By Leon Gettler >>

MANY FACE MASKS are now coming onto the market. But according to Scott Huntsman, founder and CEO of Sydney-based All-Cast PPE Supplies – one of the country’s largest personal protective equipment (PPE) suppliers – 80 percent of the masks available are not registered with the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and therefore are not identified as being able to stop the transmission of COVID-19.

Mr Huntsman said Australia is now seeing “a flurry of cheap products on the market”.

“Just the other day, we were in a service station and it was $12.95 [for a box] and they claimed it would protect you from COVID-19 – and that’s one of the things you are not allowed to do,” Mr Huntsman told Talking Business.

He said about 80 percent of the masks for sale will not give sufficient protection. 

“There’s a lot of brands that popped out of nowhere and you’ve got your cheaper imported products as well that are sold by street vendors,” Mr Huntsman said.

“We’ve even had landscapers contacting us to sell us masks, hoping we could move the product, so there would be thousands.”

Mr Huntsman said people picked up these masks thinking they would protect them from pathogens, but they are left vulnerable to COVID-19.

 

TIPS ABOUT QUALITY MASKS

Mr Huntsman said there are several things consumers should do when picking up face masks.

The first is to look for an Australian-made mask, which is to be registered with the TGA. They need to look at the filtration efficiency and examine the test results if they are available.

Generally, the manufacturer will feature those on their websites. They should examine their registration with the TGA. They should also read the packaging carefully.

“There is a lot of fake stuff on the market,” he said. “We get samples of them every day, and we look at the construction of those masks, we look at how thin the materials are, we water test them.

“With a good mask, you should be able to cup it in your hand and make a cup out of it and pour a glass of water in there without any leaks,” he said.

Part of the problem is that face masks can be sold without going through the TGA.

Vendors can sell them as long as they don’t make therapeutic claims of anti-viral protection and bacterial filtration.

 

THE ORIGINS OF ALL-CAST

Mr Huntsman said All-Cast was created as the brain-child of his brother-in-law and himself, setting it up as a family business. 

Before the pandemic, the brothers saw it developing medical equipment and, subsequently, they saw there was a need for face masks. They did their research, crossed all the hurdles and established a successful business.

At one stage, they were employing 180 people and the company is now moving forward into other products on the market such as sterile wraps, surgical respirators, and industrial respirators.

Mr Huntsman said All-Cast, unlike other companies, never gouged prices. All-Cast pricing has remained the same throughout the entire pandemic.

He said the main market was the general population but the company planned to move into the direct medical space.

With COVID-19 likely to be around for some time, he sees the market moving into a continuous supply.

Mr Huntsman said the company was looking to move its masks into the global market. He has already had discussions with suppliers and is assisting other manufacturers in the US and Europe in terms of efficiency and product make-up.

www.allcastppe.com.au

www.leongettler.com  

 

Hear the complete interview and catch up with other topical business news on Leon Gettler’s Talking Business podcast, released every Friday at www.acast.com/talkingbusiness

ends

By Leon Gettler >>

PRO MEDICUS is a great Australian health-tech business success story.

The medical imaging technology company was once trading at 50 cents a share. Fast forward to today and it’s trading at $41.33 a share.

How did this company succeed in a sector where others have failed? How did it turn itself from a small Melbourne-based company into a global player with a strong market in the US?

The story of Pro Medicus’s success lies in its acquisition of radiology platform, Visage Imaging that allows medical images to be accessed anywhere and with lower data requirements. It is the product the company now sells in the US and the US is more than 60 percent of its revenue.

When Pro Medicus acquired Visage, it was during the heights of the Global Financial Crisis. 

At the time, Visage was the life sciences division of a Nasdaq listed company that specialised in software for the defence industry which had invested heavily in building life sciences as the second string to their bow. But it was a loss-making division and they had to divest it.

There were a number of prospective buyers but Pro Medicus acquired Visage after six weeks of due diligence.

