Central Region Entrepreneur Of The Year™ finalists revealed

Friday, 31 August 2018

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The top South Australian entrepreneurs have taken home honors from the 2018 Entrepreneur Of The Year™ Central Region awards ceremony held last night in Adelaide.  Five finalists were chosen from an outstanding field of entrepreneurs to go through to the next round of the 2018 program. These are: 

  • Nicho Teng – Haneco Lighting/Greaton
  • Steve Butler – Stilmark Telecommunications
  • Ray Khabbaz – Australian Wholefoods
  • Grant Wilckens – Discovery Parks
  • Tony Guidera – Guidera O’Connor

Also recognized in a non-competitive category, was Matthew Woodward from Unity Housing as Social Entrepreneur.

The winners from South Australia will join talented entrepreneurs from across the country nominated for this year’s National Awards.

Adelaide Managing Partner, Ernst & Young Australia Mark Phelps, said this year’s finalists are an outstanding group of pioneering entrepreneurs who are surviving and thriving in challenging economic conditions.

“This year’s winners could not be more different and are a great reflection on the increasing number of diverse, high growth businesses we have in South Australia.”

“From telephone infrastructure solutions, frozen and fresh meals, and holiday leisure parks, through to water treatment solutions and energy efficient lighting, they cover B2B, B2C and everything in between.”

“Our Social Entrepreneur, Matthew Woodward of Unity Housing demonstrates complete client dedication, through the provision of safe and affordable places to live for literally thousands of South Australians.”

“What all our winners have in common is an unwavering commitment to innovating for improved client outcomes.”

“Congratulations to all our great winners – you make South Australians proud,” he said.

Rob Dalton, EY Oceania Growth Markets Leader said, “EY is proud to support growing dynamic businesses through a number of platforms, including the Entrepreneur Of The Year Awards.

“It’s not just a “branding” program, although this is important. It’s the culmination of a knowledge journey, from helping start-ups get started, through to celebrating the growth and success of their businesses all along the way. EY’s Entrepreneur Of The Year program plays a significant part in embedding entrepreneurship into society.”

“We collect and collate critical data on success factors globally, and then feed this back to the entrepreneurial community to help these dynamic business people achieve their growth aspirations.  This coupled with the wisdom they gain, the mentoring they receive and the connections they make is something that money just can’t buy. I encourage all growing businesses to look into how they can engage with EY’s Entrepreneurship program.”

Kylie Allen, CBA General Manager Corporate Finance Services SA/NT, said: “It’s encouraging to see the entrepreneurial activity and talent that is coming out of Australia’s Central Region. We congratulate our finalists on this great achievement and look forward to supporting them as they proceed to the next stage. At Commonwealth Bank we’re proud to support a program that celebrates those who are building and leading successful, growing and dynamic businesses.

The finalists will go on to compete at a national level in Sydney in October. The overall Australian winner will then continue onto the global program, travelling to Monte Carlo in June 2019 to compete for title of EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year™.

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 participants in 145 cities in more than 60 countries.  More than 1,500 outstanding business leaders have been recognised through the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year program in Australia since 2001.

2018 EY Entrepreneur Of The Year National finalists, Central Region

Nicho Teng – Haneco Lighting/Greaton

Nicho Teng began his LED lighting business by offering his products for free, door-knocking businesses and asking to be paid only after his customers had realised savings from the energy-saving lights. That approach paid off for the developer and distributor of LED lighting products and services. Netley-based Haneco launched in October 2011 and now employs more than 80 people, distributing more than two million fittings per year to more than 800 branches Australia-wide. It has offices and warehouses in five States. Nicho is also Managing Director of property developer Greaton. This business started building Adelaide townhouses, since growing to be a high-density residential property developer with more than $3 billion worth of projects. These include the biggest ever transacted hotel in Australia and the biggest urban re-generation residential project in Adelaide.

What the judges said about Haneco Lighting/Greaton

At just 31 years of age, Nicho is already an accomplished entrepreneur. In Haneco Lighting and Greaton, he has created two dynamic and complementary businesses which prioritise innovation and customer service excellence.  Nicho is an exciting entrepreneur to watch.

Steve Butler – Stilmark Telecommunications

Stilmark was established in 2013 and with the support of early partners and a network of investors and advisors is a service provider, developer and owner of telecommunication infrastructure.

Stilmark assists Australian mobile carriers meet their expanding need for high quality mobile networks, caused by the continued rapid growth in mobile data consumption.

As a part of Stilmark, Wireless Asset Partners provides telecommunications specific third-party infrastructure asset management and in-building network services to carriers and the wider real estate community.

