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Categories and criteria

Everything you need to know

Before you nominate your business, or someone else’s, for the Telstra Business Awards, here’s everything you need to know. Explore our Award categories — designed to recognise and celebrate Australia’s best businesses — then check your eligibility and find out what our Judges are looking for.

The categories


Knowing Australia has such a brilliantly diverse business culture, the 2021 Telstra Business Awards are recognising Australia’s most innovative and entrepreneurial businesses across four categories. All aimed to award small to medium businesses in their respective fields. Each state event will award a State Category Winner across each four categories, as well as an overall State Winner. The individual State Category Winners will reconvene at the National Final where the National Category Winners will be announced.

Here’s all the information you need:

Emerging and Energised

This is for the newcomers (less than 3 years in operation) that are just starting out but already making a huge impact.

Small and Succeeding

For businesses that are punching above their weight. The category is open to businesses with an annual turnover less than $3 million and under 200 employees.

Medium and Making Waves

For businesses that are kicking goals in every area. The category is open to businesses with an annual turnover over $3 million and under 200 employees.

Social Change Maker

For organisations where a positive social impact is at the core of their purpose. They are applying innovative solutions to address social issues and better the world we live in. Open to not-for-profit, social enterprise and profit-for-purpose organisations (contributing a minimum of 10% of their profits back to the cause).

Eligibility criteria


Does your business meet the criteria?

As part of our efforts to recognise, reward and support the best Australian businesses, we’ve got a few musts (and must nots) for Awards nominees. If you have any questions about these conditions or eligibility, we’re always happy to help. Ask us a question here.

The business must:

  • Reside in Australia
  • Have a registered Australian Business Number (ABN)
  • Have been operating in Australia for at least 12 months
  • If you’re entering the Social Change Maker Award: be a not-for-profit, social enterprise or profit for purpose organisation that contributes a minimum of 10% of their profits back to the cause
  • Be more than 60% Australian-owned, with the owner(s) / founder(s) responsible for making the key management decisions
  • If entering for the Emerging and energised category have been operating in Australia between 12-36 months
  • Earn more than $50,000 in annual revenue

The business must not:

  • Have more than 200 full-time equivalent staff as at the close of entries date
  • Be a listed company, a franchisee, franchisor, a club, co-operative, or a Telstra licensee
  • Be affiliated with Telstra through investments or donations
  • Be more than 50% owned by another business
  • Be a government agency
  • Have employees who have judged the Awards program in the last three years
  • Have entered and won at a State or National level the same category in the last three years
  • Have filed for bankruptcy in the prior 5 years or been subject to court proceedings in the prior 12 months from the close of entry date, including in the business owner or founder’s personal capacity

Judging criteria


The Telstra Business Awards judging panel aims to recognise the best small and medium businesses in the country. Our Judges follow a broad range of criteria to find and celebrate the most deserving Australian businesses. Here’s what our experts are looking for:

Strategy & Vision

  • A visionary business strategically planning for the future
  • Creative and strategic thinking to innovate, compete and stand out
  • Has the courage to take a risk, to realise a dream — to be ‘that’ business
  • Persistence, resilience and fit for growth

Customers & Marketing

  • Solves customer problems and demonstrates a strong responsibility to customers
  • Leverages customer inputs to shape the business
  • Finds better ways to reach new markets
  • Exceeds customer expectations and delivers brilliant experiences


  • Operates effectively and productively
  • Identifies, manages and mitigates risks
  • Continuously evaluates and improves the way business is done

People & Culture

  • A strong leader with a shared vision
  • Fosters a culture of innovation, collaboration and diversity
  • Puts their people first

Social Responsibility

  • Has a strong sense of purpose to better the world we live in
  • Instills the importance of social impact in its employees
  • Makes a measurable impact on society

Financial Acumen

  • Effectively manages cash flow
  • Demonstrates a broad understanding and application of sound financial management principals
  • Makes fiscally sound and responsible decisions

Innovation & Technology

  • An innovative product/service proposition that solves customer problems
  • Innovates to take their business to the next level
  • Leverages technology to connect with customers, optimise operations and foster collaboration
  • Leverages a global marketplace

2019 Lead Judges


For more than 25 years, the Telstra Business Awards have been built on the expertise of Australian business people. As always, our Judges lead the way – their knowledge and experience invaluable, as we celebrate the most innovative and entrepreneurial small and medium businesses in Australia.

Telstra Judge
Vanessa Nicol
Managing Director — CHE Proximity

Over 20 years-experience in a variety of leadership roles spanning, marketing, media and advertising. An award winning strategic and creative thinker in the industry. She is a result driven marketing professional, has a strong passion for managing complex pieces of business, leading & mentoring individuals and teams. Vanessa believes in true collaboration and works as a business partner to clients, driving communication solutions that leverage business opportunities.

