Hot 30 Under 30 2017

From pet care to virtual reality, bicycle parts and wedding locations, this year’s SmartCompany Hot 30 Under 30 list brings together young entrepreneurs from around the country who are making their mark in their own way.

Each year SmartCompany publishes a list of 30 talented and successful young entrepreneurs, who are leading fast-growing companies. The class of 2017 includes companies with at least one founder who was 30 years of age or younger on March 10, 2017.

There are plenty of familiar faces on the list this year, including last year’s top ranked entrepreneurs, Thankyou Group founders Justine Flynn, Daniel Flynn and Jarryd Burns. There’s new faces too, with entrants from the worlds of fashion, cosmetics, food and drink.

Between them, their companies have raised tens of millions of dollars and employed hundreds of staff, and they all report having an eye firmly on future growth, both in Australia and overseas.

Here is SmartCompany’s Hot 30 Under 30 for 2017.

1. Jess Hatzis and Bree Johnson

Company: Frank Body, Willow & Blake

Age: 30 and 29

This entrepreneurial duo are responsible for founding two popular brands by the time they’ve turned 30: copywriting and creative agency, Willow & Blake, which they started in 2011, and Frank Body, skincare brand Frank Body, which was co-founded with Steve Rowley and Alexander Boffa in 2013.

Jess Hatzis, 30 and Bree Johnson, 29, recently won the Veuve Clicquot New Generation award in recognition of their contributions as young female entrepreneurs.

Frank Body was turning over $14 million in 2015, but as Hatzis and Johnson told SmartCompany in March, the social media savvy brand started out as a side project.

“There were a number of reasons: for Bree and I, we were looking for the creative challenge of owning the project from start to finish. Our co-founders were really interested in the product side of things, and it all came together,” Hatzis said at the time.

There are a number of growth projects currently on the go for both businesses, including a repositioning of the Willow & Blake operation towards offering more “area of “general artistic direction” on projects, says Hatzis.

When it comes to talking shop, both Hatzis and Johnson say their circles are filled with other people working on their own projects, making friends a good sounding board for ideas.

“‘I think we definitely do — our friendship circles involve people that are quite entrepreneurial,” Johnson told SmartCompany earlier this year.

2. Chris King

Company: Splend

Age: 28

The founder of on-demand car hire service Splend told SmartCompany earlier this year the startup is in for a prosperous 12 months, having secured $3 million in funding from Investec and continuing to expand its user base.

The Splend business, which lets individuals quickly rent vehicles and has a partnership with Uber, was turning over more than $5 million in July 2015, and while founder Chris King has declined to give a more recent turnover figure, StartupSmart estimated in February it would generate around $350,000 a week if all vehicles were rented out.

Armed with the latest funding injection, King tells SmartCompany the business has it sights set on international growth.

“We had aspirations for international expansion a year ago. However, this goal was never officially on the table. With continued improvements to our model, this goal will become one of the next major projects for Splend,” he says.

King says one key business lesson that he’s learned over the past year is the importance of making decisions, especially when faced with limited resources.

“In any business, the ability to track the return on investment is vital. For a startup with limited resources, you need to allocate resources in areas where you are going to see the most amount of improvement to the business. We need to be nimble and to be in a position to make decisions on limited data sets,” he says.

3. Beni Doolan

Company: FivePointFour

Age: 27

Last October Smart50 alumni and FivePointFour founder Beni Doolan said his company’s “big hairy audacious goal” was to impact 10 million lives by 2020.

With turnover of $11.8 million in 2015-16 and a three-year growth rate of 940%, Doolan’s business could easily achieve that goal.

FivePointFour is a healthy meal delivery service, named as such due to the five meal plans it provides and the four main goals the company strives towards. Doolan founded the company when he was still at university in 2012, after tapping into demand for nutritious meals that were home cooked and then delivered.

In October Doolan revealed the business was currently oversubscribed, which he believes is a “great problem to have”, despite challenges in communicating with suppliers and freight managers.

“We recognised very early on that we needed to truly take our suppliers along on the journey with us and we actively share what we are aiming to achieve,” Doolan said at the time.

Growing the business so fast has come down to an effective use of cashflow, Doolan said in 2016, running by the ethos “money needs to come in before money goes out”.

“Budgeting and forecasting correctly is the number one thing that has allowed our business to grow,” he said.

Doolan says the next goal for expansion is to bring his healthy foods to Asia and China, using brand ambassadors and making the most of social media.

4. Melanie Perkins and Cliff Obrecht

Company: Canva

Age: 29 and 31

Canva co-founder Melanie Perkins heads up what is not only one of the country’s most successful startups, but Australia’s coolest tech company, according to Job Advisor in 2016.

After starting it with a team of three in Perkins’ mum’s living room, Canva now boasts a global workforce of over 100 people and its platform is being used by more than 10 million users around the world.

After launching in 2012, the venture is now valued at $450 million. To date, the graphic design platform has raised more than US$30 million ($40 million) in funding.

Perkins has previously spoken about how the company’s internal culture has allowed it to scale.

“We had the same culture when we were in my mum’s living room with my first company with no budget at all,” Perkins told StartupSmart.

“Culture isn’t about fancy lunches — yes, we do now have amazing chefs — but it’s about having lunch together as a team, even if it’s just having left overs!”

5. Drew Bilbe and Troy Douglas

Company: Nexba

Age: 30 and 27

Drew Bilbe and Troy Douglas are on a mission to create a global beverage brand.

Since launching Nexba in 2010, the founding duo has acquired a powerful network of major distributors including Domino’s, Coles, Chemist Warehouse and 7-Eleven.

“For us it’s really about domestic expansion — we really want to own that naturally sugar free soft drink space in Australia,” Bilbe recently told StartupSmart. 

Not content with only taking a slice of the Australian drinks market, Bilbe says the Nexba team plans to turn their attention to international expansion in the 18 months, starting with the US and the UK.

Reflecting on his journey, Bilbe believes his greatest strengths as an entrepreneur are “looking at things in a really collaborative way and being flexible and adaptable”.

With Nexba “constantly changing” and striving to do things better, Bilbe says these have been critical attributes to help the venture move forward.

“We’ve got that mindset of improvement all the time — to be the market leader,” he says.

“It’s really about staying motivated, staying on course with a constant eye on improvement.”

6. Justine Flynn, Daniel Flynn and Jarryd Burns

Company: Thankyou Group

Age: 30, 28 and 28

After having to remove their P-plates before approaching big offices and walking into meetings wearing their parents’ suits, the trio behind Thankyou Group have come along way.

In addition to raising more than $5.5 million for people living in disadvantage through a wide range of products from baby care to bottled water, Thank You Group are currently working on expanding operations into New Zealand.

Thankyou Group co-founder Daniel Flynn says the goal now is “operational excellence”.

“I reckon I’ve heard the phrase ‘operational excellence’ many times, and I haven’t even cared — I’m kind of like, ‘yeah, you can worry about that stuff when you have nothing else to do’ — and we’re focused on growth. But it’s this funny tension, because your growth is hampered by the ability to make good decisions,” Flynn told SmartCompany.

“The biggest opportunity we have right now is to really make sure we’re excellent in every single discipline — I’m speaking to sustainability and ensuring that we can manage growth as the best we can.

“Twelve months ago we were just like, grow, grow, grow, grow and the idea [around ‘operational excellence’] is really about the bigger you get, the little one percent decisions start to make the biggest difference.”

7. Jane Lu

Company: Showpo

Age: 30

With a close eye on social media trends and a knack for learning from failing, Jane Lu has grown Showpo into a global fashion brand with a notable online.

The brand has come along way since Lu started Showpo in her parent’s garage in 2010. In 2015, the online retailer was turning over approximately $10 million and according to Fairfax, that figure is now closer to $25 million.

“With over a combined 2.5 million followers on social media, Showpo is currently selling to over 60 countries and has big plans this year for international growth and range expansion,” Lu tells SmartCompany.

Lu is also heavily involved in growing online entrepreneurial women’s group Like Minded Bitches Drinking Wine with fellow Hot 30 Under 30 finalist Gen George, and is always willing to share what’s she has learned with other entrepreneurs.

“Take a chance on yourself,” Lu previously told SmartCompany.

“Don’t only look at the risk of failing, but also the risk of being stuck in a really boring job that you hate,” Lu says.

8. Mark Deacon and Jake Robinson

Company: Superdraft

Age: 27 and 33

Smart50 alumni Jake Robinson and Mark Deacon took architecture and construction startup Superdraft from $574,000 in revenue to $2.8 million in just three years, and plans for further expansion are now on the cards.

But starting out and growing organically was not an easy feat for the business, which told SmartCompany last year the early days involved “very little money and zero funding”.

