Tracey Spicer will MC the business awards.
Tracey Spicer will MC the business awards. Contributed

Finalists have their say ahead of business awards

A RECORD number of finalists and guests will attend the Northern Rivers Regional Business Awards Gala Dinner tonight to celebrate another year of achievements.

The NSW Business Chamber will host the Northern Rivers Regional Business Awards Gala Dinner and Regional Manager Northern Rivers NSW Business Chamber, Jane Laverty, said 300 business and industry leaders from across the region will be coming together to be recognised as businesses of excellence.

Walkley Award winning journalist, author and broadcaster Tracey Spicer is MC for the evening.

The national co-founder of Women in Media and Now Australia, Ms Spicer was named the NSW Premier's Women of the Year in 2019, and in 2018 she was identified as one of the Australian Financial Review's 100 Women of Influence, winning the Social Enterprise and Not for Profit category.

"We have 107 finalist entries in this year's Regional Business Awards with representation from every corner of the region,” Ms Laverty said.

"As a result of a strong number of entries into each of the local awards programs during June and July we can call the regional awards a true reflection of our Northern Rivers business landscape”.

Many of the winners from the Northern Rivers Business Excellence Awards will then go on to represent the region at the prestigious State Business Awards in Sydney in November.

"The Northern Rivers has a track record of success at the State Awards with Stone & Wood taking out the State Excellence in Sustainability category in 2018 and in 2017 Bee Inventive, creators of Flow Hive, took out the State Excellence in Innovation category and the State Business of the Year gong too.

"As a community on the Northern Rivers, I think we are extremely proud of the success of our businesses and the work of their employees. We embrace their achievements and successes like they are our own. I believe we do have a great sense of empathy for how hard it is to be in business in today's economy and how much we rely on our business leaders to create and sustain the jobs that allow us to live in regional NSW”.

A full list of finalists can be viewed on the chamber website now with the winners list available for viewing on Monday 21 October or follow the NSWBC Northern Rivers Facebook page for live updates on the night.

Gala Dinner and Award Celebration on Saturday October 2019 from 6pm at Ballina RSL Club.

Here's what the finalists love about being in business in the Northern Rivers:

Gather By

Matt Blomfield, CEO, Gather By: "Moving our headquarters from Sydney to Ballina earlier this year has been the best decision we've made in our business to date. I love the people, the community, the vibrancy. I love being surrounded by so much diversity and culture. And the Australian Manuka medicinal honey plants that we grow are native to the Northern Rivers so it makes sense for us to run our business here and to be close to our bees and to our honey tree growers. The support from other local businesses and industry leaders is unparalleled in this area. The lifestyle is also second to none. You can be in the hills and down by the sea within 15 minutes, where else can you get that? Our warehouse and retail shop right next to Ballina Airport has also made our shipping process incredibly efficient.”

Cottage Collection

Lisa Burton: "What I love about having a business in the Northern Rivers is how, as a community, during times of trouble such as drought and most recently the fires we all come together as one. I love how locals support my business and are always behind me spurring me on.”

Ghinni Ghi Farm

Mark and Carol Gillett: "Carol and I have loved working in the paradise our farm provides even when times are tough. We are so lucky to live and work and create opportunities in the healthy Northern Rivers. The area is known for its enterprise and endeavour, creative and forward thinking folk, and businesses that contribute to their communities and find patronage as a result.”

Planit Consulting

Ben Gohl: "Operating a successful business in the Northern Rivers region is great as it is a real dynamic and fast-moving market with clients and a community that are willing to think outside the norm to deliver successful projects. Although this is a regional area we still get to work on a range of large, complex and exciting projects that challenge our Town Planning, Engineering And Landscape Architecture staff and this is a real exciting space for Planit Consulting to be involved in as we are creating projects that we are proud of and providing a better community in which we live, work and play.”


Gillian Grove: "Our business highlights the creative capital that we have living in our region. Without the artists that we work with on our art retreats and weekend workshops we would never be the success that we are today. Combining that with the mind-blowing natural beauty of the Northern Rivers for our art retreats and creative getaways has created a very successful arts-based business that has thrived over the last 10 years. It's a privilege to be representing our region, we are so proud to be here.”

Frontier Pets

Diana Scott: "It's the community! I've never felt so much part of 'something' before. In the year that we've been here we've employed 13 people from the local area. They are all fabulous. They are all committed. They want to see the region grow and thrive. It really is, in all seriousness, like one big family. It's the best move we ever made.”

Virtus Heritage

Mary-Jean: "Working in the Northern Rivers region with traditional owners, councils, land councils and community groups on heritage projects is a real privilege for our team. Heritage is important to a sense of identity and to our wellbeing and working with community to protect and manage heritage and local archaeology collaboratively is critical. Northern Rivers is a special place to call home and for teams head office.”

