Although the headlines have been full of depressing stories of economic doom and gloom at the end of 2008, plenty of Australian SMEs have nevertheless achieved great things in the past year. From an airline to a writer’s centre, we picked our favourite achieving companies, from those with five staff to those with 250.
Company: Moi Moi Fine Jewellery
Moi Moi Fine Jewellery was founded by sisters Lauren Chang Sommer and Alana Chang, Australia and New Zealand’s exclusive distributors for Charles & Colvard created Moissanite fine jewels. In December 2004, when they were 25 and 24, they opened Australia’s first Moissanite store, introducing the world’s fastest growing fine jewellery category to Australia and New Zealand.
The jewel sparkles with more brilliance, fire and lustre than diamonds, but costs approximately one-tenth of the price. It has rapidly created its own niche in the Australian market, and as a result Moi Moi launched its second store in New Zealand last October.
In August this year, Moi Moi won a City of Sydney Business Award in the retail fashion category. In the past 12 months, the business has had an enormous 82 percent increase in wholesale customers, taking them from having 61 jewellers to 111 nationwide who purchase Moissanite for their own businesses. They have also had a 33 percent increase in new retail customers These rising figures point to the fact that Australians are becoming increasingly interested in purchasing quality yet affordable jewellery.
Company: Infoactiv Group
Established in 1999, 2008 has seen a dominant player in the transport and logistics industry take a massive step forward. Infoactiv has seen turnover increase by 40 percent from the previous year, without the need to actively seek new customers.
Furthermore, the company has turned its focus towards an exciting new niche service offering, eWaste (electronic waste accumulated by corporations). This has resulted in the collection of more than 355 tonnes of eWaste from various top 500 companies through a variety of tailored services including community events and internal recycling initiatives. Infoactiv’s eWaste clients have enhanced their environmental credibility and reduced their environmental footprint, with a further 650 tonnes of eWaste being diverted from landfill.
2008 has seen the Melbourne-based company expand into both New Zealand and the Asia Pacific region. With an approach that is sophisticated, results-orientated and personalised, Infoactiv has revolutionised the transport and logistics industry, leading the way in providing partnership-based solutions. Managing director Helen Jarman won the 2003 Telstra Business Woman of the Year Award on the back of Infoactiv’s performance in a highly competitive market, while also being the only transport and logistics company in Australia owned and run by a woman.
Company: AD2ONE Group
This business has achieved great things in the last 12 months. AD2ONE’s Australian operation was launched in 2004 as the second of four locations for this global digital group, headquartered in London.
AD2ONE provides exclusive online advertising access to premium vertical brands for Australia’s leading agencies, marketers and publishers. At just 32, managing director Phil Duffield has achieved great success, responsible for growing AD2ONE’S Australian staff numbers, relocating the Sydney office to York Street and opening a Singapore office as well as winning significant premium brands off the firm’s well known industry competitors.
The business experienced growth of 121.43 percent in the first six months of 2008, compared to the average industry market growth of 28.7 percent for the same period (IAB PWC Report June 2008). AD2ONE has a range of premium vertical brands including Lonely Planet and Expedia, both of which it has retained as clients for more than three years.
Big name brands such as LinkedIn have signed up with AD2ONE this year, as well as HotCopper, Best Restaurants and Dutton Direct. New clients NRMA and ninemonths left Fairfax to be part of AD2ONE.
SkyAirWorld is a Brisbane-based integrated aviation services company established in 2006. The company operates a range of specialised aviation services, including quality jet airline transport, pilot training and diversified aviation support.
The last 12 months have seen record growth for SkyAirWorld as evidenced through the airline’s introduction of brand new, state-of-the-art Embraer aircraft as well as the commencement of two scheduled routes.
In April 2008, SkyAirWorld launched non-stop flights between Brisbane and Honiara in the Solomon Islands three days per week and in doing so became the first, and still the only, Australian carrier to fly direct from Australia to the Solomon Islands. In August 2008, SkyAirWorld commenced a thrice-weekly domestic service route in regional Queensland between Brisbane, Cloncurry and Cairns, which has helped support niche markets and the resource sector.
