Judging Panel

An assessment panel representing the South Australian business community will judge the nominees against the selection criteria, and identify the 40 young leaders who have made in impact in creating or growing a business in South Australia.

Head Judge

Joel Abraham

ThincLab, The University of Adelaide

Joel Abraham has over 20 years of commercial experience, is a marketing and finance graduate from Flinders University (Adelaide), holds an International Certificate in Corporate Finance from Columbia University (NY, USA) and undertaken the Company Directors Course from AICD (Australia).

Between 2005-2018 Joel was the Joint- CEO of Australian Institute of Business and during this time led the business through the turnaround from a small family-business to become the largest MBA provider in Australia and one of the largest private higher education institutions in Australia – culminating with an exit to a top- decile private equity firm.

Joel is now an active director and investor, specifically working with South Australian businesses. He sits on several boards (including Australian Institute of Business, Business SA, and Trellis Technologies), invests in high growth SME’s, and coaches several South Australian CEO’s directly and through his role as Growth Specialist at Adelaide University’s incubator – ThincLab.

Associate Professor Dr. Rebecca Dolan

Associate Professor of Wine Business and Marketing,
Adelaide Business School.

Dr. Rebecca Dolan is an Associate Professor of Wine Business and Marketing at The University of Adelaide Business School, and the Associate Dean (International) of the Faculty of Arts, Business, Law and Economics (ABLE) at the University of Adelaide. Rebecca is also the Program Director of Wine Business and Marketing at the University of Adelaide.

At the forefront of academia, Rebecca’s scholarly endeavours centre around unravelling the intricacies of customer relationships, engagement strategies, and cutting-edge online communication strategies. Her pioneering research delves into the transformative impact of digital and social media landscapes on contemporary marketing paradigms. Her research focuses on understanding, facilitating, and optimising customer relationships, engagement, and communication specifically related to new and emerging products and markets, such as NOLO wines. 

Rebecca holds a Bachelor of Commerce with First Class Honours, as well as a Ph.D. in Business from the University of Adelaide. In 2018 she was named the Australia and New Zealand’s ‘Emerging Marketing Educator of the Year’, and in 2020 named Wine Communicators of Australia’s ‘Best Wine Educator’. Rebecca serves as an Associate Editor for the Australasian Marketing Journal, and since 2012, Rebecca has authored more than 50 referred journal articles, book chapters, and trade articles in the field of marketing and wine business. 

Carmen Garcia AM

Founder & CEO
Community Corporate

Carmen is the founder and CEO of the national certified social enterprise Community Corporate, which operates in the niche space of corporate social responsibility. The company activates and implements customised workforce solutions in diversity and inclusion to facilitate recruitment with a social conscience and drive social impact. Community Corporate has supported its employer partners such as IKEA, Woolworths Group, OTR, Accenture, and various state governments to access a hidden pool of talent by coaching and training hundreds of refugees, migrants, youth and women secure meaningful work across Australia.

Carmen was listed in the inaugural 2018 Top 40 Under 40, and awarded the individual State Contribution Award. She helped establish and leads the 40 Under 40 Alumni. Community Corporate won the 2020 National Social Enterprise of the Year at the Australian Small Business Champions Awards and Carmen’s 20+ year career has been recognised as the 2020 winner of the Governor’s Multicultural Awards for Individual Outstanding Achievement, 2023 SA Women’s Honour Roll and in 2024 she was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for significant service to the multicultural community through diversity and inclusion.

Matthew Illman

Business Advisory Director
William Buck

Matthew is a Business Advisory Director of William Buck, specialising in tax and business advisory services for small to medium business. He works across a range of industries including primary production, property, health and professional services. Matthew thrives on working closely with his clients to achieve outstanding results.

Throughout his career, Matthew has been a regular contributor to the profession through various speaking engagements and networking programs.

Sam Davies

Executive Director

Sam has dedicated the past 15 years to running his own businesses, helping brands grow creatively and online. In late 2021, he brought his wealth of experience to kwpx as an owner and director, following the merger of his agency, Digital Noir. Looking after a team of 80+ talented professionals, Sam is passionate about team building and growing a modern, people focussed agency with creativity at its core. As the host of the podcast “Humans Aren’t Robots,” he delves into the intricacies of modern business and speaks with creative leaders on topics from design thinking to ‘how skateboarding has impacted business.  Outside of the agency, he loves surfing, golfing, drinking local wine, and cooking BBQ with his competition team, Secondhand Smoke.

Joshua Annese

Piper Alderman

Joshua is a partner who specialises in helping banks, credit unions, and other lenders and financial services providers navigate and understand the complex regulatory environment that applies to retail financial services. Joshua regularly helps clients with product development, regulatory issues and reforms, compliance audits and training, various types of product distribution, service provider and other commercial arrangements, and advertising and marketing activities. Joshua also advises on banking and financial services-related disputes and litigation including mortgage enforcement, customer complaints, and AFCA disputes. In addition to Joshua’s legal qualifications, he also has formal qualifications in Information Technology.

Elisa Luck

General Manager Programs & Partners
South Australian Business Chamber

Elisa has over 20 years’ experience in creating, implementing, and operationalising advisory and regulatory functions within the customer service industry.

Elisa’s portfolio is responsible for ensuring Business SA facilitates business growth and improves outcomes for South Australian businesses through a cohesive range of services and programs.

Elisa is a passionate leader focused on continuous improvement, specialising in managing and leading operational staff in complex environments with a style that exhibits strong coaching skills and enables employees to understand and embrace organisational cultural values while developing their personal and professional attributes.

Zoe Harrison

Chief Business Development Officer
CMAX Clinical Research

Zoe Harrison is the Chief Business Development Officer at CMAX Clinical Research, Australia’s oldest and most renowned clinical pharmacology unit. