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Capitalising on ‘that’ first win with 2019 Telstra Business Awards Western Australia finalists

Smarter Writer
Smarter Team

A team of business and technology journalists and editors who write to help Australia’s community of small and medium businesses access the technology and know-how that helps solve problems and create opportunities.

Smarter Writer
Smarter Team

A team of business and technology journalists and editors who write to help Australia’s community of small and medium businesses access the technology and know-how that helps solve problems and create opportunities.

Every successful business has ‘that’ first win – when persistence and a pinch of good luck pay off, and the tides turn in their favour. It might happen as soon as a business starts up, or it could take years. But it’s always ‘that’ moment when hard work combines with serendipity.

Here, a collection of 2019 Telstra Business Awards finalists from WA share the stories of their first big win – the circumstance that enabled it, the challenge that preceded it, and the success that followed.

‘That’ first win that started it all: Lisa Shreeve, Busselton Jetty

“In 1978 the future of Busselton Jetty – the longest timber-piled jetty in the southern hemisphere – was not looking good. After Cyclone Alby destroyed a large majority of it in April, the West Australian Government declared that they wanted to demolish it.

“A small group of passionate community volunteer members joined together to save the jetty. The group acknowledged that for the jetty to remain, it needed to offer tourism products to raise sufficient funds for ongoing maintenance.

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“Without the dedication and passion of volunteers, the jetty would not be the tourism icon it is today. It would not even exist!”

“Busselton Jetty succeeded in saving the jetty.

“Today, the team focuses on creating new and exciting experiences to increase visitors – including the jetty train, underwater observatory tours and several guided tours.

“Last financial year Busselton Jetty was able to contribute over $830,000 back into the conservation of the jetty – continuing to save it for future generations.”

Lisa Shreeve is the CEO of Busselton Jetty, a finalist in the Social Change Maker category.

‘That’ first win was the support of customers: Joanne Colijn-Dew, Café Mojo Mundaring

“Cafe Mojo Mundaring is a welcoming space supporting community collaboration and growth.

“Our very first win was before our doors opened. We designed a customer survey which was distributed with the help of local social media influencers. The survey was rewarded with a free coffee (all proceeds donated to charity).

“We were overwhelmed by the responses. So many good ideas, so much support, so many people excited and interested in ‘the new kid on the block’.”

“The opening was a huge success. People were interested in our quirky, funky and very different cafe.

“Not only was our name out there before we even opened – so many good ideas were leveraged from the survey. Even today we look back at the treasure trove of opinions and ideas and draw from the responses.”

Joanne Colijn-Dew is the owner of Cafe Mojo Mundaring, a sustainability-focused eatery and co-working space that caters to everyone from burger lovers to  vegans. The cafe is an Emerging and Energised finalist.

Essential tips for making the most of ‘that’ moment
  • “All wins should be considered important. A group of well-timed small wins can have a bigger impact than the large ones. Acknowledge the wins on a weekly basis so that everyone feels part of the success and ensure that the big ones are celebrated as a team.” – Renae Lunjevich, Managing Director, Bang Digital
  • “Record your wins. They may feel like a win today but in years to come you will forget. As your business grows you will be looking towards the next win, and the one after that. It’s good to look back and realise how far you have come.” – Caroline Shaw, Founding Partner, Live Well Physio
  • “Remember to continue the struggle. You got where you are by never letting something get through that wasn’t right, by always returning that complaining customer’s phone call, by watching the pennies and letting the pounds take care of themselves.” – Alex Apostolou, Founder and CEO, Meercat

‘That’ first win was financial backing: Caroline de Mori, EON Foundation

“EON Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation that delivers a food-and nutrition-focussed healthy lifestyle and disease prevention program to remote Aboriginal communities.

“Before our ‘first win’, the founders were running EON from a kitchen table, with passion and confidence in the business but lacking the long-term funding commitment required to prove it.

“Life and business are always going to throw up challenges and setbacks. The wins remind us that when we work together and remain focused, we can achieve anything.”

“A $100,000 grant from the WA Department of Health in 2009 enabled EON to commit to the program in 3 communities.

“With solid funding behind us we were able to test, and prove, our business model. This demonstrated the government’s understanding of the health-worth of EON’s unique approach. It also provided us with the confidence to approach the private sector for further support.”

Caroline de Mori is the Executive Chair of EON Foundation, a finalist in the Social Change Maker category.

‘That’ first win when you’re “all in”: Robert Boylan, International Lubricant Distributors

“We started ILD with an idea that we could make a difference in the lubricants market by behaving differently to the rest.

“We convinced investors to fund the start-up for 12 months and invested around $100,000 to secure a supply contract with Sinopec (China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation).

“Nobody had used these products under Australian conditions. They are used in multi-million-dollar pieces of equipment, and we chose to target well-known global players at their own game. Failure would have been immediately catastrophic for our fledgling business.

“We were four people that had given up careers to take a chance on this new enterprise. We were ‘all-in’ and very nervous.”

“We won our first important contract after about 6 months.

“The products were going into large pieces of mining equipment – any failure would have meant the end of our business.

“We waited three very anxious days, then received news that nothing had blown up and the products were performing well.

“Over the past ten years, we’ve changed the market landscape for lubricants in Australia and are now the leading alternative to the traditional giants.”

Robert Boylan is the CEO of International Lubricant Distributors, finalist in the Medium & Making Waves category.

‘That’ first win after years of persistence: Dan Leech, Excel Robotics

“Excel Robotics specialises in producing high-quality steel fabrication in the safest, most efficient and professional manner possible.

“We got our first big break after many years of hitting the road marketing Excel. After several attempts we became an approved supplier for Heiniger Australia,
[an animal shearing equipment retailer].

“Don't make money your first priority. Focus on providing the best safety standards for your staff, quality of your products, and service to your customers.”

“This was a massive turning point for Excel.

“Heiniger were very impressed that I personally made and delivered the new products. They saw our quality and service first-hand. This led to a massive influx of work.

“I went from using my forklift seat as my office to having the confidence and cashflow to build an office. Today, we are officially the largest supplier of fabricated components to the Australian and New Zealand wool industry.”

Dan Leech is the Owner of Excel Robotics, a Medium & Making Waves finalist.

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