Today, the two are in the midst of closing a current funding round and partnering with investors linked to Silicon Valley, and parts of Asia and the US.

The business has also latched onto the virtual reality craze over the past 12 months, building and establishing partnerships for their new Viz360 platform, which is being integrated into the main business.

“We’re integrating [Viz360] into Superdraft to enable our clients to experience and walkthrough their project in an interactive, virtual environment before it is built,” Deacon told SmartCompany.

Tackling international expansion will be a challenge the two welcome, but Deacon acknowledges they’re heading into “unknown territory”.

“We will be heavily focussed on surrounding ourselves with the right people, with the experience, know-how and connections to fast-track our international expansion plans,” Deacon says.

9. Amy Parfett and Melany McBride

Company: WedShed

Age: Both 30

Over the past two years, Amy Parfett and Melany McBride have turned a common problem faced by couples into a successful wedding venue booking platform that is turning over approximately $250,000.

WedShed turned two years old in March and in that time 420,000 people have used the platform to find venues and plan their weddings,” Parfett tells SmartCompany.

The business recently expanded to New Zealand and the founding duo will be working on making the platform more scalable by increasing its automation capabilities.

“We started our business with little more than the two of us and the realisation that there was a problem that we would probably one day soon experience — that is, finding a unique place to get married that reflects what you and your partner are all about,” Parfett says.

“To get completely familiar with all sides of the business, Mel and I took on the full management of a farm on the south coast of New South Wales for a year. The property had never hosted weddings, so we had this wonderful blank canvas to test different approaches on, as well as getting a hands-on understanding of the challenges venues’ owners face. This venue management bankrolled our product design and development, and enabled us to self-fund WedShed.”

Reflecting on their journey, Parfett says the best advice she could give new founders is to “validate your idea” thoroughly.

“In our early stages, we spent any spare time we had reaching out to people in the industry to suss whether WedShed had legs and was actually needed,” she says.

“This we now realise was huge. Just by inviting other people’s feedback, we managed to build a level of advocacy that we’ve been blown away by.”

10. Gen George

Company: OneShift, Skilld

Age: 26

After setting up the successful online job network OneShift, Gen George has been busy. Not only is she building her latest venture Skilld, she’s also growing an active community of women entrepreneurs through Like Minded Bitches Drinking Wine with Showpo founder Jane Lu.

“Both are approaching their ‘terrible twos’ — trust me, it’s just as applicable to businesses — so they’re in their most important phases and need a lot of attention,” George tells SmartCompany.

George, who once described OneShift as “Tinder for talent”, says the platform was used by about 10,000 businesses last year and has now signed up more than 120,000 candidates.

“So it’s shown us that the model works and that it’s something everyone wants and is willing to pay for,” she says.

The goal for George and her team now is to take OneShift global, starting with the UK and the US.

“Because of our focus on streamlining and automation we’re able to do it all with only a team of four, which is a long way from the OneShift days of 50 sales people,” she says.

As she continues to lead OneShift, George says, her other priority is growing Like Minded Bitches Drinking Wine (LMBDW) with co-founder Lu.

“LMBDW now has over 34,000 women with over 500 women a day joining and we are in 25 cities from Dublin, London, Tel Aviv, Shanghai, Cambodia, New York and all over Australia,” she says.

While she has picked up many lessons through her entrepreneurial journey, George says her greatest strength is “bringing people together”.

11. Andrew Barnes and Chris Eigeland

Company: GO1

Age: 28 and 26

Andrew Barnes and Chris Eigeland launched GO1, an online marketplace for compliance training and professional development courses aimed at businesses, in 2014.

In three years, the platform has attracted more than 400,000 users, featured 100,000 courses and been recognised as one of the world’s most disruptive companies.

GO1 now has offices in Sydney, Brisbane, Kuala Lumpur, Vietnam and San Francisco with remote staff also working out of South Africa and the UK.

In December 2016, GO1 secured a $4 million pre-Series A funding round from the Queensland government, Black Sheep Capital, Full Circle Venture Capital, Blue Sky Venture Capital, Amasia, and chief financial officer Sam Friend, as well as existing investors Tank Stream Ventures, Y Combinator and Shark Tank star Steve Baxter.

Speaking to StartupSmart last year, Barnes said Australian founders should think bigger and strive to bring more ambitious and creative businesses to life.

