Businesses leading through new technology, legacy and social change are among 82 finalists in the 2018 Telstra Business Awards.

Our life is based on moments – whether they be challenging, anxious or exhilarating moments, we live by them and they define us. As the Ambassador for the Telstra Business Awards this year, I am privileged to be able to observe so many extraordinary moments by some of our country’s top entrepreneurs.

The recent announcement of the South Australian, ACT, Queensland and Tasmanian finalists in the annual Telstra Business Awards has opened the lid on so many incredible stories.

We learnt of South Australia’s ‘George the Farmer’. Founded by Simone Kain, a mother that discovered there wasn’t a children’s character telling stories about life on the land. Simone created George the Farmer as a fun way of educating kids about farming practices and innovative careers in agriculture.

Through storybooks, music, videos, performances and free resources, George the Farmer teaches children how food and fibres are produced – which subsequently plays an extremely important role in the future of agriculture and makes a meaningful difference to the people involved in primary industries and rural communities.

Simone realised the program was going somewhere when children started shouting back the lyrics during their first song at the MCG for the AFL Country Festival.

“We knew George the Farmer was becoming a new sensation,” said Simone.

We also discovered ‘Tatts On Tatts Off’ and its charitable division, Survivor’s Ink, in the ACT, which offers free breast tattooing to breast cancer survivors on a national scale.

We uncovered The Pyjama Foundation that mentors more than 1,450 foster children each week. Founder Bronwyn Sheehan came up with the idea after meeting a little boy in the foster care system who was clearly terrified and wouldn’t leave the arms of his foster carer. Volunteers of the foundation meet weekly with foster children to read, tutor and implement educational play, while offering a safe and trusted friendship.

And in Tasmania, the likes of Rhuby Innovations impressed us. Inspired by his love of Tasmania and the people, products and environment that emanate from the state, founder Malcolm Ryan set out to create products that were ‘delightfully different’ and began growing an extraordinary variety of rhubarb. Typically perceived as an old-fashioned product, the business strives to make rhubarb ‘retro’ and new again, with its range of freeze dried, chocolate coated products.

In the 26th year of the Telstra Business Awards, we are incredibly proud to be a long-standing supporter of small and medium business – and what a result it has been this year! A refresh of the program has resulted in a record-breaking 10,000 nominations and an incredible line up of finalists diverse in size and industry, all sharing a common pursuit of excellence.

It’s an exciting time to be in business, as technology and innovation helps to open up incredible opportunities, new markets and new ways to operate.

Every day, we see and help support Australians start new businesses, grow existing businesses, and help them be more productive, secure and successful. We love being able to showcase and celebrate this amazing business talent through the Telstra Business Awards.

The program recognises the best in business across four categories: Emerging and Energised, Small and Succeeding, Medium and Making Waves, and Social Change Maker.

The finalists have been evaluated across a broad range of criteria, including: strategy and vision, customers and marketing, operations, people and culture, innovation and technology, social responsibility and financial acumen.

Finalists in the remaining states of New South Wales, Northern Territory, Western Australia and Victoria will be announced on 27 June.

Following that, state winners will be announced at celebratory dinners in states and territories around the country between 25 July and 23 August. State and territory winners will be invited to Melbourne for the national judging on 19 September followed by a gala dinner on 20 September.

For a full list of this year’s state finalists, please visit the Telstra Business Awards website.