2016's top South Australian entrepreneurs named

Friday, 12 August 2016

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South Australia’s top entrepreneurs have taken home honours from last night’s 2016 EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™ Central Region awards ceremony in Adelaide. The National finalists were:

  • Ray Dennis – Lightforce Australia
  • Chester Osborn – d’Arenberg Wines Pty Ltd
  • Tom Skipper and Stuart Duckworth – The Social Creative Pty Ltd
  • Nikki Heywood-Smith- W&L Aged Care Services

Also recognised in the non-competitive regional award categories were:

  • Social entrepreneur – Ian Steel, Kickstart for Kids
  • Champion of Entrepreneurship – John Johnston, Godfreys

The National finalists and the Social entrepreneur will go on to represent the state at the national awards in October, where they will compete for the title of 2016 Australian EY Entrepreneur Of The Year.

The overall 2016 Australian winner will be named at a gala ceremony in Sydney on 20 October. The national winner will go on to represent the country and compete in the EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year awards in Monte Carlo next June, following in the footsteps of last year’s winner Manny Stul, Chairman and Co-CEO of toy company Moose Enterprise, who became the first Australian to win the title of EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year™ earlier this year.

EY Adelaide Managing Partner, Don Manifold, said this year’s Central Region National finalists were chosen from an especially competitive group and represented the high-growth entrepreneurial talent the state had to offer.

“South Australia has a proud history of innovation and entrepreneurship, and we are thrilled with the calibre of the group going to nationals this year,” Mr Manifold said.

“High-growth entrepreneurs can really push their local communities and economies forward, creating jobs importantly, but also challenging the traditional way we do business. In South Australia, we recognise that entrepreneurs play a critical role in our economy and also in helping to show us that we can do things better and more innovatively.

“Some of our finalists have been operating for decades, in both local and global markets. They all demonstrate what is possible through hard work and resilience, and inspire us with their ambition and innovative thinking.

“At EY we have maintained a long-standing commitment to nurturing entrepreneurship, and continuing to grow the entrepreneurial community in South Australia and the rest of the country,” Mr Manifold added.

Todd Roberts, General Manager, Institutional and Corporate Banking South Australia/Northern Territory, Commonwealth Bank said, “Congratulations to all the Central Region National finalists. It’s great to see their talent for driving new ideas forward to fruition being recognised.

“We believe innovative thinking is critical for business success so we’re proud to be principal sponsor of a program associated with Australia’s top business innovators,” Mr Roberts said.

EY Entrepreneur Of The Year is considered one of the world’s most prestigious business awards and is the only truly global program of its kind, with entrepreneurs participating in 145 cities in more than 60 countries. More than 1,400 outstanding entrepreneurs have been recognised through the Entrepreneur Of The Year program in Australia since 2001.

For more information on the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year program go to www.ey.com/au/eoy

2016 EY Entrepreneur Of The Year National finalists, Central Region

Ray Dennis – Lightforce Australia
Adelaide-based Lightforce Australia is a specialist manufacturer and exporter of high performance and durable lighting systems, founded by Ray Dennis. Lightforce was the first lighting company to patent polycarbonate driving lights and now deals with some of the largest car manufacturers globally in providing aftermarket lighting products, exporting to more than 50 countries. The wholly owned US-based Nightforce Optics business, produces riflescopes that are used on six continents in some of the most inhospitable environments on earth. In a further demonstration of his entrepreneurial drive, Ray owns the Paroo Pastoral Company, a productive land holding in South Australia and north western New South Wales.
What the judges said: “Lightforce has a formidable reputation as a global leader in its field. 35 years ago, after searching the retail market for a high-quality spotlight to use on his property and finding nothing suitable, Ray Dennis decided to build one himself. Under Ray’s leadership, the company’s innovation, agility and unwavering commitment to quality and high performance, together with their ongoing focus on research and development, has enabled Lightforce to open up new markets and export their products to more than 50 countries world-wide.” 

Chester Osborn – d’Arenberg Wines Pty Ltd
Chester Osborn joined the family business as Chief Winemaker in 1983, taking charge of all aspects of winemaking, viticulture and marketing. The fourth-generation winery now exports to 90 countries and produces around 3,200 tons of premium bottled wines. Chester has returned wine-making to its roots, adding a modern twist to traditional equipment and methods. This has created a unique style of wine in Australia. Chester has been named one of the 10 most influential wine people in the world. He is determined to continue the legacy on which the winery was founded - a love for wine and family.
What the judges said: d’Arenberg’s combination of fourth generation family heritage and Chester’s passion, fresh ideas and innovative approach, has seen the company grow both in size and reputation since Chester took over as chief winemaker in 1983. Already boasting the busiest cellar door in the McLaren Vale and exporting to more than 90 countries, the d’Arenberg Cube presents an exciting growth opportunity for the winery and an innovative new legacy for the entire McLaren Vale region