Northern Cooperative Meat Company (NCMC)

John Seacombe: "NCMC is a co-operative of long standing in the local community and we celebrate the rich diversity of business, industry, education and recreation opportunities in this region. This all leads to a vibrant, healthy and resilient community and one that supports each other. The Northern Rivers region is an area of excellence for collaborative business ethos and this alone makes our businesses all the more stronger in thought, skills and opportunities and thus rewarding and supporting the communities in our region.”

C&M Garage Doors

Mat Barber: "We love the lifestyle that the Northern Rivers offers, expanding the business in a strong growth area has been exciting and challenging. It's rewarding to support other local businesses in their journey as well. Wouldn't want to be anywhere else!”

Dona Cholita Tortillera

Joey Juarez: "I feel like we've got it all! The daily commute is along glorious tree lined roads with mountain and ocean views, the laid back lifestyle means it's almost impossible to hustle to the point of exhaustion when your office view is a paddock and your afternoon decompress is a jump in the ocean. We have access to the BEST food and services and we personally know (and are often good friends with) all the people who make or grow the food, and provide those services. It's real, the people are real & the places are real. We are blessed with the most supportive community in the most picturesque location.”

Lismore Symphony Orchestra

Joshua Booyens: "I love that a local 45 piece symphony orchestra and the far reaching audience we attract to the area can make a significant and recognised cultural and economic contribution to local business - they needn't be mutually exclusive!”

Serendip Plantation

Serendip Organics, Christine Rijks: "Where else can I live the dream and call it work?”

Global Performance Therapy

Donna Masing: "The thing I love most about being in business is the satisfaction of achieving a goal you set for yourself, especially when (for whatever reason) others have doubted you. It's knowing you can do whatever you focus your attention on, that there are no limits and you never stop just because someone else said you couldn't.”

TAFE NSW Smart Skilled And Hired Youth Employment Program

Toni Bellos: "What I love about being in business on the Northern Rivers is being able to work alongside many business owners across a variety of industries to support our younger generation with their employment goals. Our job is fun, rewarding and each day is different. Our team love celebrating the success of other's each day.”


Amanda Mead, Solicitor: "I love being able to help the people of the Northern Rivers area by offering FREE legal advice, during these sessions clients gain clarity about their legal (or possibly non-legal) situation and this knowledge helps them move their situation forward in a positive direction. I feel lucky to be in a position where I can help.”

Wild Honey Creative

Jasmine Phillips: "I am fortunate to have clients both in the local area and also from around Australia and overseas. Based in Kyogle (one of the region's smallest and more isolated towns) may seem limiting at first glance, however I have found that setting up here has been one of my best business decisions. I believe the local community is mindful of supporting other locals. More and more I have noticed people's preference to support local over what might be a better known or more commercially powerful enterprise. I think there is a growing understanding that by supporting a local business or creative, you are building your own community's potential and that creates flow on benefits for the entire community. Often our talented young people are encouraged to move away from the country - to head to the city and make a name for themselves - but I am hopeful for a future where they know that they can make a name for themselves if they stay here on the Northern Rivers. The digital world is shutting down traditional barriers. We can chase down opportunities from 9 'til 5 while still enjoying rainforests, beaches and a laid back country lifestyle the rest of the time - it's hard to imagine being in business anywhere else.”

Blue Ginger Picnics

Tania Usher: "What I love about operating a business on the Northern Rivers is the opportunity to create outdoor dining experiences that showcase our stunning region as well as the many talented, innovative and creative businesses we work with. There's something special about the businesses of this region, they have a heartfelt sense of authentic collaboration. There's never any competitive bustling or solo-thinking. We're all in this together and I believe that's what makes the Northern Rivers stand out from the rest of Australia...and perhaps the world.”

Casino Beef Week

Frank McKey, President: "It allows me time to spend with my three grandchildren and allows me to be involved in the community organisations to which I am a volunteer.”

Harley & Co Agricentre

Pat Harley: "We love being in business on the Northern Rivers because it gives us the opportunity to really connect with our community. Strong community support for local business allows business to strongly support our communities.”


Naarah Rodwell: "Being involved in the business community on the Northern Rivers is nothing but rewarding. The region is faced with many challenges, some not truly known or understood in metropolitan regions yet the community mindedness and the commitment to the "local” is inspirational. Being in the 'not for profit and 'for purpose' industry relies on the community being behind the service and even with the extraordinary challenges that have been faced by the Northern Rivers over the last few years the community haven't missed a beat. It truly is a pleasure to be a part of the region and the vibrant industries that trade here.”