“In an Australian sense we often get excited if a business doubles in size every year. From an American perspective if you’re not growing five or 10 times a year you’re not growing fast enough,” Barnes says.

“If you’re a high growth business in Brisbane like we are, or Sydney or Adelaide or wherever, understanding how you can grow at 10 times what you’re currently doing is really important.”

12. Robin McGowan and James Wakefield

Company: InStitchu

Age: Both 29

Despite the company name being a play on “in situ”, James Wakefield and Robin McGowan’s tailor-made suit retailer has been anything but, having recently opened a showroom in New York and a micro-storefront in North Sydney.

The duo featured on SmartCompany’s Hot 30 Under 30 list in 2016 and told SmartCompany in February the company’s expansion plans were based on data coming from their online stores, particularly the large volume of orders stemming from the US.

The business has mostly eschewed a typical shopfront approach, instead offering customers showrooms, which they must make appointments for. This approach has worked well for the business, with McGowan citing a 90% sale conversion rate after customers make a booking.

“This approach is a lot better for customers. It ensures they get a good experience, and they don’t have to worry about people wandering in while they’re getting a suit fitted,” McGowan said earlier this year.

“It also lets us avoid crazy retail rents and long term leases, and it dictates how much we can spend on acquiring new customers.”

Looking forward, the due are assessing further expansion options across the US but say coordinating and growing a business so far from home is no easy task.

“Thankfully we were already shipping products over there so we had some presence already,” McGowan said.

13. Jacqui Bull and Tom Amos

Company: Sidekicker

Age: 27 and 30

Having served world renowned clients like Uber and Airbnb among thousands of other businesses and helped more than 6000 “vetted and interviewed” temporary workers, Sidekicker co-founders Jacqui Bull and Tom Amos have come a long way since launching their employment platform in 2012.

After Seek invested more than $1 million into Sidekicker in mid-2016, the startup has grown its team from eight to 32 employees, with offices now in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, and Perth, as well as Auckland and Wellington in New Zealand.

“Personally, I’m most excited about the opportunity Sidekicker has to redefine the employment landscape,” Bull tells SmartCompany.

Looking back at her journey, Bull says new founders shouldn’t underestimate the time and commitment it takes to start and build a business.

“To be successful as a founder I personally believe you need to be fully committed to your business and have skin in the game. Whether this means investing your own money in your idea or quitting your job to commit to the business full-time, these kinds of actions allow you to focus all your energy on your startup and gives you no other option than to succeed,” she says.

On her greatest strength, Bull says, it’s being an all-rounder.

“This is especially useful in the early days when the team is small and consequently you need to be across multiple departments and can find yourself jumping from sales to operations to strategy all in the same week,” she says.

14. Matthew Callender

Company: Hunter Mason

Age: 30

At the time of last year’s Smart50 awards, Hunter Mason told SmartCompany the business was gearing up to double its size by 2018.

“We propose to double the size of the company to 25 people within the next two years,” founder Matthew Callender said last year.

That goal might seem like significant growth, but the construction management company has been on a steady expansion trajectory since it was founded in 2012; it took out first place in the 2015 Smart50 Awards with a three-year revenue growth rate of 1740%.

Hunter Mason has worked with high profile clients like Network 10, Atlassian, Foxtel and Centrelink, and Callender has previously said the success of the business depends on its brand position and the motivation of its staff.

“Larger companies have the financial capacity to invest in their marketing collateral which can be very hard to compete with,” Callender told SmartCompany in October 2016. This means his staff need to be on the ball to position the Hunter Mason brand as efficiently as possible.

And when it comes to motivating staff to carry out this challenge, he says there are three key elements: “Autonomy, ownership and friendship”.

15. Bridget Loudon and Emily Yue

Company: Expert360

Age: 29 and 32

The vision hasn’t really changed for the co-founders of digital consultancy platform Expert360 since they founded the business in mid-2013, but given the speed of the growth, the day-to-day of the business is different.

“Every year we have tripled in size — this year, we want to triple again,” co-founder Bridget Loudon says.

The business was on track to turn over more than $1 million in revenue in 2014, and to date, has secured more than $5 million in funding.

Along with that explosive growth has come lessons, both personal and professional, about how to surround yourself with the best people to get big jobs done.

“I think I didn’t quite realise how critical it was to not settle for who you believe us the best person,” Loudon says.

