The Gold Coast Young Entrepreneur Awards 2019 was choc-a-bloc with business talent tonight, but the evening eventually revolved around Jonathan Dwayre and his elevator empire Orbitz.
Competition was tough but it was the meteoric rise of Orbitz Elevators that most impressed the judges, with exceptional year-on-year growth and massive job creation since it was founded in 2015.
Held at QT Gold Coast in Surfers Paradise, the awards gala attracted more than 300 of the city's leading young businesspeople under 40, and finalists were eager to take home the top prize won last year by National Veterinary Care (ASX: NVL) founder Tomas Steenackers.
Lifts run in the family for Dwayre, who started out in the industry by helping with his father's UK elevator servicing business in 1994. But it was two decades later that he would found his own company on the other side of the world.
In 2012 he accepted a senior management role at an Australian elevator company on the Gold Coast, but he quickly identified gaps in the market including a lack of customer service, flexibility and asset reliability.
"With my extensive global elevator experience, I soon realised my dream with Orbitz Elevators which became a reality in November 2014," says Dwayre.
"All I had was a credit card, I took a significant risk and financed my first Orbitz van determined to succeed with my business plans.
"Less than five years later, Orbitz Elevators now employs over 85 staff members across Australia and offshore, with the head office on the Gold Coast and sub-branches in Brisbane, Sunshine Coast, Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea."
In the near future he plans on expanding into more major Australian cities including Adelaide and Darwin, and will continue on the journey of capturing more market share.
"We also have aspirations to expand into new global markets such as the United Kingdom and New Zealand to expand our international presence," says Dwayre.
"My entrepreneurial passion and commitment to the company is something I take great pride in as a leader and I hope to inspire others around me.
"I am currently studying my MBA and I aspire to drive the business to becoming the largest Australian elevator company within the next four years."
Brisbane Young Entrepreneur Awards founder Camilla Jansen says there were several contenders for the highest distinction at this year's Gold Coast Young Entrepreneur Awards, but in the end the judges' view was that Dwayre was the standout.
"Jon has had exceptional year-on-year revenue and profit growth driven by a laser focus on exceptional quality and service to his customers," says Jansen.
"We were also impressed by his national footprint of activity with an aspiration to expand into international markets."
Brad Illich wins Trailblazer of the Year Award 2019
A total of 19 awards were given across a wide spectrum of sectors, including the coveted Trailblazer of the Year Award which this year went to Brad Illich, founder of tourism property management software company NewBook and tourism-focused B2B IT business Xtreme.
Reinvestment and innovation have been critical to the success of NewBook, a business that has disrupted the accommodation bookings sector through a cloud-based property management system.
Now with a fairly large share of the Australian market, Illich is taking the platform to the US where feedback has been positive so far.
"We went to America last November to a conference over there for RV parks and outdoor hospitality and really didn't know a soul - just a couple of Aussies, we had a stand and we presented our product and it was really well received," he says, noting a few breakthroughs to date with key industry players.
The other milestone since Christmas has been the launch of NewBook's AI-powered chatbot NEW.B.I.E, which can do bookings for all kinds of accommodation and tourism services.
"It's the only one on the market that's heavily integrated with a property management system. It doesn't just answer questions; it can book them an Uber, tell them how far it is to the airport, order room service, make bookings, change bookings," he says.
"What we've done differently is clients don't have to be on NewBook to use NEW.B.I.E, so where we really struggled was with a lot of big hotel chains the thought of changing their whole system is bit overwhelming, and often just put in the too hard basket.
"So we went to Sydney to the No Vacancy conference in June and we actually went as NEW.B.I.E, not as NewBook, and he response we got from hotels was so much greater than we normally would."
Illich notes big hotel chains around the world are pumping millions into startups trying to build chatbots like the one he has already developed.
"We've already got it built and running, and it's already taken 5,000 bookings for hotels and had about 80,000 odd conversations with customers, so we're really ahead of the game."
All winners at the 2019 Gold Coast Young Entrepreneur Awards
- Young Entrepreneur of the Year - Jonathan Dwayre (Orbitz Elevators)
- Trailblazer of the Year - Brad Illich (NewBook, Xtreme)
- Arts & Culture - Michael Huxley (Huxley Group)
- Digital Disruptor - James Greig (iVvy, Bloomtools, Wildflower Gin)
- Fashion Design - Tammy Hembrow (Saski Collection)
- Finance - James Marshall (MWM Advisory)
- Food & Beverage - Michael McGovern, Dan Norris, Eddie Oldfield (Black Hops Brewing)
- Health & Fitness - Dr Tanya Unni (Amtan Medical, Amtan Health, SkinLab & Beauty, Australian Skin Lab)
- Hospitality & Tourism - Craig & Lucy Johnson (TCLH, My Private Chef)
- Manufacturing, Wholesale & Distribution - Tim Dawson (Lauxes Grates)
- Marketing - Nic Nichols (40/40 Creative, Golden Walls)
- PR & Media - Naomi Spies (Ruby Communications)
- Professional Services - Jürgen Himmelmann (The Global Work & Travel Co.)
- Property & Construction - Luke Vaughan (Crown Realty International, Acquire Enterprises, Coastal Equity Partners, ADV Collab)
- Retail & Services - James Strathdee & Sean Barry (One Power)
- Social Entrepreneur - Amelia Gow (Active Opportunities, 6729 Bakery)
- Specialist Services - Jonathan Dwayre (Orbitz Elevators)
- Startup - Paul Billing & Ian Cragg (SendFX)
- Technology - Bernard Mangelsdorf & Kane Sajdak (BITS Technology Group, BITS Wireless, Cloud Torque)
Business News Australia