Illawarra Mercury

IMB IBC Awards FinalistsAdvertising Feature

Sprout Scientific is boosting the local business communityAdvertising Feature

Sprout Scientific is a finalist in the 'Excellence in Small Business' category. Pictures supplied
Sprout Scientific is a finalist in the 'Excellence in Small Business' category. Pictures supplied

Sprout Scientific, the Illawarra's specialist grant writing firm and digital consultancy with a mission to support innovative, environmentally responsible and ethical organisations as they grow, has recently been distinguished as an 'Excellence in Small Business' finalist in the 2023 Illawarra Business Awards.

In 2017, Sprout Scientific's founder Rhys Cornock was tapped on the shoulder by a friend and former colleague who had just begun their foray into the startup space and needed help preparing an innovation grant application.

It was clear that the maze of different grant programs, each requiring an in-depth understanding of guidelines, legislation, and even case law, was difficult to navigate for a budding entrepreneur alongside all the headaches of starting a new business.

Cornock, who developed a specialisation in navigating Australia's innovation support framework from his time in a Big 4 firm and with a background in front-line laboratory research, was well-equipped to help.

What started as a favour to a friend led to the realisation that many innovative businesses outside of the capital cities are unable to easily access the funding or business support services available to the big end of town.

Boosting the local business community
Boosting the local business community

The shared experience within the Illawarra startup community was that founders needed to dedicate themselves completely to their core offering, which can prevent them from fully engaging with the grant and tender landscape or other business growth opportunities. This sowed the seeds for Sprout Scientific.

The firm now offers end-to-end business support, providing customised and flexible solutions to clients of all sizes across Australia.

From identifying grants and tenders, to tax incentive drafting and accounts analyses, to building out digital platforms, Sprout plays an instrumental role in the advancement of SMEs that share its positive mission statement.

Drawing from the local talent pool of UOW graduates, the team is composed of writers, scientists and creatives with qualifications in engineering, biotechnology, IT, software development and English literature.

Offering this diversity in knowledge and expertise in an accessible format for new players sets Sprout apart from traditional accounting and consulting firms and has allowed the Corrimal-based company to support clients across a wide variety of industries. This has included securing over $10 million in funding for their clients through R&D tax incentives, export finance, energy efficiency funding and highly competitive grants, such as those supporting sustainable packaging and women in STEM initiatives.

Being nominated for the Illawarra Business Awards is a notable recognition that shines a light on a company that works behind-the-scenes to support impact-focused organisations.

Boosting the local business community
Boosting the local business community

IMB Bank Illawarra Business Awards showcases top achievementsAdvertising Feature

Executive director of Business Illawarra, Adam Zarth, at the announcement of the 2023 Awards finalists. Picture by Hill to Air
Executive director of Business Illawarra, Adam Zarth, at the announcement of the 2023 Awards finalists. Picture by Hill to Air

Entering the IMB Bank Illawarra Business Awards is a great opportunity to showcase your business achievements.

The program allows participants to reflect on their business journey and bring recognition to the hard work and dedication of their team.

Some of the big winners at the 2022 Awards were fintech company Scalapay who won the 2022 IMB Bank Illawarra Business of the Year.

Scalapay won the 2022 Business of the Year.
Scalapay won the 2022 Business of the Year.

In the individual award categories, Renee Knight, from CareSouth, won the Outstanding Business Leader, Luke Attenborough from Housing Trust won Outstanding Employee, while Brett Wright from Peoplecare won the Outstanding Young Business Leader Award.

Entry for next year's program will open in June 2024.

2022 Young Business Leader, Brett Wright.
2022 Young Business Leader, Brett Wright.

Christmas gifts sorted with IMAGINE Homewares and HampersAdvertising Feature

Greenacres supports people with disability socially and through skill development.
Greenacres supports people with disability socially and through skill development.

Greenacres, a leading, not-for-profit provider of disability services, has just opened a permanent retail store in Wollongong Central, and it's just in time to get some fantastic Christmas gifts.

