Meet South Australia’s 40 Under 40 of 2024

June 28, 2024

Photography by Morgan Sette

Furniture sourced from SODA Objects

This article first appeared in CityMag's winter print edition of 2024

Celebrating the passion, vision and achievements of South Australia’s young entrepreneurs and leaders, the seventh 40 Under 40 Awards has welcomed a new cohort into the now 280-strong alumni. Scroll on to learn about the winners and how they contribute to SA.


First Among Equals
Presented by Solstice Media

Catherine Harper
Owner & Veterinarian of Barossa Veterinary Service

For Dr Catherine Harper, her career as a veterinarian is one where passion meets purpose.

Since acquiring Barossa Veterinary Service (BVS) – formerly known as PI Jones and Associates – in 2016, the entrepreneur has scaled up the business by opening a third location and increasing turnover five-fold. This means an additional 24 jobs for Catherine’s local community where she operates – Nuriootpa, Kapunda and Tanunda.

Clients love BVS because Catherine ensures patient care comes first. But there’s another reason that Catherine leaps out of bed every day to treat pets, horses and livestock: it’s an opportunity to drive change in the profession.

“I love my profession; it is a career where a passion meets purpose,” Catherine says.

“Yet it is one with some very complex challenges that a lot of people are working hard to solve.

“I do not know all the solutions, yet I know that young women are the future of our profession, due to graduating classes being 90 per cent female. Only by some of us taking up business ownership, challenging the status quo of traditional veterinary business models and creating inspiring workplaces will we be able to make a difference.”

Catherine’s dream since she was young was to become a vet and she realised early in her career that being a business owner was a goal to pursue.

Since taking ownership of BVS, Catherine has grown the business from 11 to 35 employees, who proudly take up the business’ mantra of commitment, compassion and community.

The business is also big on giving back to the local community and works with groups like the Lutheran Community Centre to provide dog and cat food to its foodbank, supports local sporting teams via sponsorships, and is a regular entrant in the Barossa Christmas Parade where last year BVS won the ‘best float’ award for its entry titled “Reindeer need check-ups too”.

It’s a vital part of the Barossa and by offering an after hours service it is the only veterinary business in the area that can see animal patients overnight that would otherwise have to travel to Adelaide for care.

Catherine is not slowing down any time soon and has plans to launch a purpose-built and designed veterinary hospital at Nuriootpa.

“The goal for this facility is to be a central hub where we can provide an excellent suite of diagnostic and treatment services to the community, helping to reduce the need to travel for treatment and potentially in the future host specialists,” she says.

On a longer-term basis, BVS is looking at introducing mobile pet care services, which could service areas outside of the Barossa.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Listen to everything and use the parts that work for you.


Creative Thinker Award
Presented by KWPX

Bonnie McBride
Self-employed Film Producer

A question Bonnie McBride always gets asked is: what exactly is a producer? She says that at the Academy Awards, there are separate categories for best actor, actress, director and screenplay. But when they announce the best picture, it’s the producer who accepts the awards.

As a self-employed film producer, Bonnie is in many aspects of the filmmaking process. Films that Bonnie has worked on range from Taryn Brumfitt’s Embrace Kids (2022), Daniel Radcliffe’s Escape From Pretoria (2020) and Pia Borg’s docu-drama Demonic.

Bonnie understands careers in the Australian film industry don’t have a high retention rate, which is a result of contract work, lack of support for underrepresented groups and lack of human resources management. She’s passionate about “creating a positive working environment”.

Favourite movie of all time?

Billy Elliot is a perfect film, I would watch the opening sequence with that song ‘Cosmic Dancer’ by T. Rex on repeat for too much of my adolescence.


Emerging Industries Award
Presented by Piper Alderman

Luke Smith
Founder & COO of Secure State

Three years ago, Luke founded Secure State to address the lack of cybersecurity support given to Australian businesses.

“There were no IT providers implementing cybersecurity and no cybersecurity providers implementing IT,” says Luke.

“That’s where I saw an opportunity to create a unique offering and bridge the two disciplines to provide an end-to-end solution for industry.”

Secure State describes itself as “an Australian sovereign Indigenous cybersecurity business specialising in information security and technology services”.

As the company’s chief operating officer, Luke leads a team providing expert IT and cybersecurity advice to Australian businesses. In his spare time, Luke enjoys watching his favourite TV show Lost and reading his favourite books The Lord of The Rings, Greenlights and The Barefoot Investor.

Favourite SA hidden gem?

The Wistow drive-through bakery and cafe.


