19 December 2023

2023 Year in Review: Canberra means business

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From start-up success stories to long-standing businesses that have stood the test of time, the ACT has a strong and vibrant business community headed by talented business people.

Take a look back at the local leaders who clearly showed Canberra meant business in 2023.

14. This former brickie’s labourer founded a rising star in the local construction industry
by Dione David

Mayukah Senanayake

In 2020, at the height of the pandemic, the building industry was booming and it was time for Mayukah Senanayake to strike out on his own. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

Moltus Construction Pty Ltd might seem like a newcomer, but its Canberra roots run deep.

Founder and former brickie’s labourer Mayukah Senanayake shares how this company became a homegrown success story.

13. Civium ‘family’ celebrates 20-year journey led by proud founder Doug O’Mara
by Katrina Condie

Doug O'Mara

Doug O’Mara started Civium in a tiny office 20 years ago. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

Doug O’Mara started his business in a small windowless office in Tench Street, Kingston, where he shared a desk with his brother Brad and founding partner John Price. He couldn’t have imagined that, two decades later, he would be the CEO of one of Canberra’s leading real estate companies.

Civium Property Group’s 20-year celebration this year coincided with its move into a new city office in Lonsdale Street, Braddon, and Doug could not be more proud.

12. Urban fringe to village centre: the Grays reflect on almost three decades in Manuka
by Travis Radford

Arthur and Marilyn Gray have owned and managed MBE Manuka for the last 28 years. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

A lot has changed in Manuka over the last 28 years. But husband-wife duo and small business tour de force, Arthur and Marilyn Gray, have remained a fixture in the inner-south dining and shopping precinct.

11. Three ambitious mums begin partnership journey at family-friendly DDCS Lawyers
by Katrina Condie

Emily Tighe, Theresa Dowling and Tina Lee

New DDCS Lawyers partners Emily Tighe, Theresa Dowling and Tina Lee. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

When family lawyer Emily Tighe returned to work in September following maternity leave, she stepped into a new role as a partner at DDCS Lawyers, Canberra.

Emily is one of three ambitious women who have recently been made partners at the firm. They will take on additional leadership and mentoring roles while continuing to service clients and raise their young families.

Estate lawyer Theresa Dowling and family lawyer Tina Lee have also started their journeys to partnership, providing an opportunity for the trio to support and encourage each other along the way.

10. Life-threatening illness, burnout leads to creation of Canberra consulting firm with heart
by Dione David

Nick Chapman

Nick Chapman had difficulty finding a consultancy firm to work for with values that aligned with his own – so he created one. Photo: Brooke Zotti.

When Nick Chapman realised something was missing in the places he had worked, he set out to create a firm that aligned with his own values – and Parbery Consulting was born.

9. Julie Nichols reflects on the Handmade market she launched from her spare bedroom 15 years ago
by Travis Radford

Julie Nichols.

Julie Nichols singlehandedly designed and launched Handmade Canberra from her spare bedroom in 2008. Photo: Handmade Canberra.

Handmade Canberra is a staple of the local market scene, but it wasn’t always so. Founder Julie Nichols remembers a very different market 15 years ago (which fit neatly inside Yarralumla’s Albert Hall).

8. From busboy to CEO: Matt Walshe’s rise through the ranks at Canberra Southern Cross Club
by Dione David

Ian Mackay, Matt Walshe

Ian Mackay handed over the Canberra Southern Cross Club CEO role to Matt Walshe in November. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

Matt Walshe, the man who started working for the Canberra Southern Cross Club as a busboy at 18, has been named the club’s next CEO. Here’s how he did it.

7. Rydges Canberra turns heads with $8m makeover showing off new face that is beautifully, refreshingly local
by Morgan Kenyon

intimate cocktail setting

Following its reopening in 2020, this Canberra favourite has dedicated millions to renovations in accommodation, venue and amenity spaces. Photo: Rydges Canberra.