Greenacres CEO Chris Christodoulou said their ambition to enable supported employment in mainstream settings has evolved into the world of retail.

"Known as 'IMAGINE Homewares and Hampers' it is a brand of luxury hand-crafted products that are manufactured at our North Wollongong premises by people with a disability," Mr Christodoulou said.

The shop stocks a beautiful range of scented soy candles, reed diffusers, room sprays, wheat heat packs and wonderful gift hampers packed full of their own products and other locally made Illawarra items.

It also operates as a hub for skill development and work experience opportunities, enabling a stepping stone between supported and open employment.

"Six years ago, with a mission to bridge the divide between supported and open employment, Greenacres launched a café known as 'Brewing Up A Storm' in the NSW SES building in Wollongong," Mr Christodoulou said. "Over the last 12 months that dream has grown, with two new cafés now at Warrigal Care in Shell Cove and within the Wollongong City Council administration building."

Celebrating its 70th year, Greenacres stands as a leading, not-for-profit provider of disability services, supporting over 500 people with a disability to transform their ideas and goals into experiences and achievements.

IMAGINE Homewares and Hampers is located in Wollongong Central opposite Phone Rehab. Pictures supplied
IMAGINE Homewares and Hampers is located in Wollongong Central opposite Phone Rehab. Pictures supplied

Established from the love of parents in 1953, Greenacres continues to make an impact, supporting participants across the Illawarra and Shoalhaven.

Greenacres empowers individuals both socially and through skill development, achieving qualifications, and employment outcomes. Greenacres breaks down barriers.

Today, Greenacres stands proud, nominated as a finalist for 'Outstanding Community Organisation' at the Illawarra Business Awards.

As the festive season approaches, start your Christmas shopping early and support Greenacres by visiting IMAGINE Homewares and Hampers at Wollongong Central or buy online at

With each purchase, you not only receive a high-quality Illawarra-made product but you empower people with disability to achieve their employment goals.

Port Kembla - a port of the futureAdvertising Feature

The future of Port Kembla looks bright as the Port Authority of NSW continues to invest in innovation. Picture supplied
The future of Port Kembla looks bright as the Port Authority of NSW continues to invest in innovation. Picture supplied

Port Authority of New South Wales (NSW) is leading the way to embed new innovative systems, technologies and upgrades across Port Kembla that are improving efficiency and safety, to ensure the Illawarra is well equipped and ready for anything.

Port Authority NSW CEO, Philip Holliday said we are so proud of the role we play to keep the port moving as Port Kembla connects the industries of the Illawarra with the world.

"As the economic driver to so many industries, it is the largest motor vehicle importation terminal in NSW, the principal grain export port for southern NSW and facilitates the region's steel and mining industries," Mr Holliday said.

"With 900 commercial vessels that call into Port Kembla each year, safety is critical as is our ability to streamline costs while maximising the level of protection for our unique marine environment and quality of life."

Through investment in innovation, Port Authority has ensured Port Kembla is ready to take advantage of its position, including its proximity to Sydney, as well as the energy sector, agricultural regions and peak industry bodies.

The Illawarra has a reported $2.4 billion in new investment opportunities spanning large scale hydrogen production, power generation, gas pipeline, manufacturing, import-export terminal infrastructure.

Mr Holliday added not all ports in Australia, or the world are investing so heavily in cutting edge technologies to ensure they are future fit by responding and anticipating the needs of their customers, partners, community and environment.

"We are focused on the future of port operations and as such we are implementing a state-of-the-art next generation port management system, called OnePort now used by port users, vessel agents, towage and lines providers and Vessel Traffic Systems," Mr Holliday said.

"The next generation OnePort system provides our teams and customers a port-wide view of our operations, serving as a data warehouse for use by other operations, financial and commercial platforms.

"We also have the most advanced weather monitoring zone in the Illawarra using advanced wind, wave, tide and swell measuring equipment including New Wave Rider Buoys."