SkyAirWorld is a dynamic and innovative business that values safety, innovation and reliability. The introduction of three brand new aircraft types in the last 18 months is a remarkable achievement.
CEO David Charlton is an accomplished leader in the commercial, military and aviation sectors. As an Army Reservist, he undertook full-time service in the Middle East. He has a background in Operations Management and Marketing and previously spent nine years working in the financial services sector. Under his entrepreneurial leadership, SkyAirWorld has grown to over 170 employees in just three years, with a fleet of five aircraft.
Company: QSR International
Melbourne-based QSR International is the largest and fastest growing qualitative research software developer in the world and an innovative leader in its industry. After more than a decade in operation, QSR has more than 400,000 customers spanning more than 90 countries and an estimated 65 percent share of the global qualitative research software market. The company develops and markets qualitative data analysis software and provides ongoing service excellence to customers.
In the last 12 months, as an established business, QSR has achieved outstanding results, with particular success in the development and release of its dedicated language versions of the qualitative research software called NVivo 8. It outsold its predeccsor NVivo 7 by 28 to one in the first six weeks after release.
QSR International is an excellent example of a successful Australian SME that continues to build on its achievements and take a leadership role in the competitive IT industry. With just over 50 employees, QSR punches well above its weight through its regular innovative software advancements. With an outstanding export record, QSR takes Australian-made software into workplaces, business, organisations and laboratories all over the globe.
Company: aToMik Green
When aToMik Green opened its doors in March 2008, it began as three people who had a will and want to make a difference to the public’s accessibility to the world of environmental products and information. They wanted to make it easier for individuals, families and businesses to make changes and help them achieve a level of green lifestyle at their own comfortable pace.
As it nears the end of the first year of business, aToMik Green has increased to five staff and has been recognised with numerous awards . It has also been recognised for its practical, informative and user-friendly website.
The team’s most recent achievement was winning the News.com.au Environment 2.0 Award which recognises an Australian website or web-based service providing innovative help for people wanting to reduce their impact on the environment. aToMik Green won for being one of the most up-to-date sources of information on green products and services around, beating the Australian Conservation Foundation’s Who on Earth Cares and Offcuts.com.au.
aToMik Green has offered and made a carbon-neutral impact on the lives of hundreds of people and businesses, whilst also increasing environmental awareness. Whilst the achievements of the last nine months have been great, they are small compared to what aToMik Green aims to achieve over the next few years.
Company: Telarus Pty Ltd
Established in 2001, Telarus provides the business and residential market with a national business-grade telecommunications network, offering solutions that include voice, data, mobile, hosting and managed services. A privately owned Australian company, in 2004 Telarus merged with BroadbandDIRECT, a major PowerTel partner (founded by Graeme Smith, now Director of Telarus). The combined business is a broad infrastructure based telecommunications service provider with a broad range of products incorporating managed services and security.
As well as offering a product range as broad as a Tier One carrier, Telarus also specialises in optional, complimentary tailored solutions. On the data side, its flagship offering is the VPN and integrated firewall solution, designed to enhance performance and stability with centralised access to the internet.
Telarus is an established business that has grown considerably in the last 12 months and in August 2008 was honoured with an ACOMMS award for Commitment to Customer Service (SME) Award. In addition, the company has this year expanded into New Zealand; a new office is opening up soon and Telarus already has clients in NZ being serviced from the Melbourne office.
Telarus has wholesale agreements with the largest and most respected carriers including Telstra, Optus and AAPT and maintains its own national MPLS core network.
Company: Prime Digital Media (PDM)
Prime Digital Media (PDM) began in 2006 and currently employs 25 staff. PDM is Australia’s leading provider of Out-of-Home Digital (OOHD) media. The company provide retailers and marketers with innovative ways to target and engage the new, media-savvy consumer.
