Australia's Top 100 Young Entrepreneurs 71-80

Australia's Top 100 Young Entrepreneurs 71-80

71. Thomas Fu (23) and Tom Mcpherson (23)

Motor Culture Australia

Brisbane

In mid-2020, two best mates with a passion for cars took a leap of faith and quit their jobs to go full throttle on their business idea.

At the time, both Thomas Fu and Tom Mcpherson were just 20. Now, three years later, they’re running one of the fastest growing premium motoring communities in Australia.

Though the idea of a motoring community is certainly not novel, the approach taken by the two founders was - and its one that’s won over car lovers not just in Australia, but the UK too.

Noticing at other car events and meetups of enthusiasts in Brisbane that the vibe was one of exclusivity or toxicity, the pair realised there was a gap in the market for positive, friendly and safe events for all stripes.

“Car events and communities have long been dogged by a hyper-masculine, toxic and even dangerous culture,” the founders explain.

“Motor Culture Australia set out to only create a safe and inclusive space for all car enthusiasts but also to help drive a cultural change in the industry.”

In addition to running events in Australia, the company has expanded to run giveaways and sell merchandise to their community of more than 250,000 members, and has implemented a subscription model to give members access to even greater benefits.

With three years of experience under their belts, the duo are in the midst of taking their approach to the United Kingdom, where they’ve recently started hosting events.

Speaking to Business News Australia, co-founder Fu acknowledged the existing community in the UK is certainly more mature, but believes Motor Culture Australia’s unique approach should set the business up well in these new pastures.

“The UK is actually a very mature market - a lot of these competitors have been doing events in the UK for the past 20 years so we experienced some difficulty in the beginning,” Fu explains.

“But we anticipated that, and we want to being the car culture that we’ve created here in Australia to the international stage - not just the UK, but the UK is a good starting point.

“We want to bring people in from all sorts of backgrounds - different types of vehicles - and bring them into one diverse community where everyone feels welcomed.”

The company’s ambitions will be supported by the launch of Motor Culture Australia’s own e-commerce platform, built to be scalable to handle anticipated future growth. The pair are also investing considerable capital into a new blockchain-based tech solution to leverage subscription memberships as assets that they hope will ‘significantly increase the company’s value’.

A new mobile app is also on the horizon, which will power the founders’ ambitions to bring their inclusive automotive community into the palms of hands worldwide.

Josh Fegan

72. Josh Fegan (37)

Althea Group Holdings (ASX: AGH)

Melbourne

Having jumped on board the medicinal cannabis train back in 2016 when the budding industry was yet to bloom, Josh Fegan has since transformed Althea Group Holdings (ASX: AGH) into one of the Top 20 Cannabis Companies in Australia.

The group manufactures, distributes, sells and promotes both medicinal and recreational cannabis formulations via brands Althea and Peak respectively, and claims to have more than 35,000 patients worldwide who rely on Althea’s products for their pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties.

Though based in Melbourne, the company has a serious international presence including in the UK, Germany, France and South Africa, and recent deals have seen it look towards the US, Mexico and Switzerland for new opportunities.

Much of Fegan’s success can be chalked up to his sales, marketing and business building nous, having been a senior executive of car stereo retailer Strathfield Group in a past life. These skills have helped the company grow, taking an approach that is more closely aligned to big pharma than a fledgling start-up.

Althea, which says one in four Australian medicinal cannabis patients use its products, saw its share price generally deteriorate over the course of 2022 - trading as high as 24 cents in early January and slumping to just approximately five cents at the time of writing.

This hasn’t dissuaded Fegan, who is still a staunch believer in the impact the firm will have on people’s lives.

At the end of the financial year, Althea’s revenue hit $20.5 million - up 77.8 per cent, and its loss improved from a FY21 loss of $15 million to a $12.1 million loss.

“In a year that once again presented many unforeseen challenges…it has been very pleasing to see AGH build on the strong foundations that were built in FY21,” Fegan said in the company’s annual report.

“I am pleased to note that each of the AGH business divisions…achieved record financial results as well as sustained growth across other key metrics.”

In recent months, the company has been expanding its line-up of products - notably with the launch of a soft gel capsule product called Althea CBD25 which offer patients a ‘convenient and friendly’ way to ingest the drug, alongside a new dried flower product called Althea THC25.

Of the two new products, Althea CBD25 was designed with the over-the-counter market in mind - and has been submitted as a candidate to the Therapeutics Goods Administration (TGA) for consideration.