What the judges said about Stilmark Telecommunications

A visionary entrepreneur, Steve has seized an exciting opportunity in the rapidly growing telecommunications market. He has demonstrated persistence, determination and the ability to attract world-class advisors on Stilmark’s journey to become one of the world’s leading infrastructure providers.

Ray Khabbaz – Australian Wholefoods

Ray Khabbaz has known good and bad fortune in more than 37 business ventures, but says the knowledge and perspective gained through failure became the keys to success. Ray and his business partner Michael Demetriou bought Australian Wholefoods in 2010, after selling their previous business, the dips company Copperpot, to Goodman Fielder three years earlier. Australian Wholefoods makes fresh and frozen meals, producing more than 120,000 chilled ready-to-eat meals every week and employing 194 staff. Ray started his first business at the age of 16, with no formal education, a non-English-speaking family and determination to be independent. His first business acquisition was funded by a bank guarantee from the vendor. The projections are to increase turnover from $43 million to $86 million over the next two to three years.

What the judges said about Australian Wholefoods

Ray Khabbaz is a true entrepreneur with a clear vision and determination to succeed. A well-defined business strategy and investment in innovation has seen Australian Wholefoods steadily grow, under Ray’s ownership to become a leading supplier of meal solutions to the Australian market. 

Grant Wilckens – Discovery Parks

Creating a $1 billion company from the caravan parks industry is the next step for the CEO of Discovery Parks, Grant Wilckens, who recently negotiated a licensing deal with the Top Parks holiday group to form a national network of 250 parks. Grant left a corporate career to start Discovery Parks 14 years ago. Discovery Parks, now majority owned by Sunsuper, claims the largest network of holiday leisure parks in Australia and Grant hopes the company will be worth $1 billion in two years’ time. Discovery Parks owns and operates 65 parks and, with Top Parks on board, Grant expects the network to grow to 400 parks generating $184 million in revenue by 2020. Grant challenges old-fashioned attitudes to the industry with his approach to park management, focusing on customer service and digital marketing.

What the judges said about Discovery Parks

Grant is a skilled and passionate entrepreneur with a clear vision and strong customer focus. As CEO and co-founder of Discovery Parks, Grant has disrupted the holiday parks sector, bringing digital innovation to the sector and enhancing customer experience. Through his strong leadership, Discovery Parks has grown to become the largest network of holiday leisure parks in Australia.

Tony Guidera – Guidera O’Connor

Tony Guidera decided he would only ever be his own boss after building a business for an international conglomerate only to be made redundant. “In hindsight, getting sacked from Tyco was the best thing that ever happened,” he says, 17 years later. In 2001 he started design and construction engineering company Guidera O’Connor, which delivers water treatment and pumping solutions nationally and has grown in turnover from $40 million to $60 million this year. Earlier he bought 20 per cent of financial products company Principal Finance and became its chairman. Today that business has a $200 million turnover. Tony and his brothers also founded Pristine Oyster Farm in Coffin Bay and Cowell, which grew to supply 10% of SA's oysters.

What the judges said about Guidera O’Connor

Tony’s story is one of courage and perseverance. As Managing Director and co-founder of Guidera O’Connor, Tony has demonstrated the business results of an accomplished entrepreneur. He has embedded an innovative mindset; strong customer and people focus; and a commitment to safety, which has seen Guidera O’Connor grow into a leading provider of niche solutions to the water industry.

Social Entrepreneur – Matthew Woodward – Unity Housing

As the largest non-government provider of social and affordable housing in South Australia, Unity is a not-for-profit public company, with more than 3,000 individual dwellings, valued at more than $850 million. Unity has delivered around $85 million worth of new housing development over the past five years, providing homes for 4,500 tenants every night. Unity also provides property and tenancy management services to people who need safe, secure and affordable housing. Ensuring that people have a safe, affordable place to live, regardless of their income, is the core of the business. CEO of the company, Matthew Woodward has more than 30 years’ experience in human services working as a social worker, manager and in policy development across Government and non-government sectors. Matthew received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the community housing network PowerHousing in 2015 and ‘Outstanding Achievement’ award from the Australasian Housing Institute in 2017. 

For more information on EY Entrepreneur of the Year™ go to www.ey.com/au/eoy

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Notes to Editors

About EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™

EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™ is the world’s most prestigious business award for entrepreneurs. The award makes a difference through the way it encourages entrepreneurial activity among those with potential, and recognises 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, recognising 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 honours 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.

EY encourages women to apply to enter the Entrepreneur Of The Year awards. The program supports women entrepreneurs to think bigger, gain access to capital, enhance their business profile, network, learn from their peers and find seasoned advisors.

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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This news release has been issued by Ernst & Young Australia, a member firm of Ernst & Young Global Limited.

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