Australian businesses leading through new technology, legacy and social change are among 168 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 General Manager of the Telstra Business Awards, I am so privileged to be able to observe so many extraordinary moments by some of our country’s top entrepreneurs.

The recent announcement of the finalists in the annual 2018 Telstra Business Awards has opened the lid on so many incredible stories.

Stories like five Victorian mums who came together to repurpose their much-loved kids’ gear. Nine years on, St Kilda Mums, Geelong Mums & Eureka Mums have grown their business with branches in Geelong and Ballarat. They have rehomed over 150,000 prams, cots and car restraints and provided nearly 50,000 children with quality clothing for school.

We found fitness motivation with New South Wales finalist Active Seniors Health Centre. It began when Dr Taylor Harrison saw the impact that joining a gym had on his grandfather, aged 76, after a lifetime without exercise. Opening in 2006, the business has directly impacted the lives of over 10,000 seniors through its exercise centres and healthy workshops.

In Western Australia, Fire Rescue Safety Australia (FRSA) is supporting the people who work on the front line protecting Australians. From firefighters, police officers to paramedics and officers in the Australian Defence Force, the FRSA assists in supplying special equipment to ensure they are able to support the community in any situation.

We uncovered Breastfeeding Wear Australia in the Northern Territory who source stylish, everyday clothing for breastfeeding mothers. Owner and founder, Verity Powell, came up with the business idea after having her first baby and quickly realising that the majority of her clothes had no access for feeding her newborn. Sourcing clothing from over 40 retailers, Verity ensures that each item has buttons and zippers that make it easy for mums to not only breastfeed but also stay fashionable.

We’ve learnt of ‘George The Farmer’, a business in South Australia. Founded by a mother, Simone Kain, who 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’s moment, when she realised the program was going somewhere, was 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 Simon Kain.

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

We uncovered The Pyjama Foundation who mentor 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. 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.

State winners will be announced at celebratory dinners in states and territories around the country from the 25th July until the 23rd August. State and territory winners will be invited to Melbourne for the national judging on Wednesday 19 September, and a gala dinner on Thursday 20 September.

You can find the full list of finalists online.