Inspiring Future Leaders Award
Presented by InDaily

Chris Mattner
CEO & Managing Director of CME Group

Adelaide Oval has Chris’ CME Group to thank for its ultra-bright lights.

Established by the Mattner family in 1985 as WM Group, CME Group is a leader in integrated electrical solutions and specialises in stadia lighting, sustainable energy and construction.

Since Chris took the helm as CEO in 2012, the business has increased its revenue by 17 times and the future is bright, with income expected to grow even further.

The business’ proudest project remains the Adelaide Oval LED light tower upgrade – the company’s first global-level stadia lighting project. Since 1985, the company has illuminated more than 400 sports fields.

Best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Always face adversity with a smile on your face and a positive outlook.


Social Impact Award
Presented by Community Corporate

Kiara Suzann Johnson
Founder & Owner of KSJ Consulting

Kiara founded KSJ Consulting in 2019, which is the first majority-owned female Aboriginal business operating in South Australia.

After overcoming challenges of sexism and racism in the civil construction industry, Kiara chose to create an organisation that would take inclusion seriously and create tangible outcomes.

She formed KSJ with the mission to raise the bar for awareness about Aboriginal history and cultural sensitivity, particularly in civil construction.

“We don’t just talk about economic opportunities, job creation and career pathways for Aboriginal Australians – we make them happen,” she says.

With 25 staff, KSJ has been engaged by SA Health, SA Water and the state’s Industry Advocate to create equitable outcomes, consult with Traditional Owners on civil projects and increase Aboriginal workforce participation.

Most adventurous thing you’ve done?

Shark cage diving.


Entrepreneurial Award
resented by William Buck

Giles Kirby
Founder of Firefly Biotech

Giles says he is “nestled in the gap between medicine and science fiction” as a “translational scientist”.

Following on from his successful academic career, Giles founded Firefly Biotech after noticing a lack of appropriate tools for scientists to access space in their research.

Since its creation in 2021, the Adelaide-based company has been pioneering the creation of tools to help biologists undertake interplanetary research, with a focus on space healthcare and medical research. Giles is also on the board of directors of the Wireless Institute of Australia and a science advisor to the Commonwealth of Australia.

In his spare time, Giles says he enjoys automotive repair, welding, woodworking, computer hardware and software development, high-frequency communications and reading technical manuals and science fiction.

Favourite movie of all time?

Donnie Darko.


Sustainable Business Leaders Award
Presented by Business Insight

Thomas Northcott
Director, Co-owner & Winemaker of Howard Vineyard

When bushfires raged across part of the Adelaide Hills in 2019/20, Howard Vineyards was hit substantially.

But under the leadership of Thomas, the business was able to turn things around by doing one simple thing: asking for help.

Community support swept in and the business recovered. Thomas ensured lessons were learnt from this, and now the company has even higher expectations for its top-tier grapes used in its drops and by winemaker clients.

Restoration is ongoing, but Thomas is leading the charge to ensure regeneration is done sustainably, organically and with a diverse range of grapes.

What Adelaide restaurant do you know you’re guaranteed a good time in?

Golden Boy.


Discovery Award
Presented by CMAX

Zachary Munn
Professor & Director of HESRI, School of Public Health, University of Adelaide

Zachary Munn has worked with the World Health Organisation, chaired the Guidelines International Network COVID-19 Taskforce and been invited to speak around the world.

After working at the Spencer Gulf Rural Health School, Zachary became motivated by a desire to improve health equity around Australia.

Appointed as an associate professor in his late 20s and professor at 36, Zachary strives to improve research synthesis and guideline development in healthcare, enabling evidence-based decision-making.

In 2023 alone, Zachary’s work was cited 13,860 times, 93 times more than the average academic.

“In a traditionally competitive market, my philosophy is that a ‘floating tide lifts all boats’, meaning that we can all achieve success together,” he says.

Best piece of advice you’ve been given?

You get more out of collaborating than competing.


Game Changer Award
Presented by Adelaide Business School

Shane Hryhorec
Director of Push Mobility

Shane created Push Mobility in 2013 to offer better-quality equipment to people with disabilities.

At the age of 23, Shane incurred an incomplete C5 spinal injury after a swimming pool accident. Since becoming a wheelchair user, he found gaps in the market that could be addressed by better, more inclusive business. In 2020, Shane founded co-able, an accessible hub in Port Adelaide with boardrooms, a communal kitchen, bathrooms, suites and an accessible gym.

He’s founded the charity Accessible Beaches, working with councils and life saving clubs to make beaches accessible to people regardless of ability, neurodiversity or age. He owns Confession, formerly a nightclub, now a function space for hire. Needless to say, Shane endeavours to allow everyone access to beach days, workplaces, mobility equipment and a good party.

