Top Entrepreneurs Australia

Australian entrepreneurs have made their mark on the global business world in a variety of ways; they rank highly among the world-stage titans of industry and innovation.

And whilst entrepreneurs are often credited and applauded for boosting job creation (which is indeed significant in and of itself), their contributions to Australia (and beyond) are about more than simply the number of people they have employed or the number of specific jobs they have created. These visionaries often end up shaping culture and creating positive social change along the way.

Australian entrepreneurial success stories serve to inspire our business leaders of the future, and we will take a closer look at the top three most successful Australian entrepreneurs and what we can learn from their paths.

John Ilhan

While Ilhan was not born in Australia (he was born in Yozgat, Turkey and moved to Australia the age of five), he was raised in Broadmeadows in northwestern Melbourne. It was perhaps his upbringing in this working-class neighbourhood that pushed Ilhan to achieve great success by hard work and a tenacious drive to outsell the competition.

Ilhan attended Latrobe University for a year and then quickly made his way through a series of sales jobs at Ford and Strathfield Car Radio. When he left Strathfield, he set up shop directly across the road and started his one-person operation to sell mobile phones, a business that would go on to become an empire.

Crazy John’s mobile phone retail chain would put Ilhan on the entrepreneurial map in Australia and make him rich beyond his boyhood dreams. Ilhan did not just revel in his riches, however. He used the success of his business to launch a number of philanthropic efforts, contributing a large percentage of his earnings to various charitable organizations in Australia.

While Ilhan died tragically of a heart attack at the age of 43, his influence is still widely felt among Australian entrepreneurs and business leaders. His unlikely success story, as a Muslim immigrant from Turkey, reads like a movie script. His life story and what he achieved is as poignant as it is informative to business leaders of all ages and backgrounds.

Ilhan’s own words are perhaps the best way to tell his story, and some of these distinctive quotes were captured in The Sydney Morning Herald in 2013:

“I had to sell myself because that’s all I had.”

“The first million was the hardest to make, and the easiest to lose.”

“The best thing about making money is you can help society and the community. When you come from a working-class background, you see how underprivileged people struggle.”

You can learn more about him in John Ilhan: A Crazy Life by Stephen Dabkowski and Annie Reid.

Rupert Murdoch

Perhaps no name comes to mind more than Rupert Murdoch when considering Australian entrepreneurs who have achieved great success. Murdoch’s mark on the word is indelible, and his influence spans across the globe. He has amassed a tremendous fortune while growing News Corp into a global powerhouse, even if it meant surrendering his Australian citizenship to grow his empire.

Murdoch’s is less of a hardscrabble tale than Ilhan’s as he ultimately inherited the business that would form the beginnings of today’s News Corp. Still, it was not entirely a “born with a silver spoon” tale. Murdoch had to take the reins of the family business at age 21, after his father’s passing in 1952. He took a company his father had acquired only a few years prior (News Limited) and began piecing together his media empire, one small newspaper at a time.

For the next two decades, Murdoch’s acquisitions remained largely in Australia in New Zealand, but in 1969 he expanded into the United Kingdom and then in 1974 into the United States. He would go on to become a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1985, where he would continue to acquire newspapers but also expanded his reach to television stations. And perhaps that is why he is best known to many today, as the founder and creator of cable news giant Fox News.

In addition to Fox, News Corp also owns some other familiar names: Harper Collins, the second-largest consumer book publisher in the world, and Dow Jones & Company (publishers of the Wall Street Journal).

Murdoch and his family are among some of the wealthiest billionaires in the world, and of course, they owe their entrepreneurial beginnings to Australia.

Katie Page

Female entrepreneurs in Australia have an incredible role model in Katie Page: she not only became the CEO of a massive retail chain in 1999 (Harvey Norman) founded by her husband, but she became the first female board member of the National Rugby league in 2005. Whether serving as a champion for women in the board room or on the playing field, Page is a remarkable business leader and inspirational figure in Australia and beyond.

Page moved to Sydney after graduating high school in Brisbane, where she met Gerry Harvey. She would go on to work for him at Harvey Norman—and later marry him—and under her direction, the company has grown vastly.

Today there are 220 Harvey Norman stores across eight countries, and in addition to remaining at the helm of this multi-national retailer, Page also continues to champion women in sports. She has been actively involved in women’s rugby for decades, and also in 2015 sponsored an AFL team, the Auburn Giants, with mostly female players.

Along with husband Gerry Harvey, she owns the Magic Millions Thoroughbred Racehorse auction house, and she has also been involved in real estate development.

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