After announcing these new products, Althea rattled the tin to raise $4 million via a $1.5 million placement and a $2.5 million share purchase plan (SPP). While the placement was successful, the SPP did not generate the hype Althea wanted, and ended up only raising $873,136.

Most recently, the company signed a memorandum of understanding with a subsidiary of pharmaceutical giant Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories, under which Althea and Nimbus Health will join forces to promote, market, sell and distribute both Althea and Nimbus Health products in Europe and ‘other jurisdictions’.

Joe Zhou

73. Joe Zhou (34)

Joe Zhou Pty Ltd, Kedron 7 Day Chemist, Aceso Group, Picture Lock Studio

Brisbane

Having sold most of his share in two health-tech ventures he co-founded, Pocket Health and Chemist2U, Joe Zhou maintains multiple businesses including two pharmacies, a publishing and distribution studio, and Aceso Group, an AI platform that aims to accelerate the diagnosis of specialised and rare diseases.

Zhou, who is also the author of the book “The Startup Founder”, represents a unique brand of entrepreneur who divides his time between the day-to-day retail business and his more ambitious long-term projects aimed at delivering scalable tech solutions to pressing health problems.

“One of the biggest problems in the modern healthcare system that’s troubling patients, doctors and governments, is the cost of diagnoses of rare conditions and specialised conditions,” he says.

“For example, cancer takes a while to diagnose. If you go to a doctor with stomach pain, they’re not going to say you have cancer straight away; you go through a process of elimination of trying proton pump inhibitors, reflux tablets, anti-nausea tablets, and if nothing works they’re going to send you for scans, and then they refer to a specialist.

“Things like rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, Hepatitis, the cost of delayed diagnosis to the healthcare system for a lot of those specialised conditions is billions of dollars every year.”

The early work for Aceso Group has been done at one of Zhou’s pharmacies which has a focus on specialty medication, working with specialists in neurology, oncology, dermatology and more.

“So we started to develop and are still developing in the early stages a complex AI platform that scans electronic health records, picks out the disease features, the phenotype and the genotype, and then basically matches the disease states with our proprietary data, matching it with the published diagnostic criteria,” he says.

“It provides a tool for the doctors and specialists to use to make decisions more easily, and probably seek treatment earlier.”

Zhou says Aceso recently secured two large partnerships including with Pfizer on two key molecules in the neurology and rheumatology specialty areas of the platform, while a chronic disease management platform development is now finished and pending beta release and testing.

Zhou adds the group is also on the cusp of a deal with an Australian university, and another with an AI-driven US company focused on Parkinson’s Disease.   

Nicholas Mitrossilis

74. Nicholas Mitrossilis (32)

The Yiros Shop

Brisbane

As a Greek fast food icon in southeast Queensland since 2015, The Yiros Shop has pita’d itself up against the big names of retail with a multi-pronged business strategy combining delivery, drive through, menu renewal and supplier integration.

But for founder Nicholas Mitrossilis, who originally only intended to open a few outlets, a major part of the reason why the store footprint has grown to 13 is the continued focus on flavour. At least another seven outlets are on the cards this year.

“It starts with the bread, the tzatziki sauce, which we make in house in our own factory, as well as onions and tomatoes,” Mitrossilis explains.

“We use real meats and put the chips inside, which is the traditional way of doing it in Greece. It’s really simple but it’s the quality of the product that stand out – real food that people appreciate and can taste the difference.”

However, for the carb-conscious the company has recently launched an alternative to the “chips inside” option with iceberg lettuce instead. On the other end of the dietary spectrum, for those wanting an indulgent treat the chain also launched a range of desserts such as baklava and loukoumades.

In an environment where food retailers are being squeezed by rising input costs across the supply chain, The Yiros Shop has been able to keep that in check due to several initiatives including the formation of its own production arm Midas Mediterranean which now accounts for around a fifth of the cost of goods sold.

“This will give us more control over our supply chain and control the cost of goods sold to our restaurants. It also helps cutback on mistakes in ordering from so many suppliers and reduces back-end paperwork for each restaurant,” the founder says.

“We signed up with Uber Eats, driving our delivery market, and then just before COVID hit we had our own app. We have since refined that and switched up our point-of-sale software with ordering kiosks in stores. That has been a big focus for us really – a pullback from face-to-face ordering.”

