51. Daniel Pearson (35)
Daniel Pearson's PingCo is a Software as a Service (SaaS) solution for some of the world’s largest telcos including AT&T and Virgin Media, carving out a niche as one of just a handful of partners selected to integrate with Microsoft Teams for voice calls.
The company has been experiencing 600 per cent month-on-month sales growth recently and is the leading focus of the serial entrepreneur, who has more than 10 ventures to his name including Longford Legal, marketing agency Soda & Lime, electro-muscular stimulation fitness technology studio 20v, and the Incubator Hub.
But PingCo stands out from the rest due to its global scope and impact on the daily lives of a large chunk of the population, assisting in the nitty gritty of making communications function in the hybrid world of remote and in-office work.
Whereas in pre-COVID times the standard was to have a physical office phone for internal transfers, with the advent of remote working and Microsoft Teams, PingCo has helped transport that same function to cloud software.
“Our customers are the telcos, and we are the bridge for them to be able to get their legacy networks connected to Microsoft,” explains Pearson, whose first foray into business was at 16 when he persuaded his father to sell satellite internet to local enterprises in his hometown of Bacchus Marsh.
“We bridge that gap between the old and the new, making sure they talk the right language. We connect locally in Australia for some of the big local telcos, but we also do that internationally now for the likes of Virgin Media, British Telecom, AT&T, Intrado, all these big multinational organisations.
“Within 10 minutes we can make your Teams ring with a phone number. The secret sauce is how we’ve made all that automated, but the real beneficiary here is Microsoft, because they’re getting a licence from the end customer.”
52. Marcus Kellett (39) and Alex Bottomley (37)
With a minimalist can design and an mixology philosophy that trusted the tastes of their customers, Ampersand Projects scored an early-mover advantage in the pre-mixed drinks space that has since exploded in the years since Alex Bottomley, Marcus Kellett and Shaun Rankins started.
From humble beginnings with their first product - vodka and soda in a can with a removable lid - the group now boasts a comprehensive line-up with a variety of flavoured versions of the OG, alcoholic ginger beer, gin and soda, a margarita in a can, and even an espresso martini kit.
Launched back in 2018, Ampersand Projects had a leg up on its competitors that followed, including international beverage giants that have made a considerable push into the ready-to-drink space in the years since.
Core to their initial success was the creation of a recognisable brand, one that co-founder Bottomley says took inspiration from the fashion world.
“We knew we needed something that was clean and minimal and we focused on developing an iconic symbol that could be easily recognised,” he says.
“We wanted our products to both stand out on shelf but also be the ‘best looking’ can in someone’s hand.”
Their efforts have since paid off, with Ampersand now stocked by major alcohol retailers like BWS and Dan Murphy’s, and ranging in more than 900 independent bottle shops nationwide as well as internationally via export into Hong Kong.
53. Chris Baptista (35)
In a year marked by numerous high-profile collapses of builders, Chris Baptista’s Homes by CMA has overcome the sector’s challenges and flourished with hundreds of houses in construction throughout southeast Queensland – precisely 220 at present.
The social media-savvy entrepreneur attributes part of this success to financial prudence in recent years, timely payments to suppliers, and significant investments in staff and automation.
“We literally have so many clients coming to us that I had to put a cap on sales as I feel people are not confident in many builders,” Baptista says.
“Pretty much every client will ask how we’re doing financially, are we safe? So my job, what I’ve been doing on social media with the stories, is to try to make them understand that we are in a really, really good position.”
Meanwhile, the company is opening up five new display homes, which will result in a total of seven, and is currently building its new $10 million headquarters on a 3,000sqm commercial block in North Lakes.
Baptista has come far since arriving in Australia aged 18 after leaving France with “very little English and big dreams”.
Back then he had no idea what a purchase order was – he did not know the industry, had no contacts, did not know how to run a business, but none of these apparent impediments stopped him from founding Homes by CMA in 2009.
He said there were many ups and downs along the way, but he had a “mindset that cannot be broken”, “a drive that cannot be tamed”, and a “work ethic that cannot be questioned”.
“And this is only the beginning,” he says.
54. James Mutton (30)
Since taking the leap to acquire his family’s motorcycle dealership business in 2019, James Mutton has doubled Motorcycle Trading’s store footprint to six locations across Queensland and New South Wales.
The expansion interstate was sealed seven months ago, when Brisbane Motorcycles – a subsidiary of Motorcycle Trading - snapped up Sydney City Motorcycles in a reportedly seven-figure deal.
The latest acquisition has given the group a presence in Lane Cove, Caringbah and Campbelltown, and comes after Mutton expanded his Queensland dealership footprint from Windsor and Caboolture to include Ipswich west of Brisbane in 2021.
While Brisbane Motorcycles has a wider portfolio of brands, both businesses sell bikes from Kawasaki, Yamaha, Suzuki, Honda and Ducati.