Fringe or Festival?

Fringe. It brings SA alive.


Rural and Regional Award
Presented by SA Business Chamber

Matt Reimann
Director & Co-owner of Reimann Manufacturing

After starting an apprenticeship at 16 in 2003, Matt joined his father Michael in 2007 to establish Reimann Manufacturing. Later joined by his brother Stuart, Matt now has 35 staff under his management.

He attributes his success to hard work and a “can-do attitude”.

“I believe in constant improvement; I don’t care if you are an apprentice or seasoned veteran, a good idea is a good idea,” he says.

In 2015 Matt was diagnosed with Stage 3 bowel cancer, which led him to move his focus into the office, where he helped the company win its first million-dollar job.

Now fighting brain cancer, Matt is taking the back seat at work, putting faith in the team he helped assemble.

Best piece of advice you’ve been given?

You have two ears and one mouth, so you should do twice as much listening as talking.


Inspiring Female Leaders Award
Presented by CityMag

Lauren De Cesare
Director of Adelady & Hello SA

Nine years ago, Lauren De Cesare and her business partner left their jobs at SAFM, and after some time had passed, the two began their own Instagram page and website titled Adelady – a way to share part of Adelaide’s best-kept secrets like where to get a good smashed avo.

Lauren was just 27 when she began Adelady which would eventually lead to a bi-annual print magazine, a Channel 9 show titled Hello SA and Hay Lozzie Media – a content-producing company responsible for socials, commercials, copy and more.

Lauren says a large part of what they do is uplifting and inspiring women across all generations. Adelady, along with the other brands under Lauren’s wing, play their part in society to celebrate and represent all types of women: the working mum, the business owner, the mentor and more.

Favourite SA hidden gem?

Moana Beach. You will often find the Adelady car parked on the sand.


The Finalists

Adam Harris
Director of Harris Smokehouse

Adam opened the doors of Harris Smokehouse 15 years ago. He has since built the family owned seafood smoking business from its small beginnings in the Adelaide Hills to a nationwide importer, manufacturer and distributor.

Adam says he wanted to create a brand that “reduced our impact on our planet, not increased it”, with a focus on ethically sourced products and sustainability.

Favourite TV show of all time?

Top Gear… I’m a fast car tragic.


Anthony Braile
Director of Combined Demolition & Services

Starting out as an operations manager, Anthony Braile worked his way up the ranks at Combined Demolition Services (CDS) and expanded it from five employees to the 43 it employs today.

Anthony has upheld CDS’s commitment to preventing excessive waste in landfills through reusing, salvaging or recycling building and construction waste where possible.

Weirdest local legend you’ve heard?

Blinky Bill. It was a statue in a cemetery that blinks at you.


Ashleigh Smith
Deputy Director of Alliance for Research in Exercise, Nutrition & Activity at the University of SA

With skills in neuroscience, exercise physiology and cognitive ageing, Dr Ashleigh Smith has a passion for improving the lives of people with a high risk of developing dementia. Ashleigh has published 75 peer-reviewed research articles, book chapters and industry reports, and has received $8.4 million in research funding throughout her career.

One rule you live your life by?

Be surrounded by supportive people.


Brad Symes
Founder & Director at Stellan Capital

From football to finance, Brad wanted to make the big, wide world of investment markets more client-friendly, so with his co-founders they started a wealth management firm.

Brad learned resilience playing AFL for nine years, recovering from injuries, knee operations and concussion. A former Port and Crows player, Brad helps young athletes prepare for their next career stage.

What’s the most adventurous thing you’ve ever done?

Eloped in Switzerland.


Brandon Reynolds
COO of The Yoghurt Shop

Brandon has helped grow The Yoghurt Shop into a chain that now supplies big retailers across the country.

He has done so with a focus on community – initiating a partnership with Kickstart for Kids – and creating an enriching work environment.

What’s the most adventurous thing you’ve ever done?

Sneaking into Alicia Keys’ entourage at the ARIAs and watching her sing happy birthday to her bodyguard after her performance in her dressing room.


Chris O’Hara
Managing Director of Roxby Hydraulics

After a four-year apprenticeship as a maintenance fitter, Chris threw himself in the deep end and started working with the niche area of hydraulic systems for the first time.

Chris is now an expert with the systems and co-owns a booming business, contributing to growth of the local mining industry.

Best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Better is always possible.


Callie Rose
Managing Director & Founder of CALLIE Mktg + Comms + PR

Callie has strived to create a work-life balance for her employees for the past seven years in the highly stressful industry of PR. She wants her workplace to deliver high performance and career satisfaction without sacrificing mental and physical health.

