Pet owners know the struggle of getting your beloved family member to see the vet, but Tomas Steenackers is easing the burden on animal lovers across the country.

The National Veterinary Care (ASX: NVL) founder took out top honours at the 2018 Business News Australia Gold Coast Young Entrepreneur of the Year Awards, held at QT Gold Coast on Friday night.

Collectively, the finalists turned over more than $380 million in the last financial year and employed more than 3,500 people both on the Gold Coast and nationally.

The veterinary visionary faced stiff competition from some of the Gold Coast’s leading business minds, but came out top dog on the back of the success of his ASX-listed powerhouse of a company.

Founded in 2014 and listed in 2015, National Veterinary Care employs over 800 Australians and turned over $66.8 million in revenue during the last financial year.

Steenackers says his chain of over 70 clinics across Australia and New Zealand offers something far more important than his competitors: personal touch.

“Acquisition is important to our business and other veterinary chains in Australia, but that’s not the only thing we do,” says Steenackers.

“We try to stay relevant in the industry. We do the best we can in new technologies, and we look after our people.”

Where other veterinary services providers might gobble up clinics around Australia to form one large, cohesive brand, Steenackers emphasises how important it is for his clinics to stay true to their community roots and maintain local connections.

“We encourage our clinics to maintain their identity in the communities in which they operate,” says Steenackers.

“While the industry is fragmented, we are selective in our acquisition strategy preferring to transact with clinics with multiple vets rather than sole operators. Our training centres, open to all vets, nurses and administrative staff, upskills vets in more complex procedures that are typically higher margin.

“This allows more procedures to be retained in clinic rather than referred to specialists. It also allows vets who have been out of the work force for a period of time to upskill and build confidence.”

With biometric technology becoming more available and far more advanced than it’s ever been, Steenackers prioritises the development of tech in his clinics, improving outcomes for both pet owners and administrative staff alike.

“Technology is really important to us,” says Steenackers.

“We’re trying to be a bit creative or innovative. So for example something we’re working on at the moment is because every animal needs to be microchipped one idea is to see if we had a microchip that also had biometric data so we could know if the animal has done enough exercise in the week before or things like that then vets and nurses could be alerted and see if there’s something wrong with the animal.”

“If we could integrate that in the system and make pet owners more aware of what’s going on in the life of their pet it would benefit them and our staff.”

Steenackers was joined by James Gilmour, founder of space exploration company Gilmour Space Technologies, as the winner of the Trailblazer of the Year Award. The coveted Trailblazer award recognises entrepreneurs who have achieved exponential growth and are destined for major success.

Other winners included Saski Collection founder Tammy Hembrow who took out the Influencer Award, thanks to her glowing success that in the process has garnered her more than 10 million followers across various social media platforms.

Casey Lyons and Sam Webb, behind popular mental health awareness platform LIVIN, scored the Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award for their work in destigmatising mental illness and getting Australians to start livin’ again.

The following are all the winners from the 2018 Gold Coast Young Entrepreneur Awards:

  • Young Entrepreneur of the Year Tomas Steenackers (National Veterinary Care)
  • Trailblazer of the Year –  James Gilmour (Gilmour Space Technologies)
  • Social Entrepreneur – Casey Lyons & Sam Webb (LIVIN)
  • Startup – Michael Kellett (Macro Mike)
  • Professional Services – Jürgen Himmelmann (The Global Work and Travel Co)
  • Marketing – Fady Hanna (Flagship)
  • Health & Fitness – Tomas Steenackers (National Veterinary Care)
  • Technology – Bernard Mangelsdorf & Kane Sajdak (BITS Technology Group & BITS Wireless)
  • Digital Disruptor – Brad Illich (Newbook & Xtreme)
  • Retail and Services – Lachlan Adams & Sean Connolly (My Generator)
  • Specialist Services – Jonathan Dwayre (Orbitz Elavators)
  • Fashion Design – Megan Ziems (Grace Loves Lace)
  • Legal – Shaun Rose (Rose Litigation Lawyers)
  • Hospitality and Tourism – Jon Tarrant & Rebecca Tarrant (Leisurecom Travel Group)
  • Arts & Culture – Michael Huxley (The Huxley School of Makeup)
  • Influencer – Tammy Hembrow (Saski Collection)
  • Manufacturing, Wholesale and Distribution – Michael McGovern, Dan Norris & Eddie Oldfield (Black Hops Brewing)
  • Property and Construction – Mark Deacon & Jake Robinson (Superdraft & VIZ360)
  • PR & Media – Naomi Spies (Ruby Communications)
  • Finance – James Marshall (MWM Advisory)