FORTUNATE BUYING DECISION

Pro Medicus CEO Sam Hupert said it was the best business decision he had ever made.

“We’ve been very happy, not just financially. The product itself is on the world stage and it does a lot of good,” Dr Hupert told Talking Business.

“It’s something that really enhances clinicians’ capabilities so it’s exciting not just from the financial point of view but also in terms of what it does from the clinical side.”

“The product which we bought had this great streaming technology but it was only used for the very advanced visualisation of 3D, so it was it was really designed to sit on top of someone’s system that was predominantly 2D and then called in when you needed the more fancy things.”

Dr Hupert realised that even if a radiologist was looking at a CAT scan of chest, they needed to look at the x-ray from one desk top that could do everything.  Pro Medicus was the only company that could do both 2D and 3D

“It took a while for the market to understand what made this mouse trap so different,” Dr Hupert said. “A lot of our competitors thought who are these guys? They are too small, they’ll never be able to put it in – but thankfully we proved them wrong and that reset us in the market and we’ve progressed significantly since then. 

“The product we sell in the US is the clinical product. It’s what the radiologists use on their desktop to call up images, enhance them, make them into 3D as needed. Think of it as an Adobe for radiologists.”

BUSINESS BEST MEDICINE

Extraordinarily, the idea of Pro Medicus came to Dr Hupert when he was working as a general practitioner with a small practice in the Melbourne suburb of Coburg. He put the business together when he met Anthony Hall, a systems analyst, at a wine tasting

“This fell on me as an idea with Anthony Hall,” he said. “At that stage, doctors didn’t have computers. There wasn’t even the IBM PC when we first started talking about it and it just grew from there.

“Eventually it got so busy … I realised I had to choose between being in the IT space or clinical practice and I thought I could always go back to the practice – so I left the practice full time and, as they say, the rest is history,” Dr Hupert said.

“In my medical training, the word computer wasn’t even used. CT scanning, which is computerised stenography, had just come out then, and I just thought it would be the new form of literacy. I was looking for a computer to buy myself to tinker around with and one thing led to another – and here we are.”

www.promed.com.au

www.leongettler.com 

Hear the complete interview and catch up with other topical business news on Leon Gettler’s Talking Business podcast, released every Friday at www.acast.com/talkingbusiness

ends

By Leon Gettler >>

CLOUD-BASED technology is the secret behind Verus Global, the start-up that is disrupting the global freight forwarding industry

Starting up in Australia in 2019, Verus made an impressive $245 million in its first year of operation.

Verus started with three offices and now has 14 offices around the world, including China, Hong Kong, the United Kingdom and Australia.

Company founder Jackson Meyer said freight forwarding was not the world’s most exciting industry, but it did offer a unique niche. 

It is also a saturated market.

In Australia alone, Verus has 700 competitors which meant it had to set up a competitive advantage.

 

FREIGHT IN THE CLOUD

Verus chose to do this through cloud based technology, which was a lot more cost effective than setting up servers, he said.

“We instilled that from day one. We were able to not inherit any legacy ERP (enterprise resource planning) systems and from there we were always looking for ways to leverage our tech and automation so we were pretty lucky to have that driven from the top down,” Mr Meyer told Talking Business.

“All of our customers and clients and internal staff members are able to build a platform and a system that works best for them instead of trying to work around a system that’s been in place for 10 to 16 years.”

Mr Meyer said a lot of trust goes into backing cloud based technology.

“When we are building these systems, we have our IT people speak to their IT people and usually they’re invested in benefiting not only their business but I guess the business moving forward and they know that is the way of the future,” he said. 

“Obviously there are going to be a few hiccups here and there, there are going to be some teething problems, but if everyone is understanding of that situation, there is a massive buy in, ranging from management right through to your warehouse staff who actually use it as well.”

 

USING THE BIG GUNS

The company’s emails, internally and externally, are run by Microsoft 365, a cloud-based tech system. Its ERP platform is also hosted by the cloud so all users, including its 53 staff, across the company’s 14 locations, just log into its ERP.

