The winner of the prestigious 2015 Ernst & Young (EY) Entrepreneur Of The Year award has been announced at a gala dinner in Sydney last Thursday. That winner was Manny Stul, Chairman and co-CEO of toy company Moose Enterprise, who stood out ahead of 27 other national finalists tipped for the award. Dynamic Business spoke to Manny to find out what it takes to earn the top title.
Manny’s entrepreneurial drive dates back to 1974 when he launched his first enterprise, Skansen Giftware, which later became one of the largest most innovative gift companies in Australia and listed on the ASX in 1993. In a move that might appear synonymous with a sense of accomplishment, 25 years after the launch of Skansen, Manny took the reigns at Melbourne based Moose Enterprise, a designer and manufacturer of toy products. The business has since grown from 10 employees to 200, is the fourth largest toy manufacturer in Australia and eighth largest in the US. An impressive resume, and one that would have resonated with EY Oceania CEO and Area Managing Partner, Tony Johnson, who speaking of the winners said “entrepreneurs have an eye for opportunities and take calculated risks.”
Having lead not just one but two businesses that have experienced substantial growth, Manny told Dynamic Business that “innovation is the number one quality a business needs for growth. You need to be constantly changing and improving all aspects of a company. Over and above that, you must strive for excellence in everything, never take anything for granted, engage with and motivate your staff, and I believe you must operate with integrity.”
Listing on the ASX might be considered the ultimate goal for many entrepreneurs but for Manny, armed with 25 years’ experience in growing a large-scale business, the opportunities he saw in Moose Enterprise were far too promising to pass up.
Manny said “I saw potential to create a nimble, dynamic, truly innovative business that delivered products to one of the toughest bunch of customers around. If kids don’t like something, they’re not going to pretend to be polite.
“The goal has always been to make it an international success, taking Moose beyond Australia’s boarders to the global market.”
Manufacturing and distributing from factories in China and Hong Kong, Moose now delivers products to 82 markets around the world.
With the toughest bunch of customers around, what does it take to impress them? According to Manny, Moose’s acceleration towards its market leading position has hinged upon innovation at every level of the product lifecycle, combined with nimble structures that ensure speed to market.
“We can see change implemented in weeks rather than the months experienced by other players,” said Manny.
Beyond their cultural and structural focusses, Manny believes that the biggest difference between Moose and other market players is that Moose Enterprise owns their products and the intellectual property they develop.
“We have control of our destiny,” he said. And that destiny is still in the making as Manny stressed that the business continues to think outside the square when envisaging its future.
“Other areas that could be a natural fit for our creative output include licensing and entertainment,” he said.
As for his 2015 Australian EY Entrepreneur Of The Year the award, it’s not all about gala dinners and trophies according to Manny. Speaking about the recognition, he said that it carries with it a number of benefits for the business. Raising the profile of the company and reaching out to potential employees are just two of the many advantages he hopes will come.
“Not many outside the toy industry nor many everyday Australians realise that some of their favourite toys are designed and created right here, by a locally owned and run company.
“We are looking for the brightest stars in product design and development from around the globe. Working with one of the world’s best companies in one of the world’s most livable cities, is a rather enticing package,” he said.
Chair of the independent judging panel, Dr Glen Richards, founder and Non-Executive Director of Greencross Limited, said “Moose Enterprise is an Australian company that is taking on the world by combining an incredibly innovative local design team with the cost advantages of low cost manufacturing.
“Manny has demonstrated an ability to understand the demographic of his target market and deliver high quality, innovative toys that are now attracting extraordinary demand from retailers around the world.”
Manny will be packing up his achievements and travelling to Monte Carlo in June next year to compete against national winners from over 60 countries for the chance to be crowned 2016 EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year.