The Expert360 platform lets time-poor businesses make connections with freelancers and consultants to find the right person for the job, and Loudon says she’s come to appreciate you have to understand who people are before you can know how they will act at work.

“Working in a startup environment is about tackling things that you’ve never come across before, so it’s ‘how do we work together to get there?’ I spend a lot of time focused on who people are and why they made the decisions that they did. I think it tells you a lot more about how they will perform,” she says.

With just under 20% of the company’s revenue coming from overseas, the business does have eyes abroad, but the management team are also looking at securing more of the Australian market.

“We’re still very much focused on the Australian market. In Australia there’s about $8 billion worth of project work that’s come through projects and word-of-mouth, we’re focused on dominating that market,” she says, adding that the business will be laying the foundations for international expansion towards the end of the year.

16. Jessica Wilson

Company: Stashd

Age: 25

After starting fashion app Stashd at Fishburners with no funding in 2014, Jessica Wilson has grown the business into a “six-figure database” featuring 4000 brands with its team spread across Australia, Shanghai and India.

“Our user base spans 136 countries with majority of users in Australia, US and China,” Wilson told SmartCompany.

Wilson founded Stashd with Peter Neill, who has since moved on to co-found another startup, Code Camp.

This year, she says, the focus will be on growing its product offering by signing on more brands from the US and Australia.

“We also have a data B2B product releasing towards the end of the year,” she says.

Reflecting on her entrepreneurial journey to date, Wilson says, her greatest strength has been “tenacity and not being afraid to aim high or go against the grain”.

She also believes resilience is one of the most important attributes new founders can have.

“The role of a founder is incredibly hard and you will often question yourself. Stay tied to your vision but not how you get there — you should aim to stay agile but focused on the bigger picture,” she says.

17. Robbie Ball and Brandon Ellis

Company: Uncle Jack

Age: Both 23

Robbie Ball’s company was birthed from a search for a watch for a friend’s birthday, when the entrepreneur only found “complicated, pretentious, and over-priced” offerings.

Taking things into his own hands, Ball launched watch retailer Uncle Jack in 2014 with co-founder and Richmond footballer Brandon Ellis, and managed to generate more than $1 million in revenue in the first year while operating out of a spare bedroom.

Today the company sells watches to over 40 countries, and has a team of over six people. Ball told SmartCompany his recent focus has been on a 2016 launch in England, and the team is contemplating further expansion.

“We’re excited by the prospect of growing this [English] market further and are also eyeing off additional expansion into the US and Canada,” Ball says.

Like many businesses in this position, Balls says a big challenge for 2017 will be finding “the best available” talent for his expanding team. But he says that financial prospects are looking good, with the business expecting to exceed $1 million in turnover and achieve a growth rate of 40%.

Part of that growth will no doubt come from the brand’s ongoing digital marketing efforts, including working with influencers and celebrities for campaigns like the collaborative range it launched with Megan Gale and the Movember Foundation to support men’s health.

“On the day of the launch we turned over more than $120,000. The exposure from the campaign was enormous,” Ball says.

18. Tash Tan and Chris Panzetta

Company: S1T2

Age: 30 and 31

Smart50 alumnus S1T2 works in a space where nobody is an expert yet; it uses emerging digital storytelling mediums, including virtual reality technologies to help brands and organisations tell stories.

The $1.7 million business was co-founded by uni friends Tash Tan and Chris Panzetta, but Tan has told SmartCompany the business, like all in the sector, still has plenty to learn before it can call itself an expert on virtual reality.

“I think everyone understands the foundational appeal of virtual reality: immersion. The idea that you can use this technology to take the audience one step closer to your brand. It’s hard to criticise—anyone who claims to be an expert is not,” Tan told SmartCompany in February.

The agency has worked with a range of big-name clients, from Adobe to eBay, and the founders have a goal for the type of work they want to do, and the social impact they want it to have. Earlier in 2017, S1T2 was selected to work with LAUNCH and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to develop virtual augmented reality experiences to promote better nutrition in Pacific Island communities.

“It was such a beautiful brief, because that’s what we want to do — use our skills to solve these problems,” Tan told SmartCompany.

19. Aimee Marks

Company: TOM Organic

Age: 30

Since founding her organic personal care products business in 2009, Aimee Marks has brokered distribution deals with IGA, Coles and Woolworths, and TOM Organic products are now sold across the country.