Kane Sajdak

75. Kane Sajdak (34)

HomeGuardian.ai

Gold Coast

For the founder of HomeGuardian.ai, 2022 was a year in which he focused on getting his AI and computer vision-powered monitoring device into more homes around the world.

Having proved the concept and secured Australian customers the year prior, Kane Sajdak set out to conquer international markets - pushing on with his mission to help the elderly with his neatly designed smart device.

The product, which is primarily used in aged care, disability care and hospital settings, helps some of the world’s most vulnerable by monitoring when they fall and alerts those in charge about what’s happened.

It can also detect violence, absence and wandering, through to the decline in mental and physical health in patients, as well as the onset of COVID-19 and flu-like symptoms all without sending any media or imagery elsewhere - making it one of the most private and secure smart devices in the world.

The founder says FY22 was a ‘year of massive corporate growth and expansion’. The company landed multiple enterprise deals, opened a second office in Brisbane, and showed off the product in Dubai at the largest health expo in the world.

This led to securing a deal in the United Arab Emirates - the company’s next major market after Australia.

“Having someone at such a high level over there be so excited about our product to the point where we are moving at a pace that is just unheard of has been absolutely phenomenal,” Sajdak says.

The next horizon for Sajdak is the US, where the company secured FDA approval for its device.

“We’re in a really unique position where the world’s our oyster really,” Sajdak says.

“I’m the pretty girl at the dance for once in my life!”

Bishara Hatoum

76. Bishara Hatoum (27)

Fundo Loans

Sydney

What began as a household goods rental business in 2015 eventually transformed into micro loans company Fundo in 2019 when founder Bishara Hatoum realised the business model would be much more scalable.

“Instead of giving a person a TV worth $1,000, why not just give them $1000? There are less logistical headaches, no warranty issues, no warehousing concerns, it’s a lot more scalable and it’s just a lot faster,” Hatoum explains.

“Pivot is definitely a buzzword but we genuinely did it – we had two businesses running simultaneously trying to figure out whether we can switch over to Fundo completely, so all my staff were somewhat trained on both products.

“2019 was really the year that we started building the system properly. By the end of that year we covered the revenue that the previous business, Rent Instead, was generating. Then we just switched it off and went all out with Fundo.”

In 2020 Hatoum’s inkling about micro-loan scalability proved correct with exponential growth, but he notes most of that has come from largely ‘manual’ work and the next big challenge is to automate the process.

“Now we’ve got a line of credit that we can tap into to help us scale. But our problem is we can't actually even use the money, we can't lend out the money fast enough.”

He attributes the positive results to the way the company has “gamified” the entire experience through the Fundo credit score, leading to “unparalleled customer experience”.

“We’ve created a Fundo credit score where customers can track their history and essentially improve over time to get access to more capital,” he says.

Smart Energy founders

77. Elliot Hayes (29) and Beau Savage (35)

Smart Energy

Byron Bay

Beau Savage and Elliot Hayes are on a very specific mission: to get battery storage systems into as many homes as possible around Australia.

The pair, based in Byron Bay, have taken up this mantle, having operated solar retailer Smart Energy since 2016. It was only this year though that their push to make battery storage mainstream really kicked into gear.

Rewinding back one year and Hayes said that just one in 100 of the jobs Smart Energy was attending to included a battery installation. Now, he says that number is closer to 40 in 100.

“People have got to the point where not only does it make sense, but people really want to own their power - not just when they produce it but they want to use it later instead of buying back from the energy companies,” Hayes says.

“That’s been a huge shift in our business, which has been fantastic to continue to evolve and move forward.

“I think every home and business in Australia should have one.”

The pair have a great handle on the Australian market too. In addition to their Byron headquarters, the pair run offices in Perth, Gold Coast, Brisbane, Newcastle, Sydney, Wollongong, Melbourne, Adelaide, Launceston, and Hobart.

“We’re trying to get to 100 Australian offices in the next five years,” Hayes says.

“We’ve also got three offices in the US - Florida and two in Austin, Texas.”

Building on that, the pair are also pushing into the UK, and hope the be able to ease record high electricity prices in the region as the country struggles through a cost of living crisis.

Tammy Hembrow

78. Tammy Hembrow (28)

Tammy Fit

Gold Coast

With 16 million Instagram followers and nearly 2 million on TikTok, Tammy Hembrow is one of Australia’s most popular social media influencers - a title she’s made good use out of.

