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Recession? What recession? A plethora of innovative and growing SMEs are having success across the country. Here are Dynamic Business’ favourites for 2009.

David Hancock, Geeks2U

Entrepreneurs of the yearAt just 24, David Hancock is the founder and managing director of Geeks2U, a national provider of onsite computer repairs, advice and support for home and business customers across Australia.

David set up and operated Geeks2U from his bedroom when he was just out of school. He had one technician at the time who was busy darting between customers in Sydney, but it wasn’t long before he needed to recruit additional ‘Geeks’ to service a wider area.

Since 2005, Geeks2U has grown to become a highly successful small business. In fact, the revenue growth for April 09 vs April 08 was 94 percent. Geeks2U has just hit 30,000 customers and David expects revenue and customer growth to accelerate even further in the coming months thanks to a six-figure Sydney radio investment they have made across four stations.

Geeks2U is also in the process of hiring more full-time technicians around Australia to help keep up with demand and get more branded vehicles on the road.

Tim and Dan Alpe, Jucy RentalsEntrepreneurs of the year

Jucy Rentals is one of Australasia’s fastest growing independent rental companies. Launched in New Zealand in 2002, Jucy has experienced rapid growth with annual revenue increasing by more than $20 million since the business began. In 2008, the New Zealand campervan sensation made it’s way across the Tasman and began operations in Australia.

Jucy was launched in New Zealand by brothers Tim and Dan Alpe. Tim and Dan have an extensive background in the tourism industry, previously being employed by leading New Zealand tourism company, Tourism Holding Limited (THL). With their intricate understanding of the industry they recognised that there weren’t many car rental companies with affordable, reliable cars for rent. To fill this gap they came up with the concept for Jucy; a unique car hire company providing affordable yet luxurious cars and campervan rentals. The proposal was put forward to THL but was eventually knocked back. They decided to go out on a limb and undertook the business endeavour on their own and they are thankful they did.

So far the Australian market has welcomed Jucy with open arms, with Jucy continuing to expand its fleet of 200 campervans throughout 2009. Tim is not surprised by Jucy’s success, “We researched the market and competitors extensively and the time was right to move to Australia. The majority of our customers in New Zealand were Australian, British or German; many of who were travelling through Australia as well.”

Jucy has grown from 35 cars to a fleet of over 2,000 vehicles and currently employs 85 vibrant, youthful staff members in offices throughout New Zealand and Australia.

Daniel Banik and Zoe Warne, AugustEntrepreneurs of the year

August is a Melbourne-based digital agency, where creativity and technology are used intelligently to generate business innovation and success. The business, founded in 2005 by Daniel and Zoe and Matthew Agar, is first and foremost about ideas and bringing them to life. Whether it’s creating a large scale, ecommerce-enabled website or developing a targeted, online product launch to integrate with an existing offline campaign, they’ve got the strategy, tactics and nous to make it work.

Back in 2005 they dared to carve out their niche agency from the ashes of an industry still recovering from the dot-com crash. August remains proudly independent, in a landscape that is increasingly populated by mergers and acquisitions. Now their clients include Fosters, Snowgum and Austrtalia Post.

Zoe says: “We have created a vibrant team of young guns and whiz kids, and the right culture for retaining them—no revolving doors or corporate restructures here! Not surprisingly, we are well placed to ensure our growing stable of clients are loved and cared for, so they are here for the long-haul.

“And as for innovation, if it doesn’t exist, we build it. Not quite right? We improve it. August has created a suite of awesome web-based applications representing best of breed technology.”

Tanya Farrar, Brazilian ButterflyEntrepreneurs of the year

Brazilian Butterfly was recently ranked 12th in the BRW Fast Franchises Awards with a revenue of $7.18million, 74.06 percent growth and 19 outlets.

Founder and director Tanya, 37, is married to Scott, MD of the company. She’s the first to admit she did not envisage running an expanding franchise when she created her very first salon in inner city Richmond in Melbourne.

She began her business with the simple belief that waxing could be done better. Based on 17 years’ experience in the beauty industry, Tanya was convinced there was the potential for growth in waxing, particularly Brazilian waxing.

She bought her first beauty salon in 1994, built it up into a thriving business and sold it in 1996. The next six years were spent working in several salons and pharmacies in Melbourne and raising a family along the way.

With Scott’s support and encouragement, Tanya took the plunge in 2002 and rented a shop in Richmond, with the idea of setting up a business that would specialise in waxing. Brazilian Butterfly was born. They opened their second salon in St Kilda in 2003.

