CONGRATULATIONS Michael Kljaic – the 2009 Gold Coast Business News Young Entrepreneur of the Year.
One of the most rewarding aspects of this job is reporting on the remarkable talents and perpetual tenacity demonstrated by business owners that continually punch above their weight.
This year, the main award and the two highly commended accolades went to migrants who dreamt of building success and having a crack at prosperity in the ‘lucky country’.
Kljaic is one such person. Like all adept and highly-driven entrepreneurs, he defies the odds and thrives when the chips are down.
Far from content to bunker down during the economic turmoil of the last 12 months, he instead orchestrated a cavalier strategy that would prove to be the turning point of his business. In short, he had to absorb the impact of losing $30 million in contracts that had simply ‘fallen over’.
Kljaic set out to raise enough capital to buy four new trucks and two excavators and started bidding for projects outside his bread and butter residential building work.
As projects around him were mothballed and receivership raised its ugly head among some of his more colourful competitors, Kljaic’s MKM Group won the $1 million State Government tender for civil works on the new hospital at Parklands.
“I just kept thinking ‘what do we need to do’ to get out of this and we were looking for anything to keep us going. I couldn’t sit around and wait, I had to make things happen and we did,” he says.
Kljaic doesn’t believe in booms. The former Serbian national who once washed buses for a living at Surfside where his late father George drove the fleet, has done his dad proud. He even named one of his residential estates after him – the $70 million St George Springs at Warwick, west of Brisbane. Humble yet driven by an incessant desire to achieve, the 37-year-old is a most deserving winner of this year’s award.
Never one to tap out early, Zarraffa’s Coffee founder Kenton Campbell is highly commended by our judging panel – a parliament of business leaders and university professors.
Like most of the 2009 Gold Coast Business News Young Entrepreneurs, Campbell successfully expanded the business at a time when national retail spend was down.
“It’s all about good planning. Basically I could see what was happening. With the drive-throughs, I had been looking for a number of years. The last year has proved to be pretty good for us considering. We thought, ‘what’s the worst that can happen’?
And serial restaurateur and Two Star Michelin chef Meyjitte Boughenout opened his first business venture Absynthe in 2005.
Since then he has expanded the chain to include five restaurants on the Gold Coast, including the Sanctuary Cove Wine Bar and Cellar and the Godmother’s Magical Pizzas at Paradise Point. The French native has also opened the Absynthe Bakery at Circle on Cavill and Absynthe Patisserie at Paradise Point.
To all of our finalists, thank you for allowing us to critique your achievements in the public sphere.
Best wishes for 2010.
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