Telstra Judge
Dr Sebastian Rees
Entrepreneur, author and doctor – GenWise Health

Early in his career, Dr Sebastian Rees became determined to improve the standards of medical care available to older people in Australia. Bootstrapped by himself and his co-founder, GenWise Health has now grown to a national healthcare provider. GenWise Health was named the 2017 National Telstra Business of the Year. Sebastian has experience working in the fast-paced UK tech scene, where he worked in app development and fundraising for an early stage start-up. Sebastian enjoys helping early stage companies bring world changing ideas to market. Sebastian has a special interest in disruptive and impactful purpose-driven businesses, with a particular focus on sustainability. In 2018 Sebastian was named “First Among Equals” in the Indaily 40Under40 and in 2017 authored “The Aged Care Book”.

Telstra Judge
Johann Jordan
Director of Sales and Operations - Samsung Australia

Johann is the Director of Sales and Operations for Samsung Australia. He has 13 years’ experience in the supply chain optimisation arena relating to service development and business model design. In addition to this, Johann has 21 years’ experience across global Telecommunications operators implementing channel strategies focusing on sales effectiveness, cost-to-serve and compensation analysis.

Telstra Judge
Julie Trell
Global Head – muru-D

Julie is Head of Telstra’s startup accelerator, muru-D. She comes to the role with a vast and varied background spanning both startup and corporate environments. In her previous role as the Founder of Playful Purpose, she helped companies integrate meaningful philanthropy programs into their businesses. She was an advisor to several startups from San Francisco to London. Julie was instrumental in launching SheEO Radical Generosity in the USA in 2016, a global initiative to transform how we support, finance and celebrate female entrepreneurs and launched SheEO in Australia in 2018. Prior to that, Julie has two decades of experience in corporate philanthropy, spending much of that time as a founding member and Vice President of All Things Fun, Meaningful & Rewarding at Foundation.

Telstra Judge
David Koch
Host of Channel 7, Sunrise & Chairman Port Adelaide Football Club

Alongside his roles as host of Sunrise and President of Port Adelaide Football Club, David Koch is one of Australia’s foremost business and finance commentators. A small business owner for over 30 years which includes his family business Pinstripe Media, David has a passion for the sector, and was a director of the NSW Small Business Development Corporation for 6 years. He and wife Libby are also patrons of the Youth Off The Streets managed Koch Centre For Youth at Macquarie Fields.

Telstra Judge
Hana-Lia Krawchuk
Founder and Director - Love To Dream™

Hana-Lia Krawchuk is the Founder and Director of Love To Dream™ - a Sydney based wholesaler and exporter of award-winning baby and toddler sleep solutions. As a new mother and former fashion designer, Hana designed the unique and multi-award-winning SWADDLE UP™ after experiencing significant challenges in getting her newborn son to sleep. In its first 18 months, SWADDLE UP™ became a category leader helping the company to achieve exponential growth. Love To Dream™ has swaddled millions of babies around the world, created a ‘Newborn To Toddler 3 STAGE SLEEP SYSTEM™’ and won 45 industry & consumer awards globally, Hana’s achievements have also been recognised, including the 2017 Telstra Women’s Award national title for ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’ and Westpac’s Businesses of Tomorrow awards.

Telstra Judge
Craig Tapper
AGSM @ UNSW Business School, Associate Professor

Craig Tapper is an Adjunct Associate Professor and Fellow of the AGSM@UNSW Business School. His 25-year academic career includes developing and leading postgraduate business programs in strategic management and marketing for MBA's and for corporate executive programs in Australia, Europe and across Asia. He has consulted extensively to many of Australia's leading corporations, government departments and not-for-profit organisations as well as for dozens of small and medium sized organisations, a role he continues to play. His 20+ year corporate career included management, executive and board roles across a range of industries.

Telstra Judge
Jules Scarlett
Products, Commercials & Agreements Executive – Telstra InfraCo

Jules is a level-headed and motivated executive, with broad ranging commercial and legal experience. This extends across leading a successful wholesale business, contract management, customer advocacy, security and investigations, legal practice and wide-ranging stakeholder relations. Possessing two decades of experience working in the highly regulated telecommunications sector, Jules has a reputation for sound judgement, high levels of integrity and success in delivering business outcomes which is reflected in her career responsibilities that have included Team Leader for Telstra’s corporate Crisis Management Team and Chair of Telstra’s Ethics Committee. Jules is recognised as an astute, positive and collaborative leader, able to successfully navigate complex commercial and regulatory frameworks. A builder of strong networks with diverse stakeholders including industry bodies, government, executive leadership and operational teams, fostering open communication and a strong customer and people focus.

The Telstra Business Awards are one of the most respected of their kind in the business calendar, so it’s great to be part of this esteemed group of Alumni. The judging process was very thorough, so it’s extremely rewarding that our achievements as a company have been recognised.

Sarah Marquis, Mollydooker Wines, 2019 Telstra South Australian Business of the Year