Then, one of their best clients decided she liked Brazilian Butterfly so much she wanted one of her very own and approached Scott and Tanya with the idea of setting up her own salon. The first franchise store opened in Knox in 2004. The brand has grown to encompass 18 salons in Victoria and one in Queensland and Tanya has also developed a successful range of skincare products to complement the Brazilian Butterfly treatments.

Simon Crowe, Grill’d
Entrepreneurs of the yearwww.grilld.com.au

Healthy burger franchise Grill’d recently opened its first Sydney restaurant, marking the company’s 24th store opening and with plans well underway to operate 40 stores in VIC, QLD and NSW by year end.

Unfazed by the economic downturn, founder and MD Simon Crowe instead points recent sales growth as an indicator of the company’s recession proof appeal.  “Summer 08/09 was a record trading period for us in both Victoria and Queensland, with the majority of restaurants smashing their individual sales records. Grill’d is well placed to benefit from tighter economic conditions in 2009, as consumers trade down from full service to convenient restaurants with a strong value proposition. We are well regarded in this space, particularly amongst young families looking for convenient, quality and nutritious meal solutions. “

The franchise model that Crowe adopted within months of opening the first Grill’d restaurant in the Melbourne suburb of Hawthorn has undoubtedly enabled the company to expand.  “The decision to franchise the business allowed me to take Grill’d to the next stage of development by entering into new markets at a faster rate. This move has ultimately led to Grill’d being established as Australia’s number one premium, healthy burger chain,” says Crowe.

David Stevens, BrennanEntrepreneurs of the year

David is founder and MD of business technology solutions provider, Brennan.

Having started his career as an IT consultant working with a range of clients both locally and internationally on large scale infrastructure projects, he recognised the opportunity for a technology business specialising in the needs of SMEs. This lead him to found Brennan in 1997.

Today, Brennan is recognised as one of the fastest growing technology businesses in Australia. The company has expanded from its IT services origins to now offer a complete range of managed and secure IT and telecommunication solutions, virtualisation, consulting and project services, technology sourcing, infrastructure integration, software development and tailored financing packages.

His commercial background includes working with companies such as Novell, Microsoft, Digital Equipment and Bay Networks. He was also a professional cyclist for a number of years and still maintains a strong interest in that sport, as well as car racing.

Grace Chu, FirstClick ConsultingEntrepreneurs of the year

Grace is the founder and MD of FirstClick Consulting, a strategic search marketing agency that provides SEM (search engine marketing) and SEO (search engine optimisation) services to companies including Foxtel, RaboPlus and Fairfax Digital.

With 18 years’ industry experience in internet marketing, management consulting and people management, most recently Grace was employed in a number of senior roles with eBay Australia, where she led internet marketing and seller marketing aimed at buyer and seller acquisition, activation and retention. Prior to this Grace was a management consultant with McKinsey & Company where she worked with international clients to develop and implement strategies spanning sales and marketing and operational improvement.
She is married with a two-year-old son, Jamie.

Maureen Houssein-Mustafa, Australasian College BroadwayEntrepreneurs of the year

Maureen Houssein-Mustafa grew up in a first generation Cypriot Turkish migrant family when times were hard in the 60s, particularly for an ambitious young woman.

She found her niche in sales when she joined Joyce Mayne, proving herself quickly. Maureen was invited to establish and head up the furniture division of the company, which later become the retail giant Domayne.

Ready for a new challenge, Maureen opened her first beauty salon in Sydney’s Inner West. Within a short period of time she grew her business to five locations across the area. After selling the business and with a renewed sense of direction, Maureen became the general manager of Fuss Salons in the Eastern Suburbs. Although she tripled the turnover in just a few years, Maureen saw firsthand that staff training and high standards were severely lacking in the beauty industry.

This became her motivation behind starting the Australasian College Broadway in 1994, with a paltry $1,600 and tiny leased premises. With 47 staff today, the College now turns over $8.8 million per annum and is a major exporter of education. Over 450 international and domestic students study annually in the state of the art premises in Broadway, and the recent expansion of the property will take this number to an excess of 750.

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Jen Bishop

Jen Bishop

Jen was the publisher at Loyalty Media and editor of Dynamic Business, Australia's largest circulating small business magazine, from 2008 until 2012. She is now a full-time blogger at The Interiors Addict.

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