Byron Bay Cookie Company. Photo Cathy Adams / The Northern Star
Byron Bay Cookie Company. Photo Cathy Adams / The Northern Star Cathy Adams

Seven Byron businesses eyeing off global domination

BYRON is not just a surfing nirvana and place to bliss out, but a thriving hub of entrepreneurs, all striving for the ideal vision of building a global, sustainable, ethical business which harnesses everything great about the Byron region and bottles it.

Well that’s one take on it.

The other could be this: there are a whole lot of people who want to live in paradise, and to do so you’ve often got to be self-employed.

And who wouldn’t want to live in Byron Bay and run a successful business at the same time?

Either way, Byron attracts plenty of entrepreneurs with creative business minds and a vision.

And some of those Byron-born businesses have since gone on to achieve huge success beyond the bubble of the Shire, sometimes even global domination (a very un-Byron aspiration).

Here’s a handful:

1. TripADeal

TripADeal co-founders Norm Black and Richard Johnston outside the company’s Byron Bay industrial estate headquarters.
TripADeal co-founders Norm Black and Richard Johnston outside the company’s Byron Bay industrial estate headquarters. Marc Stapelberg

A young entry to the Byron pantheon of success, but a very worthy first entrant on this list.

The travel package business, which takes online travel beyond flights and accommodation and into the realm of end-to-end experiences, was the second fastest growing company in Australia in 2015 - growing by 1100% and turning over $50 million in revenue.

Co-founder of the business, Richard Johnston described last year as TripADeal’s “coming of age”, and since it only launched in 2011, it’s certainly matured fast.

Based in the Arts and Industrial Estate, the company already employs 50 people, and this year became the major sponsor of the Gold Coast Titans NRL club.

2. Brookfarm

Business person, foodie,  heli-skier and co-owner of Brookfarm, Pam Brook pictured in her Byron Bay premises.
Business person, foodie, heli-skier and co-owner of Brookfarm, Pam Brook pictured in her Byron Bay premises. Patrick Gorbunovs

It’s one thing to run a successful macadamia farm.

It’s another to turn that harvest into a value-added product which every health nut and their foodie friend wants to see waiting on their breakfast table every morning.

That’s what seasoned business couple Pam and Martin Brook managed to do with Brookfarm, their macadamia health foods business which now supplies to Qantas and luxury hotels.

Spotting the region’s potential early on, they bought their McLeods Shoot property in 1988, but it wasn’t until 2000 that they started selling the first batches of what would become their core product, Brookfarm macadamia muesli.

Now 15% of their sales are overseas, and they are ready to capitalise when Asia’s massive middle class increasingly starts to wake up to Australia’s smorgasbord of high-end food products.

3. Afends

Afends team rider Luke Stickley features in the Afends surf film ‘Vortex Bandits’.
Afends team rider Luke Stickley features in the Afends surf film ‘Vortex Bandits’. Patrick Gorbunovs

A tiny business screen printing merchandise for local punk and hardcore bands led Afends founders Declan Wise and Jono Salfielin 2006 to found a booming brand which prides itself on its DIY attitude.

Now the street wear label with multiple stylistic influences -punk, art, music, and boardriding - exports around Australia and overseas.

What this brand seems to have done so well is produce clothes which look and feel edgy - and aren’t coming out of the factory of a corporate behemoth trying to be something it is no longer.

As the brand website proclaims, “our philosophy ‘Question Everything’ isn’t about us educating the people it’s about us inspiring the people... don’t believe everything they hear or see... research and find the answers themselves.”

They’ve also proved handy at PR stunts - including building a skate ramp in the middle of a hemp field last year, much to the media’s amusement.

4. Byron Bay Cookie Company

Byron Bay Cookie Company.
Byron Bay Cookie Company. Cathy Adams

It’s arguable whether this business should really be on the list, and perhaps it’s inclusion is more of a cautionary tale.

One of the first big companies to capitalise on the Byron Bay brand and go global, this cookie company is no kid any more. But it had a traumatic adolescence.