Verus also has a data integration platform for its clients which is hosted by Microsoft Azure, the tech giant’s cloud computing platform, which allows Verus to run purchase orders through its customer’s platforms and then reiterate the information into the Verus ERP.

Everything is completely transparent. Everything that Verus staff put into the system is correlated back to the customers.

“It’s really important that our customers see that we are adding value to their business, not only by trying to save them money through analysing the supply chain but also stop re-keying stuff that doesn’t have to keyed in again, really trying to enhance the business processes as well as time management,” Mr Meyer said.

Many Verus customers are in stationery, plastics, resin and building and construction.

“Stationery is a very big market for us,” Mr Meyer said. “It’s a good market in terms of a series of different areas we import from, obviously being Asia, also the United States and Europe as well.

“I’m very, very thankful that we’ve been able to sign and partner with a series of blue chip customers that are listed not only on the Australian stock market but also the New York Stock Exchange so there’s a real mix.

“We’ve also got smaller customers as well, which we don’t take for granted, and they range from mum and dad companies with maybe one or two containers per annum right through to big players.”

www.verus-global.com 

www.leongettler.com

Hear the complete interview and catch up with other topical business news on Leon Gettler’s Talking Business podcast, released every Friday at www.acast.com/talkingbusiness

 

ends

By Leon Gettler >>

BOOKTOPIA’s listing on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) in December is just the beginning of a long process, according to the company’s founder and CEO Tony Nash.

It is all part of the further development of a company he set up 17 years ago with a $10 budget

“Imagine being in the Tour De France and you’re on the 10th stage and you go through the 40km-to-go banner and, once you get through that, you’ve got another 40 km to get to the finish line which is at the top of the mountain; and after you’ve done that, there’s another 11 stages to go before you get to the Champs-Elysees where you travel at 20km an hour hugging your friends, drinking champagne,” Mr Nash told Talking Business.

“The IPO (ASX initial public offering) is just a quick milestone and it’s in the rear vision mirror very quickly as you’re moving to what’s next.”

He said while the pandemic has been good for Booktopia, with so many more people reading, it had to be seen in the context of other businesses struggling and letting people go. 

“It’s difficult for us to say yeah it was great. Yes, we were up by a significant amount but it was a bitter-sweet period,” he said.

READING THE TEA LEAVES

Mr Nash said Booktopia was actually planning to do its IPO a year later, but the pandemic saw an acceleration for online businesses.

“Once it was clear that the pandemic had pushed e-commerce, and not just the pure plays like us, but e-commerce from all the traditional retailers … hence we were able to bring the IPO forward because the whole landscape had changed,” he said.

“People were asking us is it like a tsunami where you get inundated and the water recedes back to the old water line? Not at all. It’s more like a railway track where you have been shot down the track a few years.

“Because the pandemic has gone on for so long, people have actually changed their buying habits. It was going to take a lot longer, we’ve just got there faster.”

Booktopia has a 14,000 square metre facility near the Sydney Olympic Stadium, holding around 800,000 books. The company has invested a lot of money in automation and a pick-and-pack system to get the product out the door either the same day or the next day.

PUBLISHERS CHOOSE BOOKTOPIA

Publishers around the world have also appointed Booktopia as their Australian and New Zealand distributor, which sees the company sell to Amazon and the book shops. Booktopia has also now moved into publishing.

He shrugs off suggestions that Booktopia is competing with Amazon.

“Maybe they’re competing with us,” he said.

“Books was part of their DNA. They started on books. It’s less than 3 percent of their revenue today. It’s not a priority.

“They are actually more of a tech company. They actually prefer somebody else to sell the books – and they’ll take their clip of the ticket – rather than actually fulfilling the order themselves.”

Mr Nash said Booktopia’s credentials as an Australian company in this space has won over many customers. It is also unique because there are few alternatives in English speaking countries.

