Northern Region EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™ finalists revealed

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

  • Share

Queensland’s top entrepreneurs have mixed approaches to growth, with 5 of the 12 finalists in this year’s EY Entrepreneur Of The Yearsaying they are looking for merger and acquisition opportunities, while the others are focused on organic growth only in the short term.

The 12 successful entrepreneurs from Queensland, who will vie for the top gong of Australian EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™ at the national finals in October, have a collective annual turnover of $371.6 million and just shy of 2,300 employees. They span sectors from child-care facilities, veterinary services and software development, through to construction, music subscription services and retail and wholesale management platforms.

The finalists are in hiring and expansion mode. Ryan Murtagh from retail and wholesale management platform, Neto is planning to expand into the US next year and anticipates the bulk of growth to come from international markets from FY20 and beyond. This overseas move will include the hiring of up to 40 new staff in Denver, Colorado as well as Brisbane.

Similarly Darren Stanley from technology and software firm, The Citadel Group expects his growth to be mostly domestic in the short term but largely international within 5 years.  He is looking to hire around 80 new team members in the coming 12 – 18 months, in particular, software developers, architects, analysts, data scientists and designers.

Tomas Steenackers from National Veterinary Care expects to hire 150 – 200 new staff and acquire ten new clinics across Australia and New Zealand.

Stanley and Murtagh both cite the federal government’s R&D tax incentives as having the greatest positive impact on their businesses recently.

In terms of their people, all of this year’s top entrepreneurs agree that shared purpose and values are crucial to the success of their business, as is maintaining an agile mindset, while continuing to grow.

“It’s tough to work with people who don’t align with our purpose,” says Stanley. “Unless you move them on it is destructive for the business.”

For Steenackers, “Adaptability to change,” is most important. “We are growing quickly and we need to have staff that can adapt to changes quickly.”

“Maintaining an agile start-up culture at scale is one of the most challenging aspects of business for Neto,” says Murtagh.

Alison de Groot, Office Managing Partner EY Brisbane, “We’re absolutely thrilled to have such a diverse group of talented Queensland entrepreneurs in the program this year representing a broad range of industries and specialty areas.”

“We are seeing some exceptional stories of entrepreneurship coming through from our Qld 2018 finalists, many of whom are rapidly growing family businesses with deep ties into the community and areas in which they operate.”

“Nurturing the development of an entrepreneur and following their journey as they grow, disrupt themselves or others is something we are so fortunate to be a part of. The entrepreneurs in the program this year and the organisations they represent are crucial in supporting the growth and development of the Queensland economy.”

“The Entrepreneur of the Year program is a highlight of the year for us and we are looking forward to celebrating this significant milestone with all of our northern region finalists.”

Mark Toon, CBA General Manager Queensland Corporate Financial Services said: “There are so many talented entrepreneurs and start-ups who are helping drive change and contributing to the growth of Queensland, which is why as principal sponsor, Commonwealth Bank is proud to support the finalists of this year’s EY Entrepreneur Of The Year awards.

“We wish our finalists all the best in the lead up to this year’s awards, and look forward to following them on their path to future success.”

The overall Australian winner will go on to the global program, travelling to Monte Carlo in June 2019 to compete for title of EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year™.

The finalists will be assessed by a panel of independent judges, including previous Entrepreneur Of The Year™ award winners and other successful Australian business leaders, across six core criteria: entrepreneurial spirit, innovation, personal integrity and influence, financial performance, strategic direction, and national and global impact.

Northern Region finalists

  • Brett Ambrose – Ambrose Building
  • Jae Fraser – Little Scholars
  • Tomas Steenackers – National Veterinary Care
  • Ryan Murtagh - Neto
  • Mark Brownlee – Nightlife Music
  • Jonathan Dwayre – Orbitz Elevators
  • Mathew Hough – Panthera Finance
  • Scott Yates – Perma Products
  • Paschalis Paschali – Rydges Wholesale Foods
  • Rob Damin – Pasture Genetics
  • Darren Stanley & Miles Jakeman – The Citadel Group
  • Theodore Vairaktaris – The Usher Group

Northern Region Award Recipients

  • Social entrepreneur: Bronwyn Sheehan – The Pyjama Group
  • Champion of Entrepreneurship: Sarina Russo – The Sarina Russo Group

- Ends -

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 1,500 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

EY is a global leader in assurance, tax, transaction and advisory services. The insights and quality services we deliver help build trust and confidence in the capital markets and in economies the world over. We develop outstanding leaders who team to deliver on our promises to all of our stakeholders. In so doing, we play a critical role in building a better working world for our people, for our clients and for our communities.

EY refers to the global organization, and may refer to one or more, of the member firms of Ernst & Young Global Limited, each of which is a separate legal entity. Ernst & Young Global Limited, a UK company limited by guarantee, does not provide services to clients. For more information about our organization, please visit

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

Liability limited by a scheme approved under Professional Standards Legislation.