Tomas Steenackers crowned Australian Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2018

Written on the 14 December 2018 by Business News Australia

Tomas Steenackers crowned Australian Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2018

The nation's leading young businesspeople gathered on the Gold Coast for a night of revelry and recognition yesterday, after Business News Australia scoured the country to select candidates for the coveted Australian Young Entrepreneur Awards 2018. 

Not only have these entrepreneurs found success, but they are exploring and sparking new ideas that simultaneously disrupt and spur on today's industries, whether they be established and known or fledgling and at the vanguard. 

Winners were chosen in different categories, plus two major awards of Trailblazer and Young Entrepreneur of the Year.

And on this occasion, the first of its kind, the top honour went to National Veterinary Care (ASX: NVL) founder Tomas Steenackers.

Steenackers' company has gone from strength to strength since listing on the ASX in 2015 with a community-focused approach to vet clinics across Australia and New Zealand. At the start of 2018, National Veterinary Care had 30 clinics but the figure has shot up to almost 100 since then.

After winning the award Steenackers said it was validation for the efforts made by the whole company, especially over the last year.

"It feels incredible. After two and a half years of working to be recognised with this title....it's just amazing," says Steenackers.

"We just wanted to do something different. In this industry a lot of people need a lot of support and we always wanted to do something better than what was available out there."

"Though we only own 97 clinics now, we look after over 500 vet clinics that are indepdenent but come to us to ask for help. We're really looking after 23 per cent of the vet industry just by putting the best systems out there and the best support systems."

Steenackers says the most rewarding part of running National Veterinary Care is being able to provide a solid support system for the independent vets in the sector.

"Suddenly there's a corporate that's happy to share their IP and give back to the industry. And that's why we're really excited," says Steenackers.

"At the end of the day when you look at it there's probably 60 per cent of the industry that's a bit small that will struggle to continue evolving over the next few years so what we're trying to do is give them the tools to be able to compete against people in corporate and people with more investments."

Thuy Lam of Blackbook.ai won the Trailblazer Award for the development of his company focusing on cutting-edge technologies including automation, artificial intelligence and blockchain.

Relive interviews from last night with some of our finalists at the Business News Australia Facebook page

All the finalists who participated last night have great stories to tell and we look forward to watching their journeys unfold as their businesses evolve, and imagine many will be taking part in future award ceremonies with us.

For those young business leaders who didn't make it, we'd encourage you to nominate in 2019. As most business owners will attest, a lot can change in a month let alone a year. 

Below you will find the Young Entrepreneur Award winners by category:

Startup - Thuy Lam (Blackbook.ai)

Blackbook.ai is a startup that specialises in developing technologies that are on the verge of becoming part of everyday life. Automation, artificial intelligence, and blockchain are all in Blackbook's wheelhouse.

Since founding the company in 2017, Lam's Blackbook.ai has just shot from strength to strength, securing clients like RACQ, Suncorp, and Virign Australia.

Hospitality & Tourism - Jon & Rebecca Tarrant (LeisureCom Travel Group)

Getting in before the influx of online travel platforms, Jon and Rebecca Tarrant's Discover Queensland site revolutionised the industry.

In addition to Discover Queensland, the duo run a membership based travel brand called HighTide Holidays which has 220,000 members in Australia and New Zealand, offering discounted travel to over 26,000 resorts and hotels worldwide.

Food & Beverage - William Edwards (Archie Rose Distilling Co)

Archie Rose Distilling Co is a custom-designed boutique distillery and bar in Rosebery, Sydney.

The acclaimed Archie Rose Bar is just three meters from the distillery and was created as a place where people could gather to savour the company's award-winning spirits.

Health & Fitness - Tomas Steenackers (National Veterinary Care)

Tomas Steenackers is on a mission to bring vet care into the future.

By utilising the best in tech, the veterinaries underneath the NVC umbrella are the best in the business. And to maintain the community spirit that's so important to pet owners, clinics owned by NVC keep their original branding and identity.

Arts & Culture - Nikias Leigh (Real Property Photography)

Initially specialising in property photography for real estate professionals, Nikias Leigh has since expanded Real Property Photography into a suite of services for a variety of purposes.

From photography to floor plans, virtual staging, digital declutter, and now drone photography, Real Property Photography has become an innovative one-stop-shop.

