Smart50 Awards 2017

The 2017 Smart50 category winners haven’t slowed down after their first successes

Emma Koehn /

Superdraft founders

Superdraft founders Jake Robinson and Mark Deacon.

Several of the businesses taking out category prizes in this year’s Smart50 Awards have built one-of-a-kind companies from scratch.

Whether they’ve invented sellout products or created platforms to deliver services in brand new ways, this year’s winners can teach other businesses a lot about shaping a company according to the needs of its users.

This year’s list includes plenty of familiar faces, with companies showing long-term success despite very challenging landscapes in their sectors.

Here are the trends behind some of the top performers in this year’s Smart50 list.

Consistently high achievers

A number of this year’s category winners have previously appeared in the Smart50, and these familiar faces have been able to continue growth trajectories over a number of years.

This year’s Smart and Lasting winner, National Crime Check, has secured a place on the Smart50 Awards list every year since 2014, jumping from 47th place to 18th place this year as the company has continued to grow its base of clients in need of police checks for employees.

Having grown to an $11 million business in 2017, founder Martin Lazarevic isn’t stopping, now focusing on the goal of future service integration and an expansion into the Asia Pacific.

Meanwhile, Community Hero joint winner Hipages is also no stranger to the world of the Smart50.

The tradesperson booking platform says it wants to breathe corporate social responsibility, and has taken steps to encourage this both through its head office and employee network, including introducing paid days for staff wishing to complete volunteering projects.

The winner of this year’s Top Exporter Award also shows that you shouldn’t slow down once you’ve had success expanding your brand. B.box for kids secured fifth place in this year’s Smart50 list, building upon their relationships with export partners last year. The $14 million business will spend the next 12 months looking to expand its market share in Japan and Indonesia.

Innovative customer connection and pivoting

Several of the winners taking out categories this year have focused on the importance of connection with their communities and customers to secure market share.

Top Franchise winner Super Easy Storage, formerly Supercheap Storage, has plenty of feedback from the services it delivers to clients over its more that 20 franchise operations, and the company has found a way to take the pulse of customers through the use of online customer sentiment tracker Satmetrix.

Other businesses, like Easy Signs, have shown how important it is to move quickly if you’re going to get ahead of industry trends that threaten the very core of your business. This year’s Top Innovator Award winner, Easy Signs, took the tough decision to restructure its sign installation business five years ago after seeing the traditional model for selling signage was no longer capturing clients.

This choice resulted in a smaller team and a revenue drop, but the radical change also saw the company emerge as an online-first company that has grown to an $8 million operation.

When it comes to connecting with an audience, property advice firm and winner of the Top Marketer Award, Empower Wealth, has shown the value of creating a community around content. The weekly ‘Property Couch’ podcast, created by founder Ben Kingsley and his business partner Bryce Holdaway, discusses issues in the property market, while also generating leads for the company’s business.

The other joint winner of this year’s Community Hero Award, Booktopia, has engaged with the broader community on a number of fronts, aiming to use its position as a bookseller to contribute what it can to the world of literature, from learning programs to writers festivals.

Since being founded in 2004, Booktopia has contributed $750,000 towards literary projects, as well as setting up programs for children’s education in four Indigenous communities.

Businesses outside of the big capitals

Capital cities are attractive bases for small businesses and startups, but according to many company founders on this year’s list, going a little off the beaten track can be great for business.

The winner of this year’s Top Regional Business Award, 16th placed Superdraft, has grown into a $3.3 million architecture firm while based on the Gold Coast’s Varsity Lakes. Founders Jake Robinson and Mark Deacon were Gold Coast Young Entrepreneurs of the Year in 2015.

When the pair appeared on the Smart50 list last year, they explained how they had used their position on the east coast to take advantage of the nation’s building boom.

With close to 30 years of business operations under their belts, the founders of Top Retailer winner Tentworld have also proved you can build a multimillion-dollar business while based outside a major city. The $30 million Toowoomba-based business has grown revenue with store locations in Tweed Heads, Ipswich and Warana.

The founders say they are now focused on growing the customer network for the company’s tent and outdoor goods by connecting with them wherever they are in Australia through good online content.

Read the full list of category nominees and winners below.

2017 Smart50 Category Awards

Top Exporter Award

Shortlist

  • b.box for kids
  • Xref
  • The Interchange
  • Cover Genius

Winner: b.box for kids

Top Franchise

Shortlist

  • Just Cuts Franchising
  • Laser Clinics Australia
  • Super Easy Storage
  • Vision PT

Winner: Super Easy Storage

Top Innovator Award

Shortlist

  • Cashrewards
  • Easy Signs
  • Empower Wealth
  • hipages
  • Solv Solutions
  • Activepipe
  • Xref
  • ELMO Talent Management

Winner: Easy Signs

Top Marketer

Shortlist

  • Empower Wealth
  • LegalVision
  • Mountain Bikes Direct
  • MyDeal
  • Zadro
  • Yellow Octopus

Winner: Empower Wealth

Top Retailer

Shortlist

  • Booktopia
  • LUXBMX
  • Mountain Bikes Direct
  • Tentworld
  • Yellow Octopus

Winner: Tentworld

Top Regional Business

Shortlist

  • Ballarat Body and Soul 24/7 Health and Fitness Studio
  • Superdraft
  • Mountain Bikes Direct
  • Tentworld
  • Coastal Transport Services

Winner: Superdraft

Community Hero Award

Shortlist

  • Booktopia
  • Hipages
  • Mountain Bikes Direct
  • Walker Hill Chartered Accountants

Winner: Booktopia and Hipages joint winners

Smart and Lasting

Shortlist

  • National Crime Check
  • Hunter Mason
  • Cloud Plus
  • Blisscare Health
  • b.box for kids

Winner: National Crime Check

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Emma Koehn

Emma Koehn is a former senior SmartCompany journalist.