It was born in a Byron farmhouse in 1990 by a couple who pioneered two indulgent cookie varieties, White Choc Chunk and Macadamia Nut, and Triple Choc Fudge, to sell at the local markets.

Timed perfectly to capture the exploding cafe scene, it soon became the staple product at cafes across the country.

But the company went into administration in the early 2010s while helmed by Sydney orthopaedic surgeon Gordon Slater, who had gone on an ambitious program of acquisitions which culminated in debt problems, including outstanding ATO bills and unpaid employee superannuation.

Thankfully, the brand was snapped up by the Rinoldi Group, one of Australia’s oldest pasta brands, and continues to this day.

5. Global Therapeutics

Byron-born Chinese herbal medicine specialist Global Therapeutics, whose leading brand is Fusion, sold to Blackmores last week for $23 million.
Byron-born Chinese herbal medicine specialist Global Therapeutics, whose leading brand is Fusion, sold to Blackmores last week for $23 million. Fusion

From sugary cookies, to Chinese herbal remedies, Byron caters for everyone’s version of nirvana.

And if you want an example of a Byron business which has already cashed in on its own success, just ask Global Therapeutics, which sold to Australian naturopathic giant Blackmores last week for a cool $23 million.

Global Therapeutics was established in Byron Bay in 1999 by naturopath and herbalist Paul Keogh and natural health industry veteran Geoff Teasel, and runs two main brands, Fusion and Oriental Botanicals.

After the sale last week Blackmores’ chief executive Christine Holgate told the Sydney Morning Herald the business had increased its sales by 24 per cent in the past 12 months.

And amazingly, all of that growth was domestic, with the Chinese market still untapped.

Not bad for 17 years of work.

6. Parkway Drive

Byron Bay metalcore band Parkway Drive.
Byron Bay metalcore band Parkway Drive. @thirdeyevisualsau

Okay, so why include a band on the list?

Well, if they’re not a company, Parkway Drive are certainly a brand, like any great band.

And this band is most certainly a product of Byron Bay - in fact they are named after a street in Ewingsdale.

Since playing their first concert at the Byron Youth Centre in 2003, their melodic metalcore sound has captivated metal fans around the world.

And with five albums under their belt - each of which has done better than the other (the latest album Ire topping the ARIA charts in October last year) - they are still on their way up.

7. Unique Estates

Unique Estates company director Nicolette van Wijngaarden received awards for best real estate agency marketing in Australia and best real estate agency website in Australia at the prestigious Asia Pacific Property Awards in Kuala Lumpur.
Unique Estates company director Nicolette van Wijngaarden received awards for best real estate agency marketing in Australia and best real estate agency website in Australia at the prestigious Asia Pacific Property Awards in Kuala Lumpur. Contributed

With such a goldmine of beautiful, one-of-a-kind properties, the Byron Shire region is a real estate agent’s dream.

But sometimes, being able to market such properties in a way to attract the best price (and pique the interest of those who can afford to cough up what they are truly worth) is a serious challenge.

Being able to do that time and time again is what made Unique Estates so successful. It has a special skill at marketing properties to high net worth individuals.

According to its website, founder Nicolette van Wijngaarden only entered the real estate game to help her partner, who had spent seven years building his home and had no luck selling it.

Director of Unique Estates Nicolette van Wijngaarden is pictured at Cedar Springs at Possum Creek, one of the many luxury properties she has sold.
Director of Unique Estates Nicolette van Wijngaarden is pictured at Cedar Springs at Possum Creek, one of the many luxury properties she has sold. Cathy Adams

Ms van Wijngaarden took the job on, and entered the home in the International Property Awards, and when it won Best Property – Australia 2008, the resulting marketing and PR campaign had some serious ammunition to launch with.

The property ended up selling for a record price in its area of $7.7 million, and the rest is history.

Unique now has offices in locations in Melbourne, Perth and Sydney (as well as Byron Bay) and markets luxury properties across the world. It’s website gets 2.3 million hits a month, and 50% are repeat visitors.



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