Booktopia has also moved into audio books. He said the business is small but it is growing – as opposed to e-books, which are losing popularity. 

Mr Nash said, “I think a lot of people have realised they spend so much time on screens, on their phone, on their computer. A book has a special place.

“It’s a 570-year-old industry that has been successful because of the way the author can connect with the reader. In 100 years, when they look at that, they’ll ask why did books survive? What is about a book that didn’t crack when technology came thundering down?”

www.booktopia.com.au

www.leongettler.com

 

Hear the complete interview and catch up with other topical business news on Leon Gettler’s Talking Business podcast, released every Friday at www.acast.com/talkingbusiness

SEIPEL GROUP, a relatively small Brisbane company that has made enormous progress in helping to solve a common global medical problem, highlighted the extraordinary drive, innovation and resilience of Brisbane-based business leaders, companies and start-ups as it took out the peak award last night among a list of high achievers.

The fact that the event, which filled Brisbane City Hall, took place at all was a testament to the way Brisbane people and businesses have rallied to persevere through and recover from the 2020 pandemic. 

Seipel Group was awarded the Optus business Platinum Award as one of the many insipirational companies that illustrated the resilience of the Brisbane business environment. Seipel Group is the only Australian company to have cracked the highly-competitive US nutraceutical market after developing the first scientifically proven herbal formula to help improve bladder control.

Acting Mayor Krista Adams, who stood in for Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner who was self-isolating as a result of a recent visit to South Australia, said the Optus Business Platinum Award recognised an overall winner from all categories, and winner Seipel Group also won the Australia Pacific LNG Award for Business Innovation.

“Brisbane businesses have a diverse range of endeavours and Seipel Group is the only Australian company to have cracked the highly-competitive US nutraceutical market after developing the first scientifically proven herbal formula to help improve bladder control,” Cr Adams said.

Following a harrowing year for Brisbane business, stories of adaption and success in the face of adversity were the highlights of the 15th annual Lord Mayor’s Business Awards. 

Acting Mayor  Adams said among 10 awards, science-based education company, Street Science was awarded the inaugural HSBC Award for Excellence in Business Adaptation.

“Pivot was the buzz word among Brisbane businesses which changed their offerings to survive this pandemic and Street Science have been a stellar example how innovation helped them, not only survive, but thrive,” Cr Adams said. 

“Street Science quickly adapted their business to become the first in Australia to launch a free home-schooling program as well as digital classroom kits and virtual excursions for schools around the world.

“This pivot saw them lead the way in how to educate from home and the company now reaches up to 20,000 people per week across six different countries.”

The Courier-Mail Business Person of the Year Award was awarded to iconic restaurateur Tyron Simon, director of well-known restaurants Agnes, sAme sAme and Honto, and Founder of LONgTIME and Rick Shores.

Cr Adams said the hospitality sector endured some incredibly harsh conditions when doors had to shut and patronage was limited but Mr Simon's perseverance and determination made him a role model for the business community.

“Growing up, Tyron had dreams of playing cricket for Australia, but these were crushed when he injured his knee. With a need to secure employment, Tyron discovered his love for hospitality and from there, one of our most celebrated restaurateurs was born,” she said.

“He has shown adaptation and perseverance through tough times, the courage to take risks and make difficult decisions, and he is proof that you can achieve whatever you set out to do.”

The Port of Brisbane Pty Ltd Award for Young Business Person of the Year was awarded to Ashleigh Morris, founder and CEO of Coreo.

“In just three years Ashleigh has grown Coreo from small beginnings into a globally-recognised and award-winning company that advises industry and government on creating a circular economy,” Cr Adams said.

“As someone who is clearly destined for great success, Ashleigh is globally recognised for her strategic foresight and experience and was recently named as a global Top 100 Corporate Social Responsibility Influential Leader. 

