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10 trends from the 2012 StartupSmart Top 50

Wednesday, 28 March 2012 | By Michelle Hammond

feature-ideas-top-50-thumbWith this year’s StartupSmart Awards done and dusted, we thought we’d take a look at some of the major trends to emerge from the Top 50. Encouragingly, the list offers up a diverse range.


From social enterprise and start-up services to eco-friendly nappies, the businesses on this year’s list are either tapping into new markets or discovering newfound niches in existing markets.


StartupSmart identifies the top 10 trends to emerge out of the 2012 StartupSmart Top 50.


1. Niche recruitment


In second spot on this year’s list is SCO Recruitment, a temporary and permanent service provider specialising in industrial, commercial and local government recruitment.


“We supply to the majority of local councils in NSW,” SCO recruitment founder Larissa Robertson says.


“This has provided us with a strong and stable customer base that has helped us grow even during the most difficult financial circumstances.”


Other niche recruitment companies include Mars Partnership, Aspect Personnel, Pearl Recruitment Group and hranywhere, which prides itself on its “uncomplicated” approach.


“The niche was a one-stop-shop where all HR people management matters could be handled in one place,” hranywhere founder Martin Nally says.


2. Social enterprise


Coming in at number 17 is Spectrum Community Focus, a not-for-profit that aims to alleviate poverty by providing employment and training opportunities for socially disadvantaged, long-term unemployed and indigenous Australians.


SCF operates property services business Trim and Proper Property Services, which currently provides more than 400 Housing NSW residences with a range of property maintenance services.


Spectrum Community Focus isn’t the only business on the list with a social conscience. Living Fundraisers, which makes the list at number 44, aims to combat childhood obesity.


Keen to come up with an alternative to the unhealthy foods featured in school fundraisers, founders Rachel Taylor and Rebeka Jageurs introduced kits for growing herbs and vegetables.


They launched the business in 2009 and have grown to six product lines, helping more than 700 schools and groups across Australia raise almost $1 million to support their communities.


3. Homeward bound


As interest rates take their toll on homeowners, more and more people are choosing to stay put, investing in their current property rather than moving house.


For this reason, home-related businesses are booming, including CJTL Investments, founded by Chris and Joscelyn Edmonds, who own Ezy Online Bathrooms and Kitchens.


“There was a definite gap in the market for a retailer that was able to supply competitively priced, designer bath and kitchen products to regional and remote areas,” Joscelyn says.


Another home-related business worth noting is Sexyfloors Australia, which provides a unique product that is environmentally-friendly, non-toxic and meets all Australian standards.


“We developed a unique formula of epoxy resin… With so much work on, we have to franchise around Australia to keep up with the demand,” co-founder Robyn Cooper says.


4. Do-it-yourself


There are several businesses on the list with a DIY component, including You Pack Removals, a self-pack interstate container removals and transport company.


“There was a need for a non-conventional removalist… The self-pack option allows the customer to be in control of their goods and the moving process,” co-founder Stuart Berens says.


Joining You Pack Removals in the DIY section is My Cube, which is designed to empower first-time retailers by offering them a retail “cube” inside a shopping centre.


“All these cubes are mini shop fronts for entrepreneurs who rent cube space under contract as a platform to start their first retail business,” founder Stanley Hsu says.


“My Cube has the makings of a low-cost setup, very simple retail operation, ideal for the owner-operator.”


5. Green gauges


Responding to the trend of going green – evident among companies as well as consumers – there are services that make their money by helping businesses test and ascertain their greenness.


GreenBizCheck is one such example, making the list at number 31. GreenBizCheck is a technology-based environmental certification program for business.


“GreenBizCheck is all about helping businesses become more sustainable while also creating significant cost-saving opportunities,” co-founder Hall says.


Pangolin Associates is another example of the green business movement, and takes the phrase ‘practice what you preach’ very seriously.


“As we advise clients to reduce their carbon footprint in a three-step process, we apply the same steps to Pangolin Associates,” says co-founder Matthew Curnow.


6. Show me the money


As the banks toughen their lending criteria, the finance industry is witnessing the emergence of a new type of business – one that aims to make it easier for consumers to obtain credit and finance.


My CRA, which appears at number 24, was developed for the sole purpose of giving customers the cleanest credit file possible.


The idea behind the service is to give customers the best chance of getting approval, secure a lower interest rate or reduce the upfront fees that can be associated with obtaining credit.


Similarly, 360 Financial Services is an online asset finance brokerage business, offering finance for a range of assets, including vehicles, trucks, heavy equipment, caravans and marine.


“We identified that consumers were not necessarily getting the best rate or solution when sourcing asset finance through the traditional channels,” co-founder Matt Burgess says.


7. Compare and contrast


Given consumers’ increasing determination to get the very best price possible, it’s no surprise comparison services are growing in popularity.


Mozo, which makes the list at number 13, describes itself as Australia’s leading financial services online marketplace, helping consumers find the best banking or insurance deals.


“It is no secret that for most Australians, financial decision-making is a chore,” founder Rohan Gamble says.


“Mozo was the first online comparison site to offer users a fresh perspective to the dull and jargon-filled world of financial services.”


Also tapping into the trend is ServiceSeeking.com.au, which allows users to compare quotes and prices for any type of service. The website receives about 200,000 unique visitors a month.


8. Kids come first


It’s no longer considered child’s play to centre your business on kids. In fact, these sorts of businesses are becoming more successful by the day, particularly among time-poor parents.


One example is Cushie Tushies, which designs, manufactures and sells eco-friendly baby nappies and accessories. According to co-founder Michelle Taylor, the products are big business.


“Our aim was not to be another handmade work-at-home-mum operation, but to be very professional about our product manufacturing, our branding, our customer service, etc.” she says.


Another successful child-centric business is Kidz Lidz Salons, founded by Phil and Shannon Adair, who wanted to make children excited about getting their haircut.


In addition to creating a kid-friendly environment, Kidz Lidz is committed to helping parents tackle their children’s head lice, and also offers hairdressing services for busy mums and dads.


9. Start-up services


As start-up numbers continue to soar, it should come as no surprise that a certain breed of entrepreneurs are launching businesses that service start-ups, including The New Agency.


The New Agency is the brainchild of Alan Jones, who is also a co-founder of Yahoo! Australia and New Zealand, HomeScreen Entertainment, Trippything and Trainerplatform.


“Start-up founders who don’t have geeky friends to code for them still have great ideas,” Jones says.


“We help enable those ideas by supplying great development, design, marketing and strategy at startup-friendly pricing.”


There’s also crowdfunding site iPledg, offering those with creative, commercial, charitable and community endeavours a low-risk way to raise funding from their networks.


10. Event styling


Event styling goes that little bit further than event management, with a personal touch that’s hard to match. This can be seen in tech-focused event management company Solution Entertainment.


“We design the whole event – from styling, audio visual and entertainment – and focus on the smallest detail to provide the perfect event,” founder Brad Hampel says.