The business, which was launched in an effort to curb the environmental impact of traditional sanitary pads and tampons on the environment, has also set out to build a community around the product by sharing information on women’s health, ethical shopping choices, and diet and lifestyle tips via its social media platforms and blog.

This includes partnering with the Melbourne Period Project for International Women’s Day this year to provide TOM products to women in need.

Last year, Marks told SmartCompany the next big focus was ensuring the success of the TOM Organic baby and maternity range, which is now available at Coles and Woolworths.

“I’ve got 18-month old twins and have used way too many products that aren’t on that environmentally-friendly spectrum,” Marks said.

“This has been a two-year project, working collectively with local Melbourne women, designers and our committed to bringing to life the next generation of TOM Organic packaging which seeks to inspire beauty and empower women to make healthy choices each month,” Marks said.

20. Sarah Timmerman

Company: Beginning Boutique

Age: 30

Online fashion retailer Beginning Boutique generated $5.2 million in revenue in 2015-16, and after making the 2016 Smart 50 list and securing a three-year annual growth rate of 35%, Sarah Timmerman is looking at new, simple strategies for the year ahead.

When SmartCompany checked in with Timmerman last year, the business was planning a trial of bricks-and-mortar offerings, but after testing out new approaches over Christmas, the decision has been made to stay in the online world.

“We opened a pop up at Chermside which was amazing to meet our customers and become super focused on what we needed to do for 2017. This experience taught us that being in a shopping centre is not for us,” Timmerman says.

Beginning Boutique reaches more than 1 million shoppers on social media, with more than 550,000 Instagram followers and 530,000 Facebook fans. Timmerman says that the online realm is the best place for the business to accelerate growth.

“Our focus and our business is better placed in online. And the results for this strategy change in January is paying off dramatically,” she says.

“2017 is all about product and branding. The business has a laser focus across all teams now to make decisions that benefit our customers only. This project and strategy change, which may sound simple, has driven amazing growth and results.”

21. Jordan Grives

Company: Capital J Investments, Alicorn Ventures, Fonebox

Age: 28

Jordan Grives, co-founder of telecommunications company Fonebox, has fulfilled the dream of many entrepreneurs before even leaving his 20s after selling his business for $30 million last year.

At the time, Grives told SmartCompany the sale that exiting his business he co-founded in 2008 wasn’t something he had given much thought.

“Being young, you don’t think about it like that. Your brand is sort of your baby,” he said.

“It’s a really good feeling and it is slowly becoming a little bit more real. It’s really humbling.”

Grives and his business have made a number of appearances in the Smart50 awards, clinching 36th place last year and 26th place the year before. The entrepreneur has continued on working at Fonebox after the sale but has also struck up a number of recent ventures.

One of these is his own venture capital fund, Captial J Investments. Grives told SmartCompany in October last year it was “too early” to know what the company would be focusing on, mentioning only that technology-based businesses were a point of interest.

According to Grives’ LinkedIn profile, he and chief executive Dominic Holland have also established a private accelerator called Alicorn Ventures, which is designed to “build, launch and grow companies which utilise technology at their core”.

22. Dylan Baskind and Mark Tanner

Company: Qwilr

Age: 30 and 31

Childhood friends Dylan Baskind and Mark Tanner launched their startup Qwilr, which promises to deliver “ridiculously good looking documents” for clients in need of easy-to-use interactive forms, in 2014. The company is now looking to take its products global after securing $1.5 million in funding from big name venture capital firm Point Nine, which has previously invested in ventures like Couchsurfing and Zendesk.

Describing the size of the document software market as “gigantic” at an estimated $US20 billion ($26.4 billion), the founders recently told StartupSmart it was “just amazing” to have such a renowned VC firm on board with their business.

The business was launched off the back of Baskind’s experience as a freelance designer, after the entrepreneur saw a growing client demand for quick-turnarounds on websites, presentations and interactive forms.

With funding in their pockets and an eye on the global document design market, the Qwilr founders say “only one percent of the job is done”, and the company’s growth story is only just beginning.

23. Jen Geale, Michael Geale, Mylene McCullough and Tim McCullough

Company: Mountain Bikes Direct

Age: 30, 32, 32 and 32

Rewind a couple of years and the Mountain Bikes Direct team had issued itself an ultimatum: increase profits or shut up shop.

Co-founder Jen Geale told SmartCompany earlier this year the online bike parts business came to a point where it had to step back and review its expenses while making a decision about the best way to stay profitable going forward.