It is also imperative that highly trained marine pilots have the best technology when navigating large commercial vessels. Port Authority has implemented a sophisticated version of a GPS console in the use of the upgraded Portable Pilotage Units that assist predicting where a vessel is tracking, based on data feeds from the network of new technologies across the port.

The future of Port Kembla looks incredibly bright as Port Authority continues to invest in innovation for the future to ensure the Illawarra is ready to capitalise on future opportunities and growth.

To learn more about the Port Authority of NSW visit the website at

Congratulations to the 2023 finalistsAdvertising Feature

Held annually for over 25 years, the Illawarra Business Awards are a highlight of the local business calendar.

The awards program is well known for celebrating the success of our region's most inspiring business people.

In 2023, the awards will be presented in 15 categories that will recognise business achievements across a wide range of areas.

One exceptional business will also be presented with the coveted Business of the Year, which is awarded to a business category winner who is considered to be a standout across all judging criteria.

Winners in aligned categories will go on to compete against the best in the NSW State Business Awards hosted by Business NSW later in the year.

The 2023 finalists are:

Excellence in Customer Service

Sponsored by IOH Health

  • Aceit Sportswear
  • Banksia Support Services
  • Big Fat Smile Group Ltd
  • Birdblack Design
  • Highlands Drivesafe
  • Jamberoo Action Park
  • Netstrata - Wollongong
  • Peoplecare Health Insurance
  • RMB Lawyers
  • Tiny Tins

Excellence in Tech

Sponsored by Scalapay

  • Business Valuations Online
  • Hysata
  • Novigi
  • Sicona Battery Technologies
  • Virtual IT Group

Excellence in Tourism & Hospitality

Sponsored by Destination Wollongong

  • Coal Coast Magazine
  • Cupitt's Estate
  • Jamberoo Action Park
  • Stand Up Paddle Boarding Shellharbour
  • Aquilla Fishing Charters

Excellence in Workplace Culture

Sponsored by Peoplecare Health Insurance

  • Adcraft Studio
  • IPAR Rehabilitation
  • Novigi
  • The Illawarra Hotel
  • Medicine in Motion Health Group

Excellence in Innovation

Sponsored by Wollongong City Council

  • Business Valuations Online
  • Hysata
  • Port Authority of New South Wales
  • Sicona Battery Technologies
  • The Flagstaff Group
  • Virtual IT Group
  • Shoalhaven Recovery into Resilience Project

Excellence in Sustainability

Sponsored by BlueScope

  • The Illawarra Hotel
  • Port Authority of New South Wales
  • Bomo Bulk

Excellence in International Business

Sponsored by NSW Ports

  • Aceit Sportswear
  • Buckaroo Leatherworks
  • Sicona Battery Technologies

Outstanding Employee

Sponsored by WIN Network

  • Jade Stewart, Greenacres Disability Services
  • Christine Cross, The Cram Foundation
  • Joshua Allen, Symbio Wildlife Park
  • Callan Cuthbert, KJ Scaffolding
  • Paul Bartholomew, RMB Lawyers
  • Natalie Allan, MMJ Real Estate

Outstanding Young Business Leader

Sponsored by Shellharbour City Council

  • Hayley Rodd, Easy Agile
  • Jane Curran, Curran Plumbing and Electrical
  • Karlie Zec, Tiny Tins
  • Rachelle Crilly, IPAR Rehabilitation
  • Sarah Nolen, Birdblack Design
  • Morgan McHolt-Kean, DanceWorks South


Outstanding Business Leader

Sponsored by Illawarra Mercury

  • Amy Hall, Banksia Support Services
  • Chris Christodoulou, Greenacres Disability Services
  • Chris Stolk, Peoplecare Health Limited
  • Darren Frame, D.Frame Electrical
  • Mandy Drain, Taylor Made Outcomes Disability Services Pty Ltd
  • Jemma Tribe, Nowra Community Food Store Inc
  • Tracy Mayo, CareSouth

