AMBITIOUS, resilient and creative - candidates for the Brisbane Business News Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award 2010 do not rest on their laurels. In fact some don’t seem to rest at all. Success doesn’t come easily as many will attest and the decision for a winner this year came right down to the wire.

Judges were split over who would be crowned the city’s top young entrepreneur this year and it wasn’t like comparing apples and oranges - but rather pizza and coffee.

This year Hynes Lawyers founder Robert Hynes, who himself has built a successful firm from scratch, joined The University of Queensland’s Dr Lance Newey, in assisting Brisbane Business News in the selection process.

In his assessment, Hynes highlighted unexpected strength from those companies that are aligned to a struggling retail sector. Case in point Phillip Di Bellla’s Espresso Enterprises.

Phillip Di Bella (pictured) took top honours for his insatiable entrepreneurial appetite as he sought and discovered new markets and products, but denying the Highly Commended duo of Scott Geiszler and Anthony Russo of Pizza Capers the top gong was a tough call.

“There’s a few in the retail space and that’s good to see them growing and effectively defying the retail slowdown, which shows that people who are entrepreneurial and have got the right business acumen can swim against the tide, so to speak,” he says.

“Coffee per se is something that’s been done by a lot of people as well, but (Philip) Di Bella has taken it to a whole other level. He’s focused on the health-related issues of coffee, in terms of making the new instant-coffee type product but without the unhealthy chemicals that instant coffee has.”

The University of Queensland’s Dr Lance Newey, whose expertise is in dynamic operating capabilities and social entrepreneurship, points to clear value propositions from Pizza Capers and Di Bella.

“He’s (Di Bella) been able to implement his idea and expand on it and that’s the difference between an entrepreneur and a small business,” says Dr Lance Newey.

“Pizza Capers has had ambitious expansion into attractive yet unfamiliar and challenging markets and they give to the community through the size of employment created.”

Kudos must also go to insurance claims consultancy Stream Group founder Don McKenzie. While growing the business rapidly in just three years to $31 million in annual revenue is impressive, proven longevity is still a way off.

“The NZ earthquake was something he (McKenzie) couldn’t expect and it comes back to a theme in the Pizza Capers story too – the ability to manage the unexpected,” explains Newey.

“Plans have their importance but the skill in business is what the academics call ‘adaptive execution’, looking for that needle in the haystack and acting accordingly.”

Another notable mention and favourite among the judges is the trio behind Future Sustainability.

“They’re well positioned to leverage off carbon taxes in the future and they will be able to evolve into other types of products around sustainability,” says Robert Hynes.

“The idea of distribution storage from an infrastructure view is very important. There are a lot of pipes and powerlines every time a new estate is built, but if you can have on-site infrastructure then it saves a lot of infrastructure costs.”

A common theme that arose this year was health, with several candidates sick, over-worked and stressed.

“Health is a serious issue. When you’re so passionate about a business you might not have time for anything else, but if your health suffers then your family suffers,” says Robert Hynes.

MRWED owner Marc Ratcliff illustrates the point.

“If I was an employee and I wanted someone to do my job, I couldn’t get someone to do the 85 hours a week I do, so I need to start treating myself like my own employee,” he says.

For a full profile list on Brisbane’s 2010 Young Entrepreneurs, including interviews with all of the finalists, get a copy of the special annual edition of Brisbane Business News – out now in more than 500 greater Brisbane newsagents.

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