Fashion and high-tech towing take top honours at Telstra Business Awards

A fashion brand that was founded in Byron Bay and a high-tech towing company were among the businesses that took out awards at the 2016 Telstra Business Awards on Friday.

Claiming the title of Business of the Year was New South Wales-based fashion brand Spell and the Gypsy Collective. The Australian brand is recognised around the globe, with its designs worn by celebrity icons such as Katy Perry and Alessandra Ambrosio.

Telstra Business Awards Ambassador, Andy Ellis, said the brand showed potential to disrupt its industry, and showed “sound financial performance, innovative thinking and dynamic attitude”.

“These business leaders have all demonstrated a unique and compelling combination of heartfelt passion and impressive business acumen,” Ellis said in a statement.

“Spell and the Gypsy Collective is a very exciting business. Not only are they showing significant innovation in the digital space, but they are turning the traditional business model of the fashion industry on its head,” Ellis said.

Co-founder of Spell and the Gypsy Collective Elizabeth Abegg said in a statement the brand is a creative avenue for her and her sister and co-founder Isabella Pennefather.

“We’re demonstrating to the fashion industry how a female-centric small business can grow and flourish in regional Australia,” Abegg said.

Spell and the Gypsy Collective also won the Telstra Small Business award, and the New South Wales Small Business award.

High-tech towing tops to list

This year’s national New Business award went to two-year-old company Tow.com.au, which provides high-tech towing services nation-wide and claims to be the first and only national towing company.

Tow.com.au chief executive Dominic Holland told SmartCompany although this award was not the first his company had earned, it was the first he was “genuinely surprised” it won.

“This award gives us a lot more credibility as a company, as the Telstra awards are known as being very difficult to win, and they showcase the best companies in the country,” Holland says.

“And of course the publicity is very welcome, plus Telstra has one of the country’s biggest fleet of company cars so I’ve already been lining that up.”

Winning a Telstra Business Award is no easy feat, with Holland saying the application process took upwards of 40 hours.

“They actually design it to teach you more about your business just by filling in the forms,” Holland says.

Tow.com.au began in Brisbane in 2014 and scored an early partnership with the Queensland Police in its first ever state-wide contract with a business.

“We’ve grown so fast that we had to split into two divisions, one for the police side of operations and one for the nation-wide towing,” Holland says.

The business is growing quickly and in the past year has upped its towing revenue by 450%. But Holland says he isn’t happy to settle with that.

“Right now we hold just under 2 percent of the national towing market, and in two years I want to have 20 percent,” he says.

Holland hopes the award will help him with the company’s planned New Zealand expansion by the end of the year, followed by a move into the US market in 2017.

Growth at such a rapid rate doesn’t come without challenges and Holland says his business has experienced the “growing pains” all new businesses are often “acutely aware of”.

Holland has also been grappling with acquisition of new staff, saying recruitment has been one of his “biggest challenges”. He says the costs of hiring new workers are “ridiculous”.

“It’s just so important to get the right people in the right roles,” he says.

For other hopeful business owners, Holland says a firm grasp of the industry you’re in is absolutely essential, and something which he had to wrap his head around.

“I’m a software engineer myself, so I don’t have a lot of background in the towing industry. Before we properly started, I personally drove around all of Queensland to talk to towing companies personally about the industry,” Holland says.

“This gave me a realistic view of the industry, and let us accurately forecast where we needed to be. This really underpinned our success.”

Joining Tow.com.au and Spell and the Gypsy Collective as national award winners were healthcare education company iSimulate, which won the Micro Business Award. Food retailer Jewel Fine Foods won the Medium Business award, and blood cancer and bone marrow failure syndrome support charity Snowdome won the Charity Award.

The state winners in the 2016 Telstra Business Awards

Victoria: Vinomofo

South Australia: Adelaide Green Clean

Queensland: QUIK CORP

Western Australia: PeopleSense

Northern Territory: HPA “Helping People Achieve

Australian Capital Territory: Capital Airport Group

Tasmania: Bridestowe Estate

New South Wales: Spell and the Gypsy Collective

This article was first published on SmartCompany.

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