Outstanding Community Organisation

Sponsored by Warrigal

  • CareSouth
  • Community Gateway
  • Greenacres Disability Services
  • Lifeline South Coast
  • Lighthouse Community Care
  • Nowra Community Food Store
  • Southern Youth and Family Services
  • The Flagstaff Group
  • BCR Communitities

Outstanding Start-up

Sponsored by Port Authority of New South Wales

  • Green Gravity
  • Torqn
  • Be YOU Ballroom

Excellence in Micro Business

Sponsored by Kiama Municipal Council

  • Adcraft Studio
  • Mrs Oldbucks Pantry
  • Aquilla Fishing Charters
  • TrustTel

Excellence in Small Business

Sponsored by South32 Illawarra Metallurgical Coal

  • Aceit Sportswear
  • Banksia Support Services
  • Birdblack Design
  • Burnetts On Barney
  • DXC Medical Recruitment
  • Innovatus Projects
  • PepperGreen Estate
  • Sprout Scientific
  • Tiny Tins
  • South Coast Brides

Excellence in Large Business

Sponsored by University of Wollongong

  • Curran Plumbing & Electrical
  • D.Frame Electrical
  • Easy Agile
  • Jamberoo Action Park
  • RMB Lawyers
  • Symbio Wildlife Park
  • The Shoalhaven Dance Collective

Celebrating the very best in business at the 2023 IMB Bank Illawarra Business AwardsAdvertising Feature

The 2023 IMB Bank Illawarra Business Awards gala evening will be held on Friday, October 13. Picture supplied
The 2023 IMB Bank Illawarra Business Awards gala evening will be held on Friday, October 13. Picture supplied

The 2023 IMB Bank Illawarra Business Awards will celebrate the best of the best in business with an opulent and exciting black-tie gala event this evening, Friday, October 13, at WIN Entertainment Centre.

The Awards present an unparalleled opportunity to celebrate the combined successes of organisations and individuals across the vibrant and diverse business community.

Executive director of Business Illawarra Adam Zarth said the Business Illawarra team are proud to present the 2023 IMB Bank Illawarra Business Awards and continue their successful partnership with IMB Bank as principal partner.

"It is a terrific opportunity to highlight leading businesses from the Illawarra, Shoalhaven and the Southern Highlands regions," Mr Zarth said.

"This year, we'll be celebrating finalists and winners under the theme of 'Glitz & Glamour' at the gala ceremony to showcase the best companies the Illawarra region has to offer."

Those attending the gala evening are in for an unforgettable night with a beautifully styled photo space, live entertainment, a chef-designed three course menu inspired by local flavours of the Illawarra along with wines by PepperGreen Estate and signature cocktails by Smith Street Distillery.

Bruce Roberts, from the WIN Network, returns as the master of ceremonies and will bring his professionalism to the stage to keep the event running smoothly.

"We've received an overwhelming response to this year's awards program, and I'll take this opportunity to congratulate everybody who entered and particularly our finalists on their strong submissions," Mr Zarth said.

Entries were assessed by a panel of independent judges, who following a rigorous assessment of written entries, have decided upon the finalists.

"Our finalists are a terrific reflection of the diversity of the talent and expertise in our business community, ranging from sole traders to large-scale employers, and a wide range of industries and sectors across the region," Mr Zarth said.

"We'd like to congratulate all entrants, and particularly our category finalists, who went on to the final interview stage of judging. Winners of the Shoalhaven Business Awards in aligned categories also joined finalists in the interview process. Special recognition is due to our auditor of judges, Warwick Shanks, who is again overseeing a highly rigorous judging process."

Chief executive officer of IMB Bank, Robert Ryan, said IMB Bank is proud to partner with and support many exceptional businesses throughout the Illawarra and is pleased to support the Awards for a 10th year running.

"We are very pleased to support this important celebration of businesses in the region," Mr Ryan said.

"Once again, the IMB Bank Illawarra Business Awards present an exceptional opportunity to recognise and celebrate business excellence, with many locals contributing so greatly to our economy across a range of sectors."

Good luck to all the finalists.