Lux Elopements

Sarah Jane Ryan: "The Northern Rivers is the most popular wedding destination in Australia. In the last 10 years have witnessed the exponential growth. Luxe Elopements is only in its second year but was a natural progression of my other brand Lady Bella Weddings. Our couples are travelling from all over Australia and Europe to exchange their vows on the Northern Rivers. The wedding industry brings in $70 million per year in the Byron shire alone.”

Kyogle Physiotherapy

Robyn Clark: "The team at Kyogle Physiotherapy enjoy working on the Northern Rivers with its diverse range of people from various cultural backgrounds. Our team thrives on the joy of meeting new clients each day and helping our community become healthier and more active to be able enjoy the wonderful surrounds of northern NSW.”

SAE Group

Kaitlyn Knight (Young Employee category): "I love working in the Northern Rivers because it is my home. My family has been a part of the Northern Rivers for at least five generations that I am aware of, and probably many more. I love our rainforests and rivers, our inspiring Mount Warning and our crystal blue water and sandy beaches. It is a beautiful area, with a diverse culture that I love. Working for SAE allows me to help educate our community and provides economic and sustainable solutions to our customers. This brings me joy to know that my role means something in the big picture of protecting our environment for future generations.

"Our community is a supportive community, helping one another in times of crisis. This can be seen in times of flood, drought and fire. I am proud that my work role, allows me to assist the Northern Rivers to be an eco-friendly community, while paving the way to a carbon neutral future. I love working in the Northern Rivers and it makes me feel proud of what I do.”

Misfits Training Club

Lauren Budd: "In my role as a personal trainer I am always motivating my clients to get outside and be active with their families, I don't believe that there is a better place to do that then on the Northern Rivers.”

Collins Hume

Wendy Gleeson: "We're privileged to be able to live, work and play in one of the most beautiful and prosperous regions in Australia. Collins Hume are determined to work alongside our clients to help them build strong and profitable businesses, so our next generations can stay and thrive in our region instead of having to leave to progress outside of it.”

Hardings Earthmoving

Karen Myles (née Harding): "We grew up here and love the area and the people. We have made connections and friendships from clients we otherwise wouldn't have met. The Northern Rivers is a picturesque place to be everyday - from the climate, the beaches, countryside and mountains. You can't ask for more than that!”

Fozies Fishing Adventures

Di and Rob Foster: "Both Di and I were born and raised in rural Lismore. We have travelled and worked overseas as well as around Australia and be assured there is no place like the Northern Rivers NSW as a place to live and work”.

"A substantial number of our clients come from interstate, and we have clients in 19 countries around the world who all come to the Northern Rivers for their Australian holiday experience. We are proud to be able to offer to the Tourism Industry a unique Aquatic Adventure for the visitors to our beautiful part of the world.

"Be it catching a feed of local fish or viewing the whale's during their annual migration, all the clients we have remark on the awesome river and coastline views they see whilst on an adventure with us.

"Northern Rivers NSW is simply the best place to live and work from the wonderful beaches and rainforests to the ocean and mountains, why would you want to be anywhere else.”

Enova Energy

Felicity Stenning: "The Northern Rivers region has had a long-standing commitment to protecting this beautiful, local environment and many of the people, community groups and businesses are developing great ideas with sustainability at the core. We are proud to be part of this neighbourhood and are mindful of the local support that has made Enova Community Energy what it is today.”

Healthy Planet Now

Brigid and Jack (Peter) Chapman: "I love the sense of community that you experience on the Northern Rivers and the support as a region that we have received for our business - Healthy Planet Now. The Northern Rivers Community has been extremely supportive. It is simply a matter of getting our products in front of the community and being recognised.”

Skye Park Pet Resort & Day Spa

Helen and Ian MacGregor: "The great joy that both owners and pets exhibit on return visits is so gratifying, smiling faces and wagging tails are our reward”.

"We strive to go above and beyond in our services, we are unique in that we live on site 24/7, seven days a week, and being responsible for the care of people's much loved four legged family members is something we do not take lightly.”

Anytime Fitness Grafton

Kathryn Langford and Jenny Ryder: "What we love most about being in business in the industry that we are in is knowing that we impact people's lives every day. Our business focuses on building a place of BELONGING. This means that as soon as people walk through our door, from the absolute beginner to the elite athlete, they must feel like they belong in the space. We do this by embedding the following acronym in our day to day provision of every service we provide”.

B= Be human to everyone who walks through the door

E= Empathy - show empathy when required, everyone is on their own individual path

L= Listen - listen to everyone's story. Listen more and talk less

O= Opportunity - seize every opportunity to make a difference

N= Now - act now to change someone's life

G=Genuine - be genuine in everything you do