Retail & Services - Karl Brown (Instyle Solar and Rokkit Performance Marketing)

One of the biggest personalities in the Brisbane business scene, Karl Brown certainly knows how to brighten up a room. But it's his business, Instyle Solar, that shines bright. 

When Brown decided to go out on a limb and start his own solar company he only had $2,500 to play with. Now he runs one of Queensland's largest privately owned solar companies Instyle Solar.

Fashion Design - Megan Ziems (Grace Loves Lace)

The highly awarded wedding dress disruptor came up with the idea of owning her own business after failing to find the perfect dress for her special day.

Uninspired by traditional, repetitive and lacklustre designs, Siems saw an opportunity to showcase her designs to the woman not 'the bride' and Grace Loves Lace was born.

Specialist Services - Jonathan Dwayre (Orbitz Elevators)

Orbitz Elevators are experts in supply, installation, maintenance, repair and modernisation of elevators and escalators in Australia.

With over two-decades of experience in the industry, Dwayre has built a formidable business scoring pivotal contracts with the world's biggest and best suppliers.

Technology - Peter Ward (WARDY Group)

WARDY Group is a tech and training powerhouse which consists of WARDY IT Solutions, Moc Training, Mr CRM and Brisbane Training Rooms. 

Founder Peter Ward has been making a significant push overseas in the last two years, which has helped his company grow significantly.

Digital Disruptor - Ben Bradshaw (Disrupt Digital)

With a sprinkle of magic, Ben Bradshaw turned a tough situation into a thriving business. 

Alongside co-founder Shannah Whitford-Lowe, Bradshaw established SponsoredLinkX in 2006, the first of many businesses in the tech world. Now, Whitford-Lowe and Bradshaw have a collection of successful digital agencies, all designed to empower SMEs to best utilise tech.

Professional Services - Travis Erridge (TM Insight)

TM Insight is an Australian end to end supply chain, property, and project management consultancy business. The company works for both large scale ASX and global organisations including giants like Woolworths, Coles, Kmart, Bunnings, Target, and DHL.

Finance - Daniel Wessels (Jacaranda Finance)

Daniel Wessels' business model certainly isn't brand new, but it's giving the dinosaurs a run for their money.

Jacaranda Finance is a digital-only online short-term lending platform that's primed and ready for the Millennial generation, now in their prime buying years.

Legal - Shaun Rose (Rose Litigation Lawyers)

Proactive, direct, honest, and commercial - these are the hallmark values of Shaun Rose's Rose Litigation Lawyers.

Founded in 2013, Rose Litigation Lawyers quickly spread north into Brisbane and now has ASX 100 and national clients.

Influencer - Tammy Hembrow (Tammy Hembrow Fitness & Saski Collection)

With nearly nine million followers on Instagram, Tammy Hembrow's fitness gospel reaches every corner of the globe.

As the founder of Saski Collection, Hembrow has well and truly leveraged her success online into a business to be reckoned with.

Manufacturing, Wholesale and Distribution - Hamish Ellingham and Sam Hardy (Peak Marketing)

Founded in 2009, Peak Marketing creates, designs and manufactures marketing products for some of the world's biggest brands. 

From designing the uniforms for Komatsu, to developing a unique Father's Day design for Darrell Lea or concocting a new coffee cup exclusively for the Coffee Club, Peak Marketing are everywhere.

Marketing - Sabri Suby (King Kong)

Digital marketing is perhaps the most important thing to get right for businesses of any size, and Sabri Suby's King Kong is leading the charge from its base in Melbourne.

PR & Media - Ashleigh McInnes (Papermill Media)

After graduating from university, and after cutting her teeth in a boutique PR firm, Ashleigh McInnes decided to do something crazy and start her own firm, Papermill Media.

Property & Construction - Rouad Elayoubi (Alliance Project Group)

Alliance Project Group is a turnkey design construction company that delivers impressive projects spanning a wide range of sectors and needs in the NSW capital.

Currently Alliance has multiple high-rise projects around Sydney, constructing an average of 500 units per year.

Social Entrepreneur - Madeleine Buchner (Little Dreamers Australia)

Madeleine founded Little Dreamers Australia when she was just 16 to fill a gap in the social services sector: support for young people caring for a parent or a sibling with a serious illness or disability.

Her company now comprises 60 volunteers who have worked to support thousands of young carers across 10 countries.

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