“A Prime Minister’s Scholar, Ashleigh is an Australian ASEAN Emerging Leader who has been invited to attend the 73rd United National General Assembly in New York. She is also one of only a handful of people worldwide to be recognised as an Ellen MacArthur Foundation Circular Economy Champion," Cr Adams said.

“I want to a thank the winners of the 2020 Lord Mayor’s Business Awards, and all Brisbane businesses for their ongoing contribution to our economy.

“The strength and resilience these businesses have shown throughout the pandemic, gives Brisbane high hopes for the future.”

The winners of the 2020 Lord Mayor’s Business Awards are:

Category

Winner

Special Mention

ISPT Award for Outstanding Social Enterprise

The Common Good – an initiative of The Prince Charles Hospital Foundation

eWaste Connection Ltd

Urban Utilities Award for Product Innovation

Enviro Sand Pty Ltd

Seipel Group Pty Ltd

Xero Award for Outstanding Micro Business

World of Drones & Robotics Congress

Charlton Innovation

CCIQ Award for Outstanding Small Business

UNE PIECE Pty Ltd

 

Port of Brisbane Pty Ltd Award for Young Business Person of the Year

Ashleigh Morris – Coreo

 

HSBC Award for Excellence in Business Adaptation

Street Science

The Little Red Company

Yurika Award for Environmental Sustainability in Business

Enviro Sand Pty Ltd

Howard Smith Wharves

ANZ Award for High-Growth Business Start Up

CitrusAd

UNE PIECE Pty Ltd

Australia Pacific LNG Award for Business Innovation

Seipel Group Pty Ltd

Aria Property Group

The Courier-Mail Award for Business Person of the Year

Tyron Simon – Agnes and sAme sAme

 

Optus Business Platinum Award

Seipel Group Pty Ltd

 

ends

By Leon Gettler >>

CANNATREK, Australia’s medicinal cannabis company, is now building a production plant in Shepparton Victoria and is in the process of developing export markets for the Australian product.

Much of the team’s focus is on R&D. Tommy Huppert, the founder and CEO of Cannatrek, said medicinal cannabis can be used to treat all sorts of illnesses and conditions.

These range from sleep assistance, movement, mental health, palliative care, cancer treatment, autism, women’s health and men’s health.

“The best way to describe it is that over 100 years ago, the cannabis plant was one of the main ingredients in pharmacopia,” Mr Huppert told Talking Business

He said cannabis can now be prescribed by doctors using telehealth and that last nine months in Australia has triggered a lot of innovation.

R&D DRIVES THE INDUSTRY

Mr Huppert said R&D was critical for Cannatrek.

“The most aspect of a successful operation is the quality of your genetics. There’s hundreds and thousands of different types of plant, just like you have different types of tomatoes and apples,” he said.

“We’re trying to find the plant that is sturdy and can survive through extreme weather events which happen every few days in Australia. We’re creating this stable environment in the greenhouse.

“The key is to have those stable genetic lines tat we can predict and always produce a sturdy plant,” Mr Huppert said.

“Traditionally we grow from seed and pick out the most robust plant and then we clone those plants. We are trying to create identical plants because then they flower at the same time. We are trying to choose the plant that is more pest resistant.”

He said the company had 20 people working at its site in Queensland which, he said, was “a good size”.

“It enables us to test a lot of our systems, we’re looking at different type of lighting, of LED, irrigation, we’re grabbing mass data so we can scale up in our Shepparton facility which is very exciting as the industry is really getting up on its feet,” Mr Huppert said.

SHEPPARTON FULL STEAM AHEAD

Mr Huppert said the construction plans for the Shepparton plant were now underway and the company was forecasting the site works to begin early next year. Construction would take 12 months.

In the meantime, the company was in full on production, with record sales. It had more than 3000 patients and it had a referral service, Cannatrek Access, which took inbound inquiries from patients looking for the appropriate cannabis prescriber. The company was connecting them with appropriate doctors.

“People are making an informed decision,” Mr Huppert said. 

