Meet our entrepreneurs of the year

andrea culligan - photo

If there’s one thing this year’s winners are, it’s varied! Be inspired by our favourite entrepreneurs of the past 12 months and learn from their real life challenges and triumphs.

Coming from Canada in 1998, Culligan started an interesting journey with $300 in her pocket and absolutely no plan. The high school dropout admits: “My aspirations in life weren’t high.”

She spent two years travelling around Australia managing pubs, hostels, and even whale watching tours, ending up in Sydney as a fire breather for the Olympic opening ceremony. Shortly afterwards she was hired as a business development manager for an internet start-up called Unimail. Three months later, her only other colleague, who was also one of the owners, resigned, leaving her, at just 23, to run a business through the dot com crash of 2000.

Since its inception, Unimail has created the largest student member jobs board in the country, a full service creative marketing agency, a distribution and logistics business, operations in Canada, won “a stack of awards” and employed over 20 people. In 2009, Unimail was awarded the Telstra NSW Small Business of the Year and in the same year, Culligan was awarded the NSW Telstra Young Businesswoman of the Year. Not to mention, Unimail has been awarded Best Supplier to the Graduate industry (AAGE – Australian Association of Graduate Employers) five years running.

In the past 12 months alone, Culligan’s opened an agency in Canada and developed a niche student jobs board there, started a consulting division, developed a student promotional business, grown revenue by over 100 percent, relocated Unimail’s offices, grown its team by 150 percent, got married and finally realised “that my true passion is simply being an entrepreneur”.

While the last 12 months have not been without challenges, there’s been fun too, she says, including defining company culture. “From dogs in the office, flexible work arrangements, team leadership, group goals, subsidised yoga sessions, internal training programs, weekends in the Hunter Valley, skating in Hyde Park, and winning awards, it’s been amazing to watch people develop, grow and create amazing things in our business every day whilst having a whole lot of fun doing it.”