“I vowed to prove you can ‘have your PR and enjoy it, too’,” Callie says.

One rule you live your life by?

Everywhere you go, always take the weather with you. We can create the environment around us.


Daniella Biagi
Partner at BDO

Daniella is one of the youngest Australian partners at BDO, one of the world’s largest audit, tax and advisory services. She was born with a disability that meant her arms and legs did not form and is “on a mission to change and challenge society’s view on ‘disability’”.

“I want to embed inclusive culture into the future generations of leaders at BDO and in the wider professional services industry,” she says.

One rule you live your life by?

Smile at the world and the world will smile back at you.


Catherine Grace
Director at Space at South Australian Space Industry Centre

Inspired by her mother’s determination as a Polish refugee raising a family in Canada, Catherine moved to Australia in her 30s and began her trajectory toward outer space.

Catherine’s ability to view setbacks as opportunities for growth led her to trailblazing the strategy for our state’s space sectors.

One rule you live your life by?

Change is inevitable, and adaptation is essential. Embrace it!


Ethan Parsa
Founder & Director of Adroit Developers Director of Glengowrie Medical Centre

After migrating to Australia
as a teenager, Ethan has built
two successful businesses: Glengowrie Medical Centre and Adroit Developers.

Ethan hopes to expand Adroit Developers interstate and overseas, open new medical centre locations and set up a charity helping homeless people.

If you could master one skill, what would it be?



Chelsey Potter
Senior Manager of Advocacy, Communications & Marketing at Uniting Communities

As a senior leader in the not-for-profit sector, Chelsey has helped shape the national debate on women’s representation and started her own consultancy aimed at empowering women to fill out the parliamentary benches. This is all while continuing in her role at Uniting Communities where she works to start “bold and, at times, controversial” conversations to build inclusive communities. 

What’s the most adventurous thing you’ve ever done?

Swimming with sea lions and stingrays off the coast of New Zealand.


Holley Skene

Holley is passionate about social justice and health and is determined to improve the lives of South Australians, especially those within marginalised groups.

As the CEO of the not-for-profit sexual and reproductive healthcare service, SHINE SA, Holley says she feels “a responsibility to use my success and my privilege as an openly queer woman in leadership to inspire other young and queer people to follow their dreams”. 

One rule you live your life by?

Change is constant and everything is temporary.


Jack Kempson
CEO of Build Clean

Jack always wanted his own business and worked his way up from a cleaner to being co-owner of Build Clean, which provides commercial construction cleaning.

“Our mission is as clear as ever: to empower, to lead by example, and to bring the Build Clean standard to the world,” he says. 

Weirdest local legend you’ve heard?

Bad Billy Bones hidden treasure in Marion Bay. Pretty sure my old man made it up.


Jarrad Tait
Director of Adelaide Hills Lawns & Gardens

Jarrad is enthusiastic about providing quality garden, lawn care and landscaping to “create Australia’s best workplace” by prioritising his team at Adelaide Hills Lawns & Gardens. Jarrad began the garden maintenance and landscaping business in 2013 and it has grown into a team of 60.

What’s the most adventurous thing you’ve ever done?

The Rickshaw Run, Sri Lanka.


Madelene Ragno
Founder of MADE. Marketing

Driven by a desire “to not create another marketing agency”, MADE. came to be. Madelene founded the creative and performance agency off the back of several successful years freelancing with small businesses in South Australia. Specialising in marketing for style-led brands worldwide, it is a niche she carved as her own.

Weirdest local legend you’ve heard?

The Bunyip.


Ross Gray
Co-founder & Co-owner of Enable Fitness

Ross co-founded Enable Fitness in 2019 to provide specialised accessible gyms for disabled South Australians, and works as the operations manager and senior exercise physiologist.

He noticed a critical gap in the disability sector while working in hospital rehab and wants all disabled South Australians to have “convenient access” to Enable Fitness’ exercise and physical therapy services.

What’s the most adventurous thing you’ve ever done?

Moving to Scotland to give professional soccer a go (it didn’t work out).


Jesse Trout
CEO and Co-founder of Vana Care

Founded in 2021, Vana Care empowers South Australia’s ageing population and people living with disabilities to lead active, independent lives through compassionate, personalised and respectful care. Lived experience drives CEO and co-founder Jesse’s commitment to give back to the community and expand Vana Care’s lasting positive impact on SA.

If you could master one skill, what would it be?

Retention of pointless trivia facts.


