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Nugan named entrepreneur of the year

Michelle Nugan, CEO of the Nugan Group, has been named the Eastern Region (commonly known as NSW & ACT) 2008 Ernst & Young entrepreneur of the year — products category.

Michelle having been awarded NSW’s top honour, will now go on to compete for the national title to be presented in Sydney on 27 November 2008.

The Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Awards (EOY) are the only truly global awards of their kind, celebrating entrepreneurs such as Michelle who build and lead successful, dynamic businesses, recognising them through this regional, national and global award program in more than 40 countries. EOY is conducted in five Australian regions culminating in the national awards on the 27th November 2008, then the global awards in Monte Carlo.

Why Michelle Nugan? Michelle is inspirational. Straight shooter, visionary, matriarch and business leader who never lets the challenges of life in the agricultural world, with drought and market fluctuations, get her down. She believes success is the only option and inspires her company to achieve the same.

Michelle’s business career began in 1986 when her husband died unexpectedly of cancer. At that time Michelle was a mother of three and housewife, who was forced to take over the family’s then struggling fruit & vegetable business. She turned out to be a natural, responsible for Nugan Group’s renaissance into one of Australia’s most successful agricultural enterprises with turnover today in excess of $80 million.

Since taking over the helm, Michelle has successfully diversified the business to include exporting 80,000 tonne of juice products to Asia, vast horticultural properties and premium wine and olive oil production. Yet like all great stories, Nugan Group’s beginnings were humble.

Nugan Group was founded in 1940 when Alfredo Nugan started a small fruit and vegetable packing operation in Griffith, NSW. In 1965 his son, Ken, took over the business and it underwent substantial growth until the 1980s brought financial strain. This coincided with Ken’s unexpected death, leaving Michelle to rebuild the family business.

Michelle’s first task as CEO was to quickly recognise the need to diversify into the export market and thereafter, develop the Asian market for juice concentrates. Success resulted with the Group becoming the largest exporter of niche juice products to Asia in the Southern Hemisphere with production in excess of 80,000 tonne per annum.

In 1993, further diversification took place, with Michelle’s decision to plant 590 of vineyards around Australia. From there, winemaking was a natural progression. Today Nugan Estate, under the leadership of Michelle’s children Matthew and Tiffany, is Australia’s 13th largest wine exporter, having collected 22 Trophies and 1077 medals in a mere 7 years.

Michelle’s achievements have been widely recognized with her being named a NSW Telstra Business Women of the Year in 1996 and Australian Export Hero in 2000. Michelle is also passionate about developing skills in regional Australia having sponsored for the last 10 years two annual programs to develop business skills in the bush — WIRED (Women Innovating Rural Enterprise Development) and the Riverina Young Achiever Program.

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