Brisbane Businesses Tap into the Brightest Leaders and Innovators On The Couch

Brisbane Business Hub’s signature event is celebrating one year of connecting local businesses with the best in the trade.

A joint initiative of Brisbane City Council and Brisbane Economic Development Agency, the Hub has pivoted from initial pandemic support when it first opened in October 2020 to a place where businesses can access a range of service offerings including practical support and resources, in-person workshops and virtual webinars and in-person 1:1 mentoring.

The On The Couch series has seen some of the city’s most successful and innovative business leaders so far this year, who have joined the couch to share their tips and tricks for business success.  With over 600+ attendees and 10 speakers across 9 featured industries, let’s take a look back at the year that was!

On the couch with: PhilLIP Di Bella

Brisbane coffee king Phillip Di Bella spilled the beans on his bold new venture and shared his tips for growing and transforming your business at the Brisbane Business Hubs On The Couch event. 

Di Bella famously took Di Bella Coffee from a single cart to Australia’s largest specialty coffee company, before selling the business in 2017. Now he’s back with The Coffee Commune, a state-of-the-art facility in Bowen Hills. 

On the Couch with: James Tuma

Strategist, urban thinker and futurist James Tuma says Brisbane is positioned strongly in the wake of COVID-19 – and now is the time for the city to be bold and shape its future. 

Tuma, the group director of Urbis, has been advising both the public and private sectors on the creation of new towns, communities, innovation hubs and tourism precincts for over 20 years, and played a key role in the Queen’s Wharf redevelopment. 

On the Couch with: Maxine Horne

Maxine Horne is the founder and CEO of Vita Group. Since launching with one Fone Zone store in 1995, the Brisbane businesswoman has guided the group’s growth in information and communications technology through Vita’s operations of Telstra’s stores and its own Sprout accessories brand, and its recent evolution into skin health and wellness through its Artisan Aesthetic Clinic brand.

Maxine shared the six guiding principles that have been the keys to her success.

On the couch with: Glen Richards

Glen Richards is one of Australia’s most well-known and successful business leaders. Richards is best known as a judge on Channel Ten’s Shark Tank, but it’s his savvy business acumen that landed him a spot on the show. As the founding Managing Director of Greencross, he turned one small vet practice in Townsville into an empire consisting of 300 pet stores and 200 veterinary clinics. 

He’s seen it all in the business world – and if there’s one thing this shark knows for sure, it’s that no man is an island. Richards explained that every business owner owes it to themselves to find someone they can turn to for advice and inspiration. 

On the couch with: Cathie Reid

Cathie is one of Australia’s leading businesswomen, having been inducted into the Australian Businesswomen’s Hall of Fame and named in the Australian Financial Review’s Top 100 Women of Influence. Appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for her services to healthcare and philanthropy, she’s the co-founder of multiple Australian healthcare companies, including Icon Group and Epic Pharmacy Group. 

It would be a severe understatement to say Cathie knows a thing or two about growing a business here she shared some of the wisdom she’s picked up along her journey to the top. 

On the couch with: Alice Barbery

Alice Barbery has spent over a decade in various roles with Universal Store and became the CEO in 2017. The Brisbane-based executive’s time in the role has been eventful, to say the least, including a management buyout from the original family start-up in 2018, and a successful ASX float in the midst of a pandemic in 2020. 

Brisbane-based business Universal operates 67 stores, but the biggest is their online store, which accounts for around 12 per cent of the brand’s sales. Despite this, Barbery expects Universal’s brick-and-mortar stores to continue going from strength to strength – a projection based on her understanding of youth consumer behaviour.  

Alice Barbery

On the couch with: Tracey Mathers

As the granddaughter of the founder of Mathers Shoes, Tracey Mathers was born with retail running through her veins. But when she decided to start a retail empire of her own, she had to define herself outside of the family business. 

Tracey explained how she established herself as a force to be reckoned with in business – and why once she made a name for herself, she wasn’t going to let anyone else take it away from her.  

On the Couch With: Ronnie Benbow

Ronnie Benbow has spent a lifetime in the healthcare sector both professionally and in her personal life. After entering the industry at just 17 years of age, Ronnie identified a shortfall in care that carers received; the focus was always on the cared-for not the carers.

Ronnie will share her life journey to date and the insights learned along the way.

On the Couch With: John ‘JC’ Collins

John ‘JC’ Collins, Aussie rock legend and venue director of The Triffid and The Fortitude Music Hall, took a seat On The Couch at the Brisbane Business Hub to discuss how he’s navigated the most challenging years the live music industry has ever faced. 

On the Couch With: Gert-Jan de Graaff

With 20 years of experience in airport management under his belt, Gert-Jan de Graff’s career has taken him all over the globe. Starting out in 1995 with Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, he eventually came to hold senior executive roles with Brisbane Airport Corporation (BAC), the operator of Brisbane Airport, from 2007 to 2012. 

Brisbane Airport Corporation CEO Gert-Jan de Graaff shares his timeline for the airport’s recovery, his vision for its future, and what it all means for Brisbane businesses.

The series is continuing in 2022 with guest speakers including Duku Fore and Libby Trickett having already joined the couch this year. To see what’s coming up, visit  

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Brisbane Business Hub



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