THEY are driven by a kaleidoscope of idiosyncrasies.
They are more risk managers than risk takers and the key standout quality entrenched in each of the Gold Coast Business News Young Entrepreneurs of the Year for 2009 is a burning desire to achieve.
Common denominators link our finalists and while there are obvious similarities, there are also glaring contrasts. Each has displayed remarkable tenacity in a volatile economy over the past 12 months to catapult their respective businesses above the competition.
As the construction craze capitulated and banks started calling in developer loans, the Gold Coast property industry began to crumble. Some hit the wall. Conversely MKM Group towered above with an ambitious and boisterous expansion drive. For managing director and founder Michael Kljaic, it was ‘do or die’.
Not one to bunker down, the 2009 Young Entrepreneur of the Year went out and locked horns with the financial crisis and achieved revenues of more than $30 million. The 37-year-old has since created communities and provides 100 jobs across his multi-faceted construction empire.
For Zarraffa’s Coffee founder Kenton Campbell, opening another 14 stores before the end of next year will boost his total store numbers to more than 50. The likeable American dreams big. To complement his rapacious appetite for franchising, he is also an ardent wildlife warrior, martial arts expert and soon to be author.
And what about the French chef who first sprinkled his fine dining ingredients on the Gold Coast with the Absynthe restaurant in 2005? Two-star Michelin rated culinary whizz Meyjitte Boughenout doesn’t just tantalise taste buds. He also creates restaurants and now owns five on the Gold Coast, including the Sanctuary Cove Wine Bar and Cellar and the Godmother’s Magical Pizzas at Paradise Point.
This year Gold Coast Business News was inundated with entries and as the quality of finalists in the ensuing pages affirms, each brings something of great value to the city and its bustling economy.
Associate professor of entrepreneurship and family business at Bond University Justin Craig, says an important distinction identified in this year’s crop is that they have not been obsessed with predicting the future. Rather, they have concerned themselves with creating the future.
“Despite what has been a challenging year for all sectors in all regions, these entrepreneurs have stayed true to their vision and been able to seek out opportunities,” says Craig.
“The young entrepreneur class of 2009 are true entrepreneurs because they understand how to control and leverage resources. Though some of these ventures have morphed into companies of considerable size and complexity, the entrepreneurs at the helm have continued to demonstrate that they know the importance of resource parsimony.
“This understanding was particularly important in 2009, which could have been for them (as it was for many) an anus horribilis.”
Prof Philip Neck, a business and law specialist at Southern Cross University and co-author of the Practice of Entrepreneurship, points out that only a given percentage of people are true entrepreneurs.
He says despite most company founders having a quota for ‘some of these needs’, the entrepreneur is the one who really needs to achieve above all else.
“It should be pointed out that entrepreneurs are not necessarily highly likeable, or popular, people because of their driven need and obsession to achieve. If the world was full of entrepreneurs it could be an uncomfortable place,” he says.
In helping to determine a winner this year, he remarked, ‘they are determined as one another, they are not gamblers, nor are they are fools’.
The Gold Coast has become a land of opportunity for today’s savvy entrepreneur. Regardless of economic conditions they tend to create opportunity. One of the finalists has already requested another downturn so that he might leverage more share in the ebullient financial planning space.
Professor of marketing at Griffith University Andrew McCauley, says huge potential exists for SMEs and micro business in South East Queensland, the starting blocks for many of the finalists in this issue.
“One of the things about downturns is that it is the best start to recognise opportunities. It shouldn’t come as any real surprise that most of the finalists have been able to push through the downturn and succeed, because that’s one of their key strengths, to innovate when others are affected,” he says.
McAuley explains that certain industries create better scope to enrich and commercialise ideas. Sectors such as retail and franchising enables better security and brand awareness.
“Franchising allows some security with the brand and helps to be able to define the business in other territories. It minimises risk and allows for fast growth,” he says.
“Retail lets the entrepreneur tap into something unique and opens ways of carving a niche. Not all consumers want to look the same or shop at all the big stores.”
And if you have ever wondered why this effulgent collective always seem to be coming and going at the same time, Craig explains that it’s just like motor racing.
“True entrepreneurs know that to bring their vision to reality, they must have one foot on the accelerator and one foot on the brake,” he says.
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