“Patients are doing their research and going to their doctor and saying ‘What about medicinal cannabis?” and the doctors are now becoming more au fait and more comfortable prescribing a non-registered medicine and the results have been quite extraordinary from patients,” he said.

At the same time, Cannatrek has secured an export licence with Austral Health in the UK which will see the cannabis being used initially in an observational trial.

Mr Huppert said the UK was a good potential export market as they weren’t producing medicinal cannabis.

“We are also in dialogue with a number of other European countries, Germany, Poland, Czech Republic, Italy,” he said.

“We are seeing, literally, a nation-by-nation look at medicinal cannabis as part of their medical array of options for patients.”

www.cannatrek.com

www.leongettler.com

Hear the complete interview and catch up with other topical business news on Leon Gettler’s Talking Business podcast, released every Friday at www.acast.com/talkingbusiness.  

ends

By Leon Gettler >>

RINGO CHAN’s disruptive bedding business Ecosa has created ‘the perfect mattress’ – and is selling it way cheaper than the big players.

Ecosa is also good for the environment, as well as a good night’s sleep, according to Mr Chan.

Mr Chan said many people go into the big stores to buy a high quality mattress and they are automatically presented with a price of $5000.

“They don’t necessarily give you the best that they have, but they just want to manage you for the most commission they can get,” Mr Chan told Talking Business.

After the customer shows some uncertainty, they’ll usually drop the price more than 50 percent to about $2000, he said.

But that is still expensive. Ecosa sells quality mattresses for around $900. 

THE ECOSA SYSTEM

How does he do it?

For a start, the business is totally online. Which means customers can check the mattress out in their own time, and take as long as they want to make sure it suits them and they are getting a good deal.

“We cut down the price and make the best out of a best mattress,” Mr Chan said.

“We only have one type of mattress. You buy it and it’s shipped to your house, and if you don’t like it, you can return it.”

He believes this offers the customer more value than buying a mattress from a store.

“You think you are testing the mattress (at a store) but you can only lay down at the most for 10 minutes,” he said. “You’re not going to lay down on each mattress for 30 minutes, or sleep on it.

“Most likely you’ll be buying the softest mattress. The first time experience, the soft mattress feels good but when you are sleeping on a mattress more than that, there’s back support and spine alignment and all these other things.”

SLEEPING WITH ECO TECHNOLOGY

Ecosa mattresses are both eco-friendly and ergonomic. The mattresses have water-proof inner covers, G7 gel memory foam, Eco-tex memory foam, ergonomic support foam, and a removable Tencel cover. Each mattress also has an ergonomic cut where it is shaped into the customer’s hips and shoulders.

Somehow, the Ecosa sells at half the price of any mattress with memory foam, and that includes delivery and free trial.

They also use the most eco-friendly material, which is why the company is called Ecosa.

The materials for the mattresses are made in Germany, Japan and Korea and the product is assembled in China. 

GIVING BACK

Mr Chan has also integrated philanthropy into his business model. 

If a customer returns a mattress, Ecosa will donate it to charities like the Salvation Army. In this way, Ecosa’s return products go to help the community and do not end up in landfill.

“In Australia, it’s not very good to sell a second hand mattress, so if we let people donate the mattress, we are not selling it, so why don’t we donate it to charity?” Mr Chan said.

The result: Ecosa has donated thousands of mattresses and pillows to charities – and not only in Australia.  Ecosa launched in Australia in 2015, followed by Hong Kong and New Zealand in 2016, the USA in December 2017 and Canada in 2019.

Mr Chan said Ecosa also donates free bamboo pillow cases to cancer support groups and sheets to health care groups.

“We help out where we can,” he said.

Mr Chan said the company is now expanding into other areas such as bamboo-based sheets and a bedside table with technology incorporated to help people sleep better.

www.ecosa.com.au

www.leongettler.com

Hear the complete interview and catch up with other topical business news on Leon Gettler’s Talking Business podcast, released every Friday at www.acast.com/talkingbusiness.  

 

ends

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