round led by OIF Ventures in March 2022, following a seed round the year prior that included backer such as Artesian, Significant Early Venture Capital, Investible, and Gravel Road, a fund of Aconex co-founders Rob Phillpot and Leigh Jasper.

Edwin Low

98. Edwin Low (32)

Secret Sneaker Store

Melbourne

Upon noticing there was serious demand for limited edition sneakers at the tail end of the 2010s, Edwin Low realised there was room for a business that could build trust in the marketplace and seize the hype.

Until then, most sneakerheads were buying and re-selling sneakers online through Facebook groups and the like, but at the time he didn’t have any cash to get the concept off the ground and buy inventory.

“So instead, I considered the consignment concept where we help other people buy and sell their shoes, and take a commission from the selling price,” Low says.

Thus Secret Sneaker Store was born in Melbourne - a business that has since exploded in popularity and boasts a retail presence in the Victorian capital via three physical outlets, a store in Sydney and e-commerce operation to boot.

He’s certainly taken a few steps since the initial pop-up that kicked everything off.

“People were consigning shoes and within 24 hours it would sell. Sometimes, before it could even reach the shelf someone would buy it,” Low says.

“My mission was to grow the sneaker community and cultivate sneaker culture. We wanted to make take wearing sneakers to mainstream fashion.”

In the years since, Secret Sneaker Store has become the go-to store for Aussie sneakerheads looking to purchase limited edition shoes that you simply can’t get anywhere else. Some of these kicks sell for outlandish sums; Low notesthat he recently sold a pair of shoes for $10,000.

Beyond shoes, Secret Sneaker Store sells streetwear too - including their own brand of basics like hoodies, track-pants, tees and shorts.

ACTS Music Group

99. Cam Noble (28), Keenan Te (22) and Matt Noble (29)

ACTS Music Group

Drouin

From their headquarters in the West Gippsland town of Drouin, Cam Noble, Keenan Te and Matt Noble have built a diversified music industry group that is shining some light on talented, emerging musicians.

The trio run ACTS Music - a collection of music businesses that have been grown over the past seven years and includes artist management company ACTS Agency, distributor ACTS Music Distribution, publishing arm ACTS Music Publishing and recording studios Staple Studios and Six Degree Studios.

With this holistic take on the music industry, ACTS’ goal is to overtake Mushroom Group as the largest diversified music company in Australia.

However, the company is only as good as the artists it keeps. For ACTS that stable is impressive; artists under management include one of 2023’s three bachelors on Network Ten’s The Bachelors - Jed McIntosh and his band Mood Monroe. The roster also boasts the likes of co-founder Keenan Te, who found major success in Indonesia and recently chalked up 50 million streams across streaming platforms.

Cam and Matt are also musicians in their own right too; the former is a producer who has worked with the likes of Ruel, Burna Boy and Tinashe, while the latter has a swathe of production credits for artists like Day1, Kei Leeza and Teyana Taylor.

“In the music industry, if we want stuff to go well it involves many different avenues - when you release a song you need things like the marketing side and the design side,” Cam says.

“So over the years as we’ve grown and had more success we’ve been able to do more, and do more in-house, which has enabled us to grow even further.”

To build on this momentum, ACTS recently announced its international expansion plans with an office in LA set to open in Q2 2023, as well as a new recording studio in Auckland, New Zealand.

CHS Building team

100. Corey Stone (34)

CHS Building

Brisbane

Regardless of the economic cycle and overall outlook for the construction market, Corey Stone’s CHS Building managed to double its full-time staff base in FY22 while in the current year it has a steady pipeline of projects in the works.

Despite a decrease in house prices due to higher interest rates, CHS has handed over eight projects for customers since July as well as breaking a suburb property sale record for Holland Park West in Brisbane.

The latter happened to be for Stone’s own house, while the group still has 10 projects under construction with handover dates stretching out to June, followed by a further 11 projects that will break ground between March and December.

“Two of these projects are the largest we have done before with one being over 1,000sqm and the other currently at 1,350sqm, in comparison to the ‘Gucci House’ at Laidlaw which was 900sqm,” Stone explains.

“With the current market we are seeing and hearing a lot of construction companies fold due to rising prices. We have avoided any of this drama thanks to my team keeping on top of current costs and up-to-date pricing for clients. We are only just starting to see prices slowly drop.

“In 2023 we are setting up an office and warehousing space as the team gets bigger.”

Not only has the company’s full-time staff base doubled but the number of contractors working with CHS has increased eight-fold – a notable feat given the labour shortages experienced in the sector. Stone puts this achievement down to a straightforward approach of seven-day payment turnarounds for contractors “so they keep coming back”.


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