Marie Ellul
CEO & Director at ART Lab Solutions

Marie says ART Lab Solutions is a “service-based business, providing the livestock industry with reproductive technology tools to advance livestock genetic quality”. Marie’s success as the CEO and director comes from her commitment and motivation to making the world a better place.

Favourite movie of all time?

Pretty Woman.


Sarah Boyle
Research Fellow at the Centre for Cancer Biology (University of SA & SA Pathology)

Sarah has completed eight years of post-doctoral research at the Centre for Cancer Biology, which investigates the fundamental causes of cancers and how those discoveries can inform treatment. Her research focuses on how mechanical forces in breast tissue can drive cancer growth and she has received numerous awards in the fields of cancer and mechanobiology.

What Adelaide restaurant are you guaranteed a good time in?

Low & Slow American BBQ.


Kate Russo
General Manager at Adelaide Venue Management, Adelaide Entertainment Centre & Coopers Stadium

Since starting as a receptionist in 2009, Kate has worked her way up through the ranks of Adelaide Venue Management Corporation. Kate is a leader, managing a team of 500 people.

As a general manager she works alongside promoters to bring the world’s biggest acts to Adelaide.

Favourite movie of all time?



Mark Smith

Originally from the UK, Mark is driven by a relentless desire to lead South Australian businesses towards positive transformation.

Mark played an important role in OTR’s acquisition by Viva Energy and will continue to make OTR one of “Australia’s most recognised retail brands”.

What’s the most adventurous thing you’ve ever done?

Tandem skydiving.


Shaun Williamson
Managing Director of Energy LogistiX

Shaun is a former Australian motocross junior champion, but these days he’s more about speedy logistics than bikes.

His company, Energy LogistiX, was founded in 2012 and is a supply chain partner that offers a complete service of transportation, warehousing and logistics to clients.

Best piece of advice you’ve been given?

You are the outcome of those who you surround yourself with.


Liza Zhang
Director of Chat Well Allied Health

Chat Well Allied Health is a paediatric allied health service that caters to children’s individual needs and offers speech pathology, Autism Spectrum Disorder assessment and social groups. With eight years of speech pathology experience, Liza says a “one size fits all” approach doesn’t work and aims to help children learn in their best way.

Favourite SA hidden gem?

Carrick Hill.


Nic Pellegrini
Co-founder & Acting Chief Executive of the Specialised Assistance School for Youth

Nic co-founded the Specialised Assistance School for Youth in 2016 after identifying a gap in the market for young people in need of a different educational model. Inspired by his own experiences of education, Nic says the school’s vision “is to create a caring environment, where disengaged young people can reignite their interest in learning”.

A book that changed your life?

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck.


Stephanie McConachy
Director of Asia Pacific Markets at PwC

Stephanie is a passionate senior leader of marketing and brand who has built connectivity, collaboration and consistency across the PwC network. PwC is an international business that provides assurance, tax and advisory services to organisations and individuals. Stephanie is also heavily involved in grief services and fundraising in honour of her late son Arthur.

One rule you live your life by?

Celebrate everything, big and small.


Trent Burge
Owner of Burge Family Wine Estates

Trent is a sixth-generation winemaker and owner of Burge Family Wine Estates, a family-owned wine company based in the Barossa Valley.

The company exports wines worldwide and provides bulk wine and fully packaged products for other businesses.

“My job allows me to travel around the world telling [South Australia’s] personal wine stories,” he says.

Favourite TV show of all time?

Suits. Doesn’t everyone want to be like Harvey Specter?


Ursula Portolesi
Founder & Director at Making Milestones SA

From an early age, Ursula discovered traditional learning environments aren’t for everyone. Now, her allied health service caters to a multitude of learners.

Ursula’s career is a testament to her unwavering commitment to empowering individuals to lead their best lives. This ranges from children overcoming stutters to adults achieving clear communication.

Best piece of advice you’ve been given?

If you can’t be good, be silly.


Zaachariaha Fielding
Artist at APY Art Centre Collective & Musician

Supported by inspiring elders in Mimili and their Adelaide studio, Zaachariaha inspires young First Nations people to dream big and feel confident to express themselves through art. “I am proof that you can break the rules and create a world that celebrates all that is special and unique,” Zaachariaha says.

How do you deal with challenges?

Connecting with culture is my instinct after every setback.


Zachary Bailey
Managing Director of James Anthony Consulting

With an entrepreneurial journey that grew from teaching at TAFE SA, Zachary shaped a career in leadership, technology and education.

Zachary’s business, which has over 25 local staff, is a launchpad for software engineering careers in SA, with work supporting systems such as the Royal Flying Doctors’ electronic health record.

One rule you live your life by?

Help others first.


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