The young entrepreneur has translated this following into business acumen, most notably with her fitness app Tammy Fit - an all-in-one fitness coach, dietician and wellness hub.

Having started the business in 2017, Tammy Fit has since built up a veritable army of users which turn to the platform to achieve whatever goals they have in mind, whether it be losing weight, eating better or getting swole.

This year, Hembrow set out to rebrand the platform with a modern look and new features that make it truly stand out from the plethora of fitness apps, and put greater focus on wellness within the app.

This was supported by the introduction of Tammy Fit retreats in collaboration with Journey Retreats, where mega-fans went on a trip overseas with the founder to reset, stretch, and unwind.

Of course, Tammy Fit is just one feather in Hembrow’s cap - she also runs fashion label Saski Collection in addition to her wildly successful social media profiles.

Alex Tyson

79. Alex Tyson (29)

Found—Space

Melbourne

After taking over a family sauna business in debt, Alex Tyson has created an e-commerce business model that has been heating up nationwide and in New Zealand, with disruptive global ambitions in the health and wellness space coupled with an innovative app that has launched in 2023.

“We specialise in selling infrared saunas into people's homes and providing health education. We help our clients improve their health,” says Tyson.

“We are in the process of developing a system so you can use a smart phone to control our infrared saunas. This way you can set your sauna for a sleep session whilst driving home from work,” he says, noting the product is due to launch this year.

“We are exploring different materials to reduce the total timber used in each sauna, and changing the narrative of what saunas can be; as a culture we can't continue to pull forests down just to build saunas. A sustainable approach to sauna building must start across the global industry.”

In line with this philosophy, the company donates to Greening Australia to offset its carbon footprint each year.

The big change that Tyson brought to the business was shifting from the traditional “travelling conference” model of selling to an online model.

“We generate all of our leads online through our content that we put out there, through different channels, podcasts, that sort of thing, and the leads come to our internal sales team, which have a process that they follow with our clients over the phone or over email,” he says.

“We do still have showrooms. We have a showroom in Melbourne and one in Brisbane, but it’s a completely different business model to what it was.”

In April the company will be launching its new ice bath product, while in the same month there are plans to open a Melbourne boutique where people can experience the range and have a health consultation with a qualified practitioner.

“In May we will be releasing smart sauna capability, where people can control their sauna from our app with an algorithm to recommend and program their sauna sessions for them - a first in the industry,” Tyson adds.

Scott Gavens

80. Scott Gavens (38)

ATEO

Melbourne

In a regulatory environment where high-profile wage theft cases abound as large corporates struggle to make correct payments to staff, Scott Gaven’s workplace management consultancy ATEO has carved out a high-growth niche to keep employers on the right track with compliance

The idea for ATEO began when he was working as a consultant for some of the nation’s largest retailers and saw how incomplete and overly manual their workforce payment systems were.

“The service providers who were in that space didn’t really have a vision for automating; it was really just doing more of the same and hoping these systems would work,” Gavens explains.

“A lot of the wage theft articles you see, a lot of the time it’s because there’s a reliance on a lot of manual effort, really at scale, and it just doesn't work.”

His response was “if no one else is going to do it properly, we might as well”.

The company was founded in 2017 in Melbourne, but last year the group started dipping its toes into NSW and Queensland, doubling the size of its team to 30 consultants alongside a bulking up of the management team; a figure that is set to rise to 50 in 2023.

“We opened our Brisbane office in 2022 and lasted four weeks before we had to expand the office due to growth. We already have a team in NSW but will officially open our Sydney office in February 2023,” he says.

In a sector long dominated by multinationals, ATEO has been steadily building up a portfolio of clients comprising some of the country’s biggest names in business, most recently including Australian Unity (ASX: AYU), Baby Bunting (ASX: BBN) and Merivale Hotels, adding to a long list of large ASX-listed and private companies ranging from Super Retail Group (ASX: SUL) to Coles (ASX: COL) and Officeworks.

Significant efforts have also gone into an area Gavens describes as “labour engineering”, which is more common in some countries overseas but is a relatively underserved market segment in Australia.

“Labour engineering is really about how you measure what you do and look for inefficiency, but also how to look for opportunity around how you spend your money,” the entrepreneur says.

“The enjoyment for us is that we’re going out there to deliver services into this space that’s just not being offered.”

To support its existing practice, this year ATEO is launching its change management business Landing Gear, which has already been underway as a proof-of-change project with client Symal Construction.


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