From revitalising retail to liquidising almonds: Nine breakaway Aussie success stories of 2019

July luggage founders

July co-founders Athan Didaskalou and Richard Li (left to right). Source: supplied.

Running a small business or startup is tough, year in, year out, regardless of size, but becoming a breakaway success story remains the universal dream.

By breakaway success, we mean businesses from humble beginnings that suddenly boom. Think hypergrowth, sudden sales spikes, and rapidly scaling teams.

Unlike other milestones, these Cinderella stories are always dramatic, sometimes unpredictable, and possible for any business, no matter how many years they have been running.

At SmartCompany, we love these kinds of stories. So, we’ve put together a list of businesses that, this year, have proven that in any economic climate, smart decisions, good timing, and a bit of luck can lead to remarkable things.

My Muscle Chef

Self-identifying as a former “gym junkie” and corporate worker, co-founder of My Muscle Chef Tushar Menon launched a range of high-protein, convenient meal options in 2013.

Together with his software developer brother Nishant, Menon first campaigned directly to gym-goers, only to find out they were barking up the wrong tree. It was only relatively recently the co-founders found huge success by pivoting to focus on busy professionals.

Although their first-year revenue of $830,000 is nothing to sneeze at, in the 2017-2018 financial year, this exploded to $19 million, thanks to a simple shift in customer base.

My Muscle Chef

My Muscle Chef founder Tushar Menon. Source: supplied.

Toys ‘R’ Us

When US retailer Toys ‘R’ Us announced bankrupcy in 2017, taking 44 Aussie stores with it, no-one expected independent retailer and Hobby Warehouse director Louis Mittoni to take the lead in reviving the brand two years later.

But that he did, getting the business up and running in just two weeks.

Just in time for the Black Friday sales, Mittoni used Hobby Warehouse’s website as the skeleton to build a Toys ‘R’ Us e-commerce operation.

While the quick turnaround doesn’t guarantee a steady future for the former retail giant, it does pave a concrete future with plans to build brick-and-mortar stores across Queensland, NSW and Victoria in the next year.

Toys R Us

Toys ‘R’ Us general manager Lian Yu and chief executive Louis Mittoni. Source: supplied.

String Nguyen

In this day and age, when the internet reigns supreme, success can come in all shapes and sizes. For Shoosta video evangelist String Nguyen, it came in the form of LinkedIn virality.

No matter how you feel about the platform, it’s undeniable LinkedIn is a huge driving force in almost every industry, and String’s reach now extends to 30,000 followers. Even more impressive, she managed to grow that from the ground up in 14 months.

By publishing content daily, often in video format, Nguyen reshaped her profile into “a channel of information”, eliciting engagement from professionals seeking advice.


Shootsta video evangelist String Nguyen. Source: supplied.


Women-only ride-sharing startup Shebah has been kicking goals since its launch in 2017, and it started this year in much the same fashion.

Off the back of a $1.8 million turnover in 2018, in February 2019, Shebah quickly achieved its $3 million equity crowdfunding goal, intended to drive its success overseas, first to New Zealand and then to Malaysia. This equity crowdfunding round remains the most-funded campaign in Australia to date, and just last week the startup closed its second round, securing a further $675,000 in investment.

It’s no wonder founder and chief George McEncroe shrugged off unproductive meetings with VCs and stalled connections with male investors.


Shebah founder and chief executive George McEncroe. Source: supplied.


In July last year, James Morrell and Mahdi Chardi rolled out Muval, a platform connecting people with removal trucks.

In July of this year, the co-founders counted $1 million in revenue. What’s more, they achieved this without a cent of investment outside their own pockets.

Their secret? Building on Chardi’s existing relationships within the industry, and then building features and technology around the needs arising from those conversations.


Muval co-founders James Morrell and Mahdi Chardi. Source: supplied.


An inner-city cafe turned working space brought SME veterans Athan Didaskalou and Richard Li together, first as casual acquaintances who gave infrequent advice on each other’s business problems, and then as co-founders who saw a booming opportunity in the luggage market.

Through July, which launched in February of this year, the pair designed a small line of luggage focused on sleek aesthetics and solving anecdotal pain points.

Marketing the curvy suitcases at an unchanging price throughout sale seasons, July snagged the attention of Strandbags, which led its $10.5 million funding round.

Not bad for a nine-month-old business.

July luggage founders

July co-founders Athan Didaskalou and Richard Li (left to right). Source: supplied.

Almo Milk

Almond milk is the new soy according to Almo Milk founder Linda Monique. And considering the SME’s continued success, she may be right.

Not only did Monique buck the trend of soy to focus on almond milk, but she’s also shunned the traditional method of soaking and straining the nuts, opting instead to liquefy everything together.

Last year, Almo Milk achieved Monique’s goal of becoming 100% owned, grown and produced in Australia, with most of the almonds sourced from a co-op just 30 kilometres from the manufacturer.

Almo Milk founder

Almo Milk founder Linda Monique. Source: supplied.

Happy Skin Co.

Dylan Mullan this year proved the power of social media when Happy Skin Co. grew from a $20,000 investment to $12 million in revenue in just one year.

Leveraging the reach of established Instagram influencers, Mullan surprised even himself when 18- to 24-year-old shoppers flocked to his website after discovering the brand through the photo platform.

Sure, Mullan found sales outpacing his hiring process, but we see that as a good challenge.

Happy Skin Co

Dyan Mullan, founder of Happy Skin Co. Source: supplied.


Having been up and running for three years, Linktree now counts the likes of Alicia Keys, Red Bull and Pearl Jam among its three million global users.

The idea is simple: allow users to list several URLs within their one Instagram link-in-bio. With just that, co-founding brothers Alex and Anthony Zaccaria, along with Nick Humphreys, built the prototype in just six hours.

Now, it sees roughly 10,000 new sign-ups every day.

With stats like those, it’s hard to believe it all started as a simple side-hustle.


Linktree co-founders Alex and Anthony Zaccaria. Source: supplied.

NOW READ: “It was exhilarating”: Everything that happened in my first 90 days as a business owner

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