"Because of the size of our dealerships and what we’re able to churn out of them compared to our competitors, it puts us at the forefront of privately owned operators," Mutton explains.
"With the growth we've had in Brisbane and the improvements we've been able to make with our core group of management staff, it puts me in a position where we’ve got a good pipeline of people who I need to provide more of an opportunity for.
"We didn’t want to further expand in Brisbane because I felt like we would probably start competing against ourselves, and Sydney is obviously the biggest market in Australia with the biggest population. The logical next step to progress the business was to turn that into a national company."
Mutton has also developed his own dealer management software (DMS) that will soon be rolled out to all of his stores, as well as RidersMarket – an accessory startup that opened last month adjacent to his dealership in Caboolture.
“We are aiming to have onboarded some paying clients by the middle of 2023 and will then embark on a pretty aggressive sales campaign to gain market share,” Mutton says.
55. Ammar Issa (32)
AMR Hair & Beauty Group
In an era of e-commerce, hair care purveyor Ammar Issa has doubled down on bricks and mortar, opening three new physical outlets in the past 12 months, taking AMR Hair & Beauty Group’s total to five.
However, that doesn’t mean he’s exited the online space. The company’s website is as popular as ever - demonstrating the power of his brand which aims to sell the best of the best hair care supplies to both the professional and amateur hairdressers of Australia.
This holistic approach to retail has put AMR in good stead, and is an outlook in stark contrast to the pure players of the industry.
“I can see that route they’re taking, but I really find that our stores complement our online much more,” Issa says.
“We’re able to provide education to our customers, and build a community around our customer base as well.”
Ammar launched his very own hair care brand in 2022 called Limitless - a hair colouring range boasting more than 100 shades. The cruelty-free and vegan products can be used to create permanent, demi-permanent, grey coverage or super lightener formulas.
“For hair salons, colour is like a religion - it’s so hard to get them to change,” Issa says, “but our stores are strategically placed, and we’re cost effective too.
“I wanted to tap into what fashion companies in Australia do. I find the fashion companies here and in the UK set a whole, complete standard. Limitless is really fashion-driven."
56. Alex Ewart (32) and Conor Hagan (39)
Among the cavalry of companies aiming to kill spreadsheets and make business easier through digitisation, Explorate has been charging ahead as a “technology business that’s doing freight forwarding”.
Originating more than a decade ago in a dusty warehouse in Brisbane, Explorate was founded by Conor Hagan and Alex Ewart, who both recognised a need for digital innovation to unlock the “true power of international freight”.
“The top 25 freight forwarders in the world were all founded before the internet, and while they hold over 60 per cent of the market, the technology they use is very antiquated,” says Ewart.
“There are over 200 million containers moved around the world every year and half of them are still booked by phone, email and fax.”
In response to this scenario, the pair have developed cutting-edge technology that provides greater visibility across the import and export supply chain through real-time tracking of shipments globally, down to the location of the ship in transit, as well as instant quotes and bookings for freight services.
“We’re elaborating the business into an end-to-end supply chain provider where we’ve got insurance plug-ins, foreign exchange plug-ins – everything an importer or exporter is going to do for their workflow,” Ewart adds.
“We empower our shippers with instant quotes and bookings, real-time track and trace, digital dashboards and faultless workflow management.”
It has now been around a year since the company raised $7.5 million in a Series A in January 2022, with the founders expecting staff numbers will triple over the course of the current financial year as they plan for a potential Series B in late 2023.
Its traditional strongholds have been in Victoria and Queensland, but the business in Sydney is growing and the founders are planning to move into New Zealand and potentially South East Asia in the near future.
57. Nof Hamze (32) and Alex Hamze (35)
Alamour The Label
Married entrepreneurs Alex and Nof Hamze are on a mission to bring some glamour to the Queensland fashion scene, one dress at a time.
Focusing on elegant gowns, dreamy bridal looks, and luxury evening wear, Alamour The Label has become a staple of the Australian fashion scene since the duo started the company back in 2015.
Nof’s designs have even wound up being worn by the likes of Jennifer Lopez, Serena Williams, Vanessa Hudgens and Addison Rae.
Speaking to Business News Australia, the pair say they experienced ‘unprecedented growth’ in 2022, spurred on by the return of events and travel.
Alex - who has a Bachelor of Business - had already prepared to modernise the company’s warehouse management systems in anticipation of the boom; a task that consumed most of 2021 for Alamour but has proved invaluable since.
“Now each member can send out 200-plus parcels comfortably with rules in the systems limiting the likelihood of human-made errors from occurring,” Alex says.
“This will majorly reduce the amount of staff required to get customer orders out, thus increasing efficiency.”
The pair’s next move is to build up a retail presence in the US - a market that already loves Alamour but requires some individual attention to really generate scale.
“We’re actually more well known in the US than Australia - we’ve been featured on The Bachelorette US multiple times,” Nof says.
