Top entrepreneurs honoured at Melbourne ceremony

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The top entrepreneurs from across Victoria and Tasmania were announced last night at the 2012 EY Entrepreneur Of The Year® Southern region awards ceremony in Melbourne.

Winners of the 2012 EY Entrepreneur Of The Year Southern region awards, by category, were:

  • Emerging – Will Deague, Asian Pacific Group
  • Industry – Peter Law, Australian Independent Rural Retailers
  • Services – Simon Crowe, Grill’d
  • Technology – Dean Ramler, Milan Direct

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

  • Listed award – Anthony Podesta, McMillan Shakespeare
  • Social entrepreneur – Daniel Almagor, Engineers without borders
  • Champion of Entrepreneurship – Craig Kimberley

EY Melbourne Office Managing Partner, Annette Kimmitt said the high calibre of this year’s Southern region winners demonstrated the vision and passion of entrepreneurs right across the region.

“Entrepreneurs create enormous economic benefit and social change, by inspiring others with their innovative approach and by challenging the status quo,” Kimmitt said.

“The EY Entrepreneur Of The Year awards are a celebration of the successes of these individuals, each of whom play a vital role in creating jobs, boosting economies and improving communities, both locally and on a national and global stage.

“EY congratulates all of our 2012 Southern region award winners and nominees and commend them for their innovation, determination and entrepreneurial spirit,” Kimmitt said.

“Our Southern region winners and award recipients will travel to Sydney in November to contend for the title of 2012 Australian EY Entrepreneur Of The Year at the national awards.

“The overall Australian winner will then go on to compete in the EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year awards in Monte Carlo next year,” Kimmit said.

EY Entrepreneur Of The Year is considered the world’s most prestigious business award and the only truly global program of its kind, with entrepreneurs participating in 140 cities in more than 50 countries.

Over 1,000 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

2012 EY Entrepreneur Of The Year category winners, Southern region

Category: Emerging
Will Deague – Asian Pacific Group
Will Deague constructed three Art Series Hotels during the global financial crisis and, as CEO of the Asian Pacific Group, he has seen this “daunting” risk pay off. Aside from developing unique, award-winning boutique hotels, Asian Pacific Group focuses on commercial property and corporate services, such as serviced offices and property management. Revenue has grown by 100% in the last four years. Will’s vision is to devise creative new property development opportunities, establish new industry benchmarks for his customers and expand interstate. Asian Pacific Group has created more than 250 new jobs in Melbourne and was one of the first property developers to receive green building finance from the Melbourne City Council.
What the judges said: Will is a great example of a young entrepreneur running a diversified business very responsibly. He is energetic and enthusiastic with a maturity beyond his years. Through innovation, Will was able to put a modern twist on a heritage legacy business, completely changing the business model and transforming the corporate governance of the business.

Category: Industry
Peter Law – Australian Independent Rural Retailers
In 2006, Peter Law used his investment savings and superannuation as seed funding to create an Australia-wide distribution network for rural customers, with an unwavering focus to support Australian farming communities. Australian Independent Rural Retailers (AIRR) has maintained the philosophy of being honest and loyal to customers which creates relationships that he says are “gold” in country Australia. Due to this philosophy, and Peter’s unique buying and profit share strategy, AIRR has rapidly, yet successfully, increased its Australian market share to nearly 20%. It is also now developing its own brands to drive growth further.
What the judges said: Peter is an authentic person who really cares about the rural industry and understands that for success in this sector, it needs to be about the members. A visionary entrepreneur, Peter has combined innovation with superb execution to develop a unique members’ structure, bolstered by a strong business model. His solid strategy not only identifies growth opportunities but also finds ways to ‘de-risk’ the business.

Category: Services
Simon Crowe – Grill’d
In 2004, tired of the lack of good burgers, Simon Crowe opened his first Grill’d restaurant. Grill’d sells premium-quality, fresh, healthy burgers and aims to make the burger a guilt free, healthy meal solution. Simon wants to debunk the myth that a food chain business is, in his words, “a dumbed-down, soulless commercial entity”. Grill’d is headquartered in Hawthorn, Victoria, and has 54 restaurants across Australia. Grill’d was the winner in the cafes, restaurants and take-aways category at the Australian Retailer of the Year Awards in 2010. Simon aims to open another 20 restaurants in the next year.
What the judges said: There is something admirable about taking the humble burger and making it better, showing that innovation is not just about technology. Simon is a true self-starter and an extremely disciplined entrepreneur. Simon is both the architect of the business strategy and the custodian of its execution. He has a clear vision for his business and is uncompromising in protecting the integrity of the brand.

