Cider makers steal the show

Winners of the Snowy Hydro award for best Tumut region business, Charlie Ostaszewski and Dave Purcell from Apple Thief Cider, pictured with Snowy Hydro CEO Terry Charlton (centre) at Tuesday night’s business awards.

The unlikey partnership of a London accountant and a Wondalga farmer, who rapidly realised their business dream of producing a successful and sophisticated cider made from Batlow apples, has taken home this year’s Snowy Hydro Tumut Region Business Award.

Local orchardist Dave Purcell and English auditor Charlie Ostaszewski only crossed paths for the first time last year during a chance meeting in Thailand, but their premium Apple Thief Cider has been a hit among consumers and critics alike. Cider is the fastest growing category in the alcohol market and the Apple Thief brand has forged its reputation as a premium drink with a natural and authentic apple flavour. The first batch of the product, using Batlow Pink Lady apples, sold out and the cider has been in-demand among suppliers ever since.

The Pink Lady cider has since been followed by a Granny Smith variety and a William Pear cider. The company plans to produce over 2500 cases of cider a month over the next year. At Tuesday night’s business awards held at the Bowling Club, the efforts of Mr Purcell and Mr Ostaszewski in starting a company and bringing a boutique product to market successfully were recognised when Apple Thief Cider picked up the Snowy Hydro Businesses of the Year and Innovation in Business awards. The two brewers were ecstatic at receiving the honour. “This is ex-cidering!, said Mr Purcell, who thanked local growers for their part in ensuring a quality cider. Also taking home two trophies on Tuesday night were the ladies from Drive Group Fitness, Emilie Rossington and Leonie Green, who were awarded Outstanding Customer Service and Best New Business.

They fostered their life-long passion for exercise and healthy lifestyles by studying to become personal trainers and then two years ago opening Drive Group Fitness. They aim to make fitness classes challenging but fun for people of all fitness levels, of all ages and from a variety of backgrounds. The dynamic duo have managed to build a successful business while holding down full-time jobs in other fields, and raising young families

“This is beyond our wildest dreams,” said Leonie Green, in accepting the awards on Tuesday night. Drive Group Fitness thanked their “wonderful clients”, as well as their families for their support. In other awards presented on the night, Adelong veterinarian Lyndal Porritt was named Young Business Person of the Year. Lyndal set up her practice in Adelong just 18 monhts ago, having graduated from Charles Sturt University in 2010. The hours have been long to go with the stresses of starting a new business, but Ms Porritt said she loved being Adelong’s vet and thanked the many people who had supported her. Employee of the Year went to Inside Out’s, Libby Williams, whose passion, enthusiasm and online marketing nous has helped take the popular Tumut business to a new level.

Swans of Tumut was named best Retail Store. Operating from Tumut since 1997, when they took over the menswear store, Swans have expanded their services to include ladies fashion and accessories, schoolwear, industrial work wear and footwear and embroidery. Father and son team David and Tim Swan accepted the award, with David thanking his dedicated, wonderful and conscientious staff. “It’s been quite a journey for us, and we’ve had out ups and downs, but I believe we have a bright future,” David said, noting Tim’s contribution in moving the business into the “digital age” over the past two years. Katie Clee and her team at Katopra Design and Print were named Outstanding Manufacturing, Industrial or Trade business.

Katopra, a past winner of the award, offers complete graphic design, print and sign shop services and Katie thanked her parents, staff including Cameron Gilroy (who was also nominated for an employee of the year) and customers for their support. Best regional business went to the Batlow Bakery. In accepting the award, Michelle Murphy said she was “blown away” to take out the category. And the much-lauded National Parks and Wildlife Aboriginal Discovery Tours took the award for Excellence in Tourism Operations. The Discovery Program, based in Tumut, last year won the prestigious Canberra and Capital Region Indigenous Tourism Award.

The program aims to educate the community and increase awareness of, and appreciation for, local Aboriginal culture, while also working with the Aboriginal community to help them preserve their culture for future generations. Organiser, Gail Mullins, said the Chamber of Commerce was pleased to see Adelong and Batlow share in the awards, with four businesses from outside Tumut taking home trophies. Guest speaker, marketing guru Penny Burke, gave business owners plenty of food for thought with her advice, whilst the food itself was also well-received, and featured produce from Grant Oak Trufferie, Gilmore Braes Heritage Featherdale Chestnuts, Snowy Mountains Blueberries, Snowy Mountains Trout, the Apple Shed, and Norfolk Punch. Sounds of the Mountains station manager David Eisenhauer was MC kept the evening running smoothly whilst the Thomson sisters, Amelia and Gabrielle, provided the entertainment.

Snowy Hydro CEO Terry Charlton congratulated the finalists and said Snowy Hydro was proud to have been part of the awards night for the past eight years. “You can feel there is real success in the air tonight,” Mr Charlton said. “Don’t lose your focus and don’t lose sight of where you are going,” he advised.