“Because of how known we are in the US we can easily get into that market - it’s a no brainer. It needs to be done.”
58. Ross Osmon (40), Alexandra Karatassa (33) and Craig Lock (37)
Five Four Entertainment, Plus One Co, Lion Arts Factory, Super California, Hindley Street Music Hall, Spin Off
Musician Craig Lock met DJ and Five Four Entertainment co-founder Ross Osmon in 2009, and from that bloomed one of South Australia’s most successful independent music industry companies.
The two quit their jobs in 2010 to start Five Four, and became promoters for shows in Adelaide. Early efforts landed them the opportunity to host a South Australian spin-off of Splendour in Grass in 2012 - naturally they called it ‘Spin Off’.
Headlined by acts including Lana Del Rey, Kimbra and Band of Skulls, the opportunity was a coup for the pair and a delight for local music fanatics - but Lock remembers it differently.
“That was not a great day to be honest,” recalls Lock.
“We lost of a fair bit of money on that. But that’s life!”
Things have definitely improved since then, with the duo expanding the company to now include more festivals like Heaps Good, Stonecutters, and the Adelaide leg of national touring festival St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival.
They also operate some of Adelaide’s busiest venues like the rock-focused Lion Arts Factory, nightclub Super California, and their latest venture and crown jewel Hindley Street Music Hall which underwent a multi-million dollar refurbishment prior to its opening in late-2022.
Dubbed ‘Adelaide’s newest premier music festival’, the Hindley Street Music Hall sits in the skeleton of the former HQ nightclub on Hindley Street, and can fit a whopping 1,800 revellers inside.
Beyond venue and festival management, the pair teamed up with former Five Four intern - now a young entrepreneur in her own right - Alexandra Karatassa who co-owns club night operator Plus One Co.
Having started the nights in Adelaide, Karatassa and the Five Four co-founders now run the popular events nationally and internationally, including indie night Transmission, emo night Taking Back Saturday, pop night Superficial and much more.
59. Harry Karefilakis (35)
Kare Group, Ethos Electrical Services, All Steel Designs
Now in business for more than a decade, Kare Group has found its niche in electrical contracting, security and communications services for predominantly large clients and builders. For founder Harry Karefilakis workplace culture means everything to that success.
“We're knocking back million-dollar jobs because we have so much work. We’re picking and choosing what jobs we do,” he says.
“We’ve got a good reputation and I want to keep it going. If you take on too much there’s the staff element - systems break down, culture breaks down. We want to be in control.”
That said, the entrepreneur’s business does keep growing and he believes this is key for providing career growth opportunities within the group.
In 2021 Karefilakis mimicked the Kare Group business model by founding a new company Ethos Electrical Services, tailored to larger, unionised projects – an endeavour that has borne fruit over the past 12 months by winning two apartment projects and one office building.
In a short space of time Ethos has come to account for around a quarter of turnover across Karefilakis’ companies, while another business launched in late 2021 - All Steel Designs, focused on steel doors and front doors – continues to deliver solid results.
60. Braden Voigt (40)
Harnessing the power of artificial intelligence and machine learning, software developer Lynkz has attracted a wide pool of clients that range from international law firms all the way to ASX-listed companies.
The company recently opened up operations in New Zealand, adding to existing operations in Singapore and Indonesia – where Lynkz has worked with Honda Motors to create a dealer management platform.
“It’s been crazy. Our revenue has skyrocketed. All of that comes down to increasing staff count. We've brought in HR internally; we've hired a chief marketing officer (CMO). We're spending - we've ramped up all our marketing efforts,” Voigt says.
“We're working with massive companies like King & Wood Mallesons and National Storage - the largest storage company in Australia and in New Zealand.
“They have an enormous footprint, but they have enormous complexity. That's why we generally work with these sorts of companies - we don't do small projects.”
Meanwhile, traction is picking up for AI video and image analysis platform PolyVision, which has transformed food and manufacturing processes by providing real time analysis and quality assurance service.
“We have a client in Melbourne called Moreland Meat Poultry. We've actually monitored one of their production lines. They produce 100 different products for Coles (ASX: COL), Woolworths (ASX: WOW) and IGA – chicken schnitzels, chicken kievs, chicken nuggets,” Voigt says.
“We look for holes in the product - if there's meat being exposed, it wasn't crumbed properly. It could be that it's been overcooked, or it's just not a good quality product. We flag that straightaway in the system.”
Other industries making use of the technology include infrastructure management, traffic management and wildlife management – a sector that is using PolyVision’s tools to track animals in zoos, farms or national parks.
To make the most of such innovation, Voigt notes he is keeping his mind open to raising capital.
“Getting money is not hard. What is hard is getting an intelligent investor that believes in your product - that has something to offer to the product and the company,” he says.
“The sky's the limit with this product, that’s why it’s growing so rapidly. We're questioning at this point: Do we actually raise capital or do we let it keep going the way it is?”
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