Three Australian small businesses that have found innovative ways to push through major hurdles are in the running for a $50,000 cash injection.
Shortlisted finalists are gluten free pizza base business Julian’s Gluten Free, bill-splitting app QPay and a business that enables cancer patients to receive chemotherapy treatment at home, chemo@home. They have each been named finalists in the American Express Business Explorer Grant, in partnership with MySmallBusiness.
All three businesses have overcome major obstacles with lots of hard work, by implementing innovative solutions and giving amazing service.
The $50,000 grant, announced at the start of September, was open to all Australian small businesses in operation for three or more years with an annual turnover below $10 million. Applications have now closed.
The grant recognises the hard work it takes to run a small business and will be awarded to Australia’s most promising small business.
Judges have spent the past three weeks poring over the 611 entries and reading real-life stories of innovation, hard work and service among Australian small businesses – values American Express believes are vital to businesses of any size.
Judges included Fairfax small business editor Cara Waters, RMIT professor of entrepreneurship Kosmos Smyrnios and judge of reality television show Shark Tank Steve Baxter.
Each judge assessed entrants on their ability to address a gap in the market or solve a key problem and hard work to establish solid foundations for future development and growth.
Waters said small business owners who made it onto the shortlist had successfully overcome often several major hurdles to start and grow their business. “The calibre of the entries we received was fantastic. There are so many small businesses out there doing amazing things and it’s great to be able to recognise their hard work and achievements.”
Among the finalists is Julian’s Gluten Free, which was launched after two successful restauranteurs began fielding repeated requests for gluten free pizza bases. Joe and Tracey Hassarati launched the business in 2006 and their products are now sold in Coles, Woolworths and Costco supermarkets. The business turnover is $2.6 million; with 30 staff employed.
The pair told the judges that they’ve learned the hard way that your biggest customer is no more important than the smallest.
While the business has prided itself on having no preservatives or additives in the bases, there’s mounting pressure for an ambient product, which would require using a preservative. The $50,000 cash injection would fund this research.
“We have to find a natural solution therefore we need to invest capital into research and development plus the time to do this.”
Bill-splitting app QPay has also been named a finalist. QPay was launched by Zakaria Bouguettaya in 2014 after recognising that bill splitting was a complex issue that had underlying social considerations. In the first year, the business processed $50,000 worth of transactions. That grew to $800,000 in the second year, and then $5 million in 2016.
The hardest part of getting off the ground was gaining the trust required to get people to put their payment details into the app, Bouguettaya said. “We solved this by targeting the segment of people that were most likely to care about split bills, and were more trusting – specifically, university students,” he said. “The number one thing we’ve learned is that it’s not the problems that kill the business, it’s how you subsequently manage the problem.”
The third finalist is a business that administers chemotherapy to cancer patients in their own home. Oncology pharmacist Julie Adams and registered nurse Lorna Cook launched chemo@home business to allow patients across the country to choose where they received their chemotherapy treatment.
The pair mortgaged their houses and worked long hours seven days a week to launch the business. The pair set out to shift the whole paradigm of cancer care.
Regulatory and bureaucratic hurdles were difficult to overcome at first, but gaining accreditation and then convincing doctors the service was safe has seen them grow significantly since launching in 2012.
The business has administered more than 7000 in-home treatments since launching and turnover is around $1.3 million. The pair are investigating how to raise capital and industrialise the company.
The winner will be announced on October 16 and their story of innovation, hard work and service will feature in MySmallBusiness pages soon after.
The American Express Business Explorer Grant in partnership with MySmallBusiness is supported by the American Express Business ExplorerTM Credit Card, which offers small businesses greater rewards and improved financial management of their spending. It can help small business owners get back more from the work they put into their business. The combination of high rewards, competitive interest rate and premium travel and business benefits is suitable for businesses looking to grow or improve how they do business. Visit American Express BusinessTMExplorer for more information.