Tom Skipper and Stuart Duckworth – The Social Creative Pty Ltd
In 2013, Tom Skipper and Stuart Duckworth activated a piece of vacant land to create a temporary pop-up event to capture passers-by on their way to and from the Adelaide Oval. Today, The Social Creative operates as a complete hospitality offering, focusing on major events, temporary pop-ups, fixed venue start-ups and consultancy. The company’s unique temporary events range across the arts, music, immersive theatre and food trends, capturing audiences across Australia. Tom and Stuart have been instrumental in the creation of Adelaide’s “small bar” license arrangements. The Social Creative will soon expand into China and launch its events offering globally.
What the judges said: Stuart and Tom represent a fresh new generation of entrepreneurs. Through The Social Creative, they harness international trends in art, music and food to deliver tailored, unique events and fixed venues to local patrons. They balance their innovative ideas with a professional approach to risk, partnerships and capital raising, ensuring the flexibility to evolve their business model. Stuart and Tom are a great emerging success story. 

Nikki Heywood-Smith- W&L Aged Care Services
Started by Nikki Heywood-Smith in 2004, W&L Aged Care Services is a leading allied health, Aged Care Funding Instrument consultancy and online learning supplier. Allied health services include physiotherapy, podiatry and occupational therapy, servicing 28,000 aged care beds nationally. W&L’s dedicated consultancy service makes it easy for customers to comply with regulatory obligations and receive the necessary funding so they can focus on their clients’ needs rather than paperwork. There is a strong emphasis on educating nurses, carers and family members to improve clients’ quality of life, and W&L Learning offers an exclusive library of online training material.
What the judges said: Built from the ground up by Nikki and her husband, W&L Aged Care Services is filling an important niche in the health care sector. Through a combination of perseverance, clever innovation and a funding model that enables them to invest back into the business, they have established their reputation as an industry-leading provider of high-quality and tailored services to their customers.

2016 EY Entrepreneur Of The Year non-competitive award recipients, Central Region

Social entrepreneurs – Ian Steel, Kickstart for Kids
Ian Steel began Kickstart for Kids (KSFK) in 2009 by supplying breakfast for underprivileged children at three schools. At the time, he was also still running his own building supplies business. From 2010, Ian attracted growing media coverage, a partnership with Port Adelaide football club and sponsorship by a major Australian bank. Today, KSFK’s 500 community-minded volunteers deliver approximately 40,000 breakfasts in more than 250 schools, and offer mentoring for underprivileged children. Those involved in the program have seen a marked improvement in children’s attitudes and behaviors. Ian plans to launch Camp Kickstart, a school holiday program for disadvantaged children.

Champion of Entrepreneurship– John Johnston, Godfreys
John Johnston has made a tremendous contribution to the Australian retail landscape. Born in 1918, John met lifelong business partner Godfrey Cohen in 1938 and the two became partners over a handshake. Soon after, John opened his first store and from there the business took off. Their partnership went on to last more than 70 years, as the pair took the Godfreys brand from strength to strength, building a brand that is now synonymous with vacuum cleaners. Godfrey Cohen passed away in 2004, however John Johnston, now 98 years old, is a part-owner of Godfreys and is still actively involved in the business. The Godfreys Group has grown to almost 200 stores across Australia and New Zealand. They have sold millions of vacuum cleaners and continue to lead the market through continuous innovation and hard work.

About EY Entrepreneur Of The YearTM
EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™ is the world’s most prestigious business award for entrepreneurs. The unique award makes a difference through the way it encourages entrepreneurial activity among those with potential, and recognizes the contribution of people who inspire others with their vision, leadership and achievement. As the first and only truly global award of its kind, EY Entrepreneur Of The Year celebrates those who are building and leading successful, growing and dynamic businesses, recognizing them through regional, national and global awards programs in more than 145 cities in more than 60 countries.

The Australian Entrepreneur Of The Year awards program, launched in 2001, is conducted in five regions culminating in the national awards. The program honors entrepreneurs whose ingenuity and perseverance have created and sustained successful, growing business ventures.  Entrepreneur Of The Year’s primary objective is to identify, acknowledge and celebrate the outstanding contribution entrepreneurs make to the Australian business community and economy.

The Australian Entrepreneur Of The Year program now has alumni of over 1,400 entrepreneurs who have participated in the program. Since the program’s inception more than 15,000 people have attended Entrepreneur Of The Year events and award ceremonies in Australia.

About EY
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