“Initially, you’re certainly thinking, ‘I don’t want to tell anyone we’ve failed’, but we harnessed it and said, ‘Okay, I’m going to make this work’,” Geale said in February.

Since undergoing that cost reduction process, closing the business’s physical bike store and becoming a pure-play online retailer, growth has emerged; the company was ranked number 41 in 2016’s Smart50 Awards, with a three-year revenue growth rate of 69%.

With the business now turning over $2.3 million, Geale, her husband Michael, and co-founders Tim and Mylene McCullough are focused on taking the fight to the likes of Amazon.

“I don’t believe Amazon will be the death of other e-retailers, but there are going to be challenges. There are plenty of sites that exist in an Amazon world,” Geale says.

“You can be the small team, for example. I think people like seeing that we’re real people.”

24. Peter Moriarty

Company: ItGenius

Age: 28

After a series of acquisitions over the past year, ItGenius founder Peter Moriarty says there’s “no competitors left to buy” in his industry.

That industry is reselling and providing support for small businesses wanting to use Google’s G Suite software packages, and Moriarty says more and more businesses want to get on board with cloud computing.

“We’re seeing hundreds of businesses getting on board with moving to the cloud,” Moriarty told SmartCompany.

His business closed three acquisitions last year, picking up competing consultancies and one hosting business, in moves that tripled the business’ client base and doubled its revenue. Moriarty now claims his business is the number one G Suite partner in Australia by a factor of “two or three”. Google even chose ItGenius to bring new G Suite product Dialpad to Australia.

Acquiring these businesses was no easy feat, with Moriarty previously telling SmartCompany his trusted advisors were key in making tough decisions.

“I don’t sign contracts or jump into these deals without speaking to those advisors,” he said.

“You don’t want to screw anyone around, but you don’t want to expose yourself to huge financial risk.”

Looking forward, the focus for Moriarty is on expansion in the Asia Pacific, and a continued focus on SMEs.

“It’s been a really exciting 12 months for us, as we also raised some capital from private investors. The focus now is making waves in the Asia Pacific market with a focus on small to medium businesses,” Moriarty says.

“They’re the businesses we love.”

25. Mark McDonald and Josiah Humphrey

Company: Appster

Age: Both 25

After launching Appster in 2011, Mark McDonald and Josiah Humphrey have grown the company into a serious player in the app development space, with its projected revenue expected to top $100 million by 2018.

The 25-year-old duo now leads a team of more than 200 developers across Melbourne, India and San Francisco.

Speaking to SmartCompany last year, Humphrey said new founders should not be discouraged by other people’s doubt.

“The secret is that the most talented people want to work for a company that is trying to do great things,” Humphrey said.

“They themselves are ambitious. People want a reason to get out of bed in the morning. They want something ambitious [and] to come on a journey with you.”

26. Katherine Roberts

Company: This Little Pig Went to Market

Age: 29

There’s a bit more than just roast beef on the menu for food delivery service This Little Pig Went to Market, which offers Perth and surrounds all the ingredients required to put together health-conscious but “consistently delicious” dinners.

This Little Pig founder Katherine Roberts told SmartCompany the business has seen significant growth over the past six months alone, increasing sales by 80% from 2016.

Roberts says part of this growth can be put down to “tuning in” to what customers want and trying to provide just that.

“What I’ve discovered is that you don’t need to change everything or make massive changes to improve your business and your sales, you just need to find tiny things that can make a real difference to your customers,” Roberts says.

Roberts says the biggest challenge facing her business right now is how to manage its growth, while also maintaining quality for all her “piglets” — or customers.

“For us, big isn’t necessarily better. We would like to have a business that is manageable and we are confident that every box that goes out is a great representation of our ideals and our business,” she says.

“So our focus is finding that perfect balance of size but also continuing to keep the quality and personal interaction with our customers.”

Despite “toying” with plans for expansion across the rest of Australia, Roberts says the business has enough exciting plans “a’trotter” in Perth that the rest of the country might be waiting a while.

27. Deb Morrison and Christopher Khoury

Company: PetCloud

Age: 36 and 29

Described by some as ‘Airbnb for pets’, PetCloud is a national pet sitting network that brings together thousands of users and sitters across all major cities.

The business was founded in 2014 by Deb Morrison, with co-founder Christopher Khoury coming on board when the platform was just a minimum viable product with a “handful” of users.