PDM controls Australia’s largest, centrally managed out-of-home digital network, delivering dynamic, relevant, visually appealing messages to retail environments via plasma and LCD screens. The company’s in-store retail networks showcase The Home Electronics Network, The Lifestyle Network and The Wellbeing Network. Clients include Retravision, Boost Juice, Amcal, Guardian and Blooms.
PDM centrally manages and produce content for TelstraTV, Telstra’s T [shop] and T [life] real-time digital signage network. Fireback Digital, PDM’s in-house creative studio, produces the most Out-of-Home Digital content in Australia and has collected the most awards for doing so. PDM is also the first Australian Out-of-Home Digital media company to completely offset its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to become carbon neutral.
PDM won a silver award for Best Brand Advertising at the international 2008 Fourth Screen Awards for its work on Telstra NextG. It was the only Australian company to win an award at the event. PDM, in partnership with Boost Juice UK, is now managing content and media for the instore digital signage network.
Company: Azure Group
Azure Group is a young and successful accounting and financial services firm that is redefining the role of the accountant. Through the proactive approach to client’s tax affairs, integrated services to provide a seamless financial solution and unique outsourced Chief Financial Officer (CFO) service, Azure Group is raising the bar in the accounting industry.
In 2002, CEO Michael Derin began the company with the idea of offering strategic level commercial advice to SME clients. The fundamental thing that he identified was that SMEs rarely get that level of assistance because they can’t afford or attract an experienced full-time CFO.
Azure’s dedication and passion for helping their clients achieve success has paid off. In 2008 Azure Group experienced a high level of growth in terms of turnover, clients, size and services. From 2007 to 2008, Azure Group’s domestic turnover increased by 45 percent.
Through its unique outsourced CFO service, Azure has steered many companies to achieve their objectives. Over the last financial year, the clients for which Derin is CFO on average had an increase in turnover of 19 percent, the highest increase being 38 per cent.
In August 2008, Azure Group added to its Sydney location by opening an office on the Gold Coast.
Company: Freestyle Media
Fred Schebesta started Freestyle Media in 2001 while he was studying at university. He built it into a fast growing online marketing agency and it was acquired in 2007 by listed company Q Limited.
Freestyle specialises in driving traffic to websites and converting online customers into purchasers of products and services. The company ensures clients’ web presence intelligently generates leads, develops relationships and increases sales. Its team’s insights and practical application of search engine strategies, online advertising and consumer-driving websites realise a valuable return on marketing spend. Major clients include 3 Mobile, Hutchison, Sanitarium, Virgin Mobile, NRMA, Constellation Hotel Group, University of Newcastle, McDonalds Australia, Acer Computers, and Rabobank across Australia and New Zealand.
Freestyle Media won the 3 Mobile online marketing account, which involved managing the extensive range of online direct marketing projects and campaigns for 3 Mobile’s consumer products as well as creating new online traffic.
Schebesta wrote and launched his first book How to create an Online Marketing Campaign that Sells. The book acts as a practical guide and discusses six stages that are crucial for marketers who want to see their campaign achieve results.
Company: Sydney Writers’ Centre
The Sydney Writers’ Centre started three years ago and has achieved great things in the last 12 months. It has grown significantly, become a forerunner in the web 2.0 space and garnered a reputation as one of the most innovative writers’ centres in the country.
The Sydney Writers’ Centre has grown from a one-person operation three years ago to a thriving centre with a team of 15 presenters and staff today. As a result of its commitment to serve people regardless of geography, the Sydney Writers’ Centre has harnessed the power of technology to deliver online courses to people all over the country, and the world. Students have enrolled from as far away as Hong Kong, Afghanistan and the Italian Alps!
Student numbers have doubled in the past 12 months and former students contact the centre every week with news of their successes. These include book deals, getting published in magazines and newspapers and successfully reinventing themselves to become writers.
The Sydney Writers’ Centre was recently named a finalist in the Small Business Champion Awards 2008 (NSW/ACT).