Category: Technology
Dean Ramler – Milan Direct
Founded in 2007 when Dean Ramler was 24, Milan Direct pioneered the concept of selling designer furniture purely through an online channel. By December 2011, 500,000 pieces of furniture had been sold. Milan Direct aims to bring affordable, quality designer furniture to the public. Milan Direct currently ships orders to 40 countries worldwide including Australia, New Zealand and all over Europe. Dean’s vision for Milan Direct is to be a global leader in the online furniture market and he has been recognised as a leading entrepreneur by Start Up Smart, sharing advice on building a high-growth business in a regular column.
What the judges said: From day one, Dean’s vision has been to build a global business and he has accomplished just that. This passionate, young entrepreneur has developed an impressive business model, enabling him to respond quickly to customers’ changing needs and tastes. As a purely online business, Dean has utilised all the opportunities this technology provides, eliminating some of the risks and creating a quality experience for his customers. Dean has shown a real insight into the social value of high quality design, and his strong growth in a market with formidable global competitors is inspiring.

2012 EY Entrepreneur Of The Year non-competitive regional award recipients, Southern Region
The Social entrepreneur and Listed award recipient will go on to compete at the National awards against their regional counterparts.

Category: Listed award
Anthony Podesta – McMillan Shakespeare
Anthony Podesta established McMillan Shakespeare in 1989 and pioneered the remuneration services industry, after identifying a gap in the market created by the introduction of the Fringe Benefits Tax (FBT) regime. With a background in human resources, industrial relations and taxation accounting, Anthony recognised that the FBT regime could bring significant wider commercial benefits to businesses and employees, creating a vast opportunity for the provision of outsourced salary packaging services for the first time in Australia. Currently, McMillan Shakespeare manages over $4.6 billion of remuneration transactions annually, delivers services to more than 250,000 employees, directly employs approximately 800 staff and has a market capitalisation of over $800 million.

Category: Social entrepreneur
Daniel Almagor – Engineers without borders
Daniel Almagor is the founder and former CEO of Engineers Without Borders Australia (EWB), where he continues his involvement as a donor, ambassador and general helping hand when asked. He is also RMIT’s inaugural Social Entrepreneur in Residence, chairperson of Jewish Aid Australia, on the wisdom council at Hub Melbourne and managing director of Small Giants, a firm focused on developing and investing in social enterprises. In 2003, Daniel won a Churchill Fellowship to further the growth of EWB in Australia. EWB’s rapid growth and success throughout Australia and South Asia prompted Daniel to be named among the 100 most influential engineers in Australia in 2005. Daniel has been recognised on numerous occasions for his various endeavours, including being named the RMIT Alumnus of the Year in 2009. He loves to read, talk about business and philosophy, garden, travel and jump on the trampoline with his kids.

Category: Champion of Entrepreneurship
The Champion of Entrepreneurship award is a lifetime achievement award that recognises individuals who: have a long-term record of outstanding entrepreneurial achievement; have driven the growth of an Australian company, or companies, over a sustained period of time; and have made a significant contribution to their community.

Craig Kimberley
Just Jeans was born in 1970. At the time, Craig Kimberley was working for a sportswear manufacturing company when, during a buying trip to the US, he noticed something new; shops that only sold jeans. Just Jeans brought a new atmosphere and range of sizing to the jeans market in Australia. Its growing popularity and increased cash flow saw the opening of two new stores in 1971, and Craig left his full time job to become full-time managing director of Just Jeans Pty. Ltd.

By 1993, there were over 200 Just Jeans store locations across the country and the company acquired the clothing chain Jay Jays. Following this acquisition, Just Jeans went on to acquire Jacqui-E, Peter Alexander and Portmans in 1994, 2000 and 2001 respectively. This clothing giant was now branded under the name The Just Group.

In 2001, Craig sold his interest in The Just Group to Private equity group Catalyst. More recently, Craig and his wife Connie acquired the Herberton Historic village in far north Queensland and aim to reopen the village to the public.


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Contact details:

Rebecca Aley
EY Australia
Tel: +61 2 9276 9305 or 0418 835 849