Rydges Canberra is somewhat of a household name in the nation’s capital, but after spending most of 2020 closed following damage from extreme weather, this local favourite felt the need to refresh.

And, thanks to countless demanding hours and an investment of more than $8 million, the reactivation of Rydges has produced one of the region’s most elegant accommodation destinations.

6. Pop Canberra bounces back from brink of insolvency bigger (and brighter) than ever
by James Coleman

POP Canberra

Pop Canberra operations manager Christa White and founder Gabe Trew. Photo: Pop Canberra.

There’s fresh paint on the walls, new decals on the windows, 50 extra products inside, and even a new-from-the-ground-up smartphone shopping app.

All point to a remarkable turnaround for a store staring down insolvency only a few months ago.

Pop Canberra has become a Lonsdale Street institution ever since it opened during the COVID lockdown in 2020, stocking wares from small local producers within a 150 km radius of the ACT.

5. New owners to retain the friendly country vibe at Nelligen’s Steampacket Hotel
by Katrina Condie

hotel beer garden

The Steampacket Hotel at Nelligen sold for $3.3 million in January. Photo: Sadil Quinlan Properties.

The Steampacket Hotel at Nelligen has been purchased by a Canberra couple and will be run by The Meem Collective, operators of the Old Canberra Inn, Queenies and Dickson Taphouse.

After driving past the Steampacket Hotel “thousands of times” on their way to the coast, the new owners jumped at the chance to purchase the iconic country pub overlooking the Clyde River at Nelligen.

4. The ‘father of Australian video games’ is now building a Hollywood-style film studio in Canberra
by James Coleman

film set

Academy of Interactive Entertainment (AIE) film set at their Watson campus. Photo: AIE.

The expanded Academy of Interactive Entertainment (AIE) is on track to start shooting feature films from 2025. Meet the business legend who’s behind it all.

3. ACT scoops the pool at national Telstra Best of Business awards
by Genevieve Jacobs

group of people

Region co-CEOs Tim White and Michael McGoogan, Genevieve Jacobs, Kim Treasure, Adam Gill and Mona Hemati. Photo: Telstra.

In a big year for the ACT, Region and the Mullion Group collected gongs at the national Telstra Best of Business Awards.

Region, publisher of Riotact, About Regional, Region Riverina, Region Illawarra, Cape York Weekly, Riotact China and the Property Guide, won the national award for building community.

The category recognises companies “working to make a positive impact on culture and society so people from all walks of life can thrive as part of a supportive community”.

2. Pialligo Estate crisis talks come to nought, financiers move in
by Ian Bushnell

Pialligo Estate entrance

Pialligo Estate became a destination venue for Canberrans over the past decade. Photo: Stephen Ning.

Talks to save the Pialligo Estate restaurant and function venue fell through. The owner said bushfires, COVID, lost vintages and interest rates all played a part.

1. Homing in on our oldest family business: Cusack’s is a Canberra region success story
by Sally Hopman

Three men

Leo, left, with his father David and brother Peter in 2013 – the name Cusack has been synonymous with Canberra for more than 100 years. Photo: Cusack family.

Like most young men, Leo Cusack was in a hurry to get his driver’s licence when he was 17. But unlike most men who are keen to make their mark on the road, it was so he could help his family shift furniture around.

That’s how it was when your family ran the furniture store in Canberra, Cusack’s. Everyone helped. Be it working Friday nights and Saturday mornings when you were a youngster, it was just what you did.

For Leo, who helps co-run the store with his brother managing director Peter Cusack, it has, and always will be, a family concern. It is also the Canberra region’s oldest family-run store, with Stan Cusack, their grandfather, opening its first doors back in 1918 in Yass.

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Malcolm Roxburgh6:57 pm 29 Dec 23

Have you had a look at what Summit Health Services ACT has done for the in home aged care in Canberra in the past 5 years?

davidmaywald8:04 am 28 Dec 23

Lots of inspiring stories here, showcasing the innovation and diversity of business. It’s great to see Region Media champion the private sector. Well done guys, it’s been a good year.

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