Khoury attributes his business’ growth to having a “very lean and high performing team” with an array of essential skills.

Khoury told SmartCompany the business is currently raising capital in order to grow “all aspects of the business”, after which he’ll be heading abroad to celebrate and learn from others in the industry.

Khoury’s advice to other entrepreneur is to simply “jump in and go for it”.

“Don’t worry about failing and being wrong as it will help you learn how not to do something, so next time you can do it better,” he says.

“Also to take care of yourself with a healthy work/life balance. Startups can consume your life so don’t let it burn you out too quick.”

 28. Ellen Powell

Company: Blushing Confetti

Age: 27

Australian fine paper goods company Blushing Confetti is gearing up for 2017 to be a “big one”, with founder Ellen Powell telling SmartCompany the business is looking to “solidify” its place in the international market by heading off to the New York Stationery Show in May.

“This is where we’ll meet with all our existing or soon-to-be global retail stores and will showcase our 2018 collection. Wholesale plays a pivotal role in the business, alongside retail, and this show allows us to grow our reach in the USA,” Powell says.

Founded three years ago, Powell’s company came about after she noticed a gap in the market for wedding stationery and established the business creating bespoke wedding invites. From there, she ventured into other fine paper goods, and has been expanding ever since.

“It started just with myself and now I get work with a team of eleven Blushing Confetti colleagues who help me across all aspects of the business,” she says.

Employee numbers isn’t the only thing increasing, as the company has doubled its revenue in the last year and a half, and tripled its wholesale customer base.

For other entrepreneurs, Powell says to make sure to back yourself, and “don’t take any shit”. Clear vision and goals can also lead to a successful business, she says.

“If you know your ‘why’ and how you are going to get there, then no matter what hurdles get in your way, you can achieve your entrepreneurial goals,” she says.

29. Talia Sasson

Company: Bridesmaids Only

Age: 30

Retail business Bridesmaids Only is currently completing a significant strategic pivot, transitioning to an online-only business to keep up with a customer base that wants even bridesmaids dresses to be delivered straight to their door.

Talia Sasson founded the business in 2010 and after a successful relaunch of the website in April 2016, sales online started to match that of the bricks-and-mortar offering, so the decision was made to go completely online.

“It is now equivalent to our bricks-and-mortar business, but without the same ‘physical’ cost base, meaning we are able to pass these savings on to our customers, and grow our Bridesmaids Only community, Sasson says.

Shoppers can choose dresses online either by designer or style and also have the option of having four bridesmaids’ dresses sent out so bridal parties can try on items before they buy.

Sasson says the past year has included many lessons on how to create a scalable business that’s also a special space for customers, but understanding the needs of the online shopper has meant Bridesmaids Only is now catering to customers across the country.

“Our e-customers have different ‘needs’ to traditional shoppers; a fluid experience, speed, convenience, and comfort are essential. Adapting our business and our marketing and sales strategy to demonstrate this took work … but it’s working,” she says.

30. Ryan Ebert

Company: PHW Group, Healthlogic

Age: 26

Making SmartCompany’s Hot 30 Under 30 list two years in a row is Ryan Ebert, founder of workplace health and wellbeing company PHW Group. The young entrepreneur has also established a new physiotherapy company called Healthlogic, which is growing rapidly.

“[We started Healthlogic] in September 2016 with a team of two, and within a month this was a team of four. It’s now a team of seven and is turning over excess of $10,000 a month across our sites and growing quickly,” Ebert told SmartCompany.

Ebert says Healthlogic was created by “two people on a mission” and was entirely self-funded by the directors. The company is about to open its third clinic, based in South Melbourne.

Ebert’s other venture, PHW Group has also continued to grow; it now services all Australian capital cities with the help of 60 employees and contractors.

Ebert believes entrepreneurs should always have a “how can I help you” mentality when dealing with employees and clients alike, and that money should never be the driving force to start a venture.

“You shouldn’t do it for the money — that’s the last thing to come. The first, and what must always remain the most important, is your passion, energy, persistence and willingness to serve everyone,” Ebert says.

Never miss a story: sign up to SmartCompany’s free daily newsletter and find our best stories on TwitterFacebook, LinkedIn and Instagram.

SmartCompany Plus

Sign in

To connect a sign in method the email must match the one on your SmartCompany Plus account.
Or use your email
Forgot your password?

Want some assistance?

Contact us on: or call the hotline: +61 (03) 8623 9900.