Smart50 Awards 2021


29th September, 2021

Smart50 Awards 2021: Celebrating Australian business growth, innovation

Since 2007, the Smart50 Awards have offered up heroic tales of growth and innovation to the Australian business community. With nominations closing 6 October, now’s the time to get your entry sorted for 2021.

A regular feature of the business events seasons, SmartCompany’s Smart50 Awards is returning in 2021 to shine a light on Australia’s most exceptional small and medium businesses.

Started in 2007, the Smart50 not only provides a 1-50 ranking for businesses based on demonstrable revenue growth, but also awards winners for particular awards categories, culminating in an industry event to celebrate the winners.

“The Smart50 Awards have been around since the very early days of SmartCompany,” said Eloise Keating, editor for SmartCompany.

“The awards were our way of recognising and celebrating the fastest growing SMEs across the country and that tradition continues today.

“While the individual businesses and industries featured in the annual list of 50 businesses have changed over the years, our focus on showcasing the best and brightest of Australian business has continued.”

In light of the disruption caused by the pandemic, which also put paid to any thought of hosting a physical event, 2020’s awards narrowed its focus to examples of business resilience.

“As we saw each day the toll the pandemic was taking on businesses across the country, it no longer felt right to present an awards program that was focused on financial growth.

“We started to see business growth in different, more complex ways, and we understood that for businesses simply trying to survive, growth didn’t have to only mean earning more revenue.”

This year, the Smart50 Awards returns, joined by a number of awards categories, including the resilience award.

“While we know many businesses continue to face enormous challenges as a result of the pandemic and lockdowns, we are also seeing businesses finding exciting new opportunities and unlocking serious growth as a result of shifts in consumer behaviour.

“We want to celebrate and recognise these businesses.

“However, we have designed this year’s awards differently to also include businesses that may not be able to show financial growth over three years.”

Past businesses to be featured in the Smart50 Awards include: Atlassian, Airwallex, Booktopia, Choice Energy, Showpo and Vinomofo, to name a few.

Why you should nominate your business for the Smart50 Awards

Entering awards creates an opportunity to reflect on your challenges and achievements, which in itself can be a gratifying process.

In a recent article for SmartCompany, Renae Kunda, co-owner of Cape York Motorcycle Adventures offered some strategies for prospective award nominees, as well as some insight into the value she sees in entering industry awards.

“Going through this process makes you look at your business differently; just going through the motions of an awards submission is an excellent business practice,” Kunda wrote.

“You will see where you can improve your business, and you will see the things that you can be proud of, which will give you more energy to work on your business.”

Moreover, with the awards now opening up to include a resilience category on top of existing categories such as the community award, nominees are judged on so much more than revenue growth alone.

It’s those less transactional qualities of business success that will also make even the nominations process rewarding for many operators.

“When I made my first submission, we had been in operation for 16 years; I was tired and didn’t have the directions to drive forward. I was getting through each day, doing what I always did,” Kunda wrote.

“Writing the submission gave me a real sense of pride, and it reminded me of all the things that I had achieved in those years.”

Further, the self-awareness and period of reflection required to complete a nomination can deliver real insights into your business strategy and planning.

“You can write a thousand business plans and miss the mark entirely, but you pick up on things that you wouldn’t naturally consider on your own when you write an awards submission,” wrote Kunda.

What winning a Smart50 Award means for businesses

Winners of a recognised industry award such as those presented by the Smart50 Awards has a positive impact on a company’s reputation amongst peers, and can result in a lift in brand awareness and employee retention.

In fact, hiring talent was listed as one of the big wins that Monique Flier, co-founder of for kids recognised off the back of winning Top Exporter in the 2017 Smart50 Awards.

“Winning a Smart50 award gives us business credibility and helps us to recruit better talent,” Filer said in a recent interview with SmartCompany.

“It shows that we’re recognised not just for our product but for the business. It also helps internationally because people want to know who they’re dealing with and that we’re going to be around for a while.”

Award categories and their judges in 2021

The 2021 Smart50 will recognise businesses on a list of the 50 fastest-growing small and medium business, as well as presenting awards in each of the following categories.

Award CategoryDetails2021 Category Judge(s)*
1. Rising Star AwardThis award recognises high-growth startups less than three years old.Lucy Liu
President, Airwallex
2. Resilience AwardChampioning businesses that demonstrate resilience, adaptability and leadership in the past year.Bruce Billson

Emma Fawcett
General manager (SME), MYOB
3. SmartCompany Plus InnovatorShowcasing initiatives that effect progressive change in their field, original ideals and disruptive strategies.Adam Schwab
CEO, Luxury Escapes

Jane Martino
Portfolio advisor, 15xventures
4. Smart50 Communtiy HeroThis award recognises the supreme efforts that many businesses put into supporting local communities, particularly in response to the pandemic.Alexi Boyd
5. Smart50 Retail ChampionAn award for the retail industry, where the winner will have demonstrated innovations in product offering, outstanding customer service, employee care and clever marketing.Sarah Mullen
COO, Adore Beauty
6. Smart50 Eco WarriorAwarded for big wins in conservation and sustainability, including energy conservation, waste reduction and climate action.Julie Mathers
CEO, Flora & Fauna
Further details on the award categories for this years Smart50 is available.
*All awards categories and the Smart50 list will be overseen by SmartCompany‘s editor, Eloise Keating.

Is your business eligible?

If you plan on nominating your business in the Smart50 Awards, there are a few things to know up front.

For a full list of eligibility requirements and the terms and conditions of entry, you’ll want to click through to the Smart50 Awards page, but here’s the rundown:

  • You must be a registered Australian business to enter
  • To be eligible for the Smart50 list, you must demonstrate revenue growth year on year for the past three years
  • Applications are only open to independent companies, not a subsidiary or otherwise part of a larger entity

If you’ve been innovating, pivoting, job-creating, scaling and smashing it in business, now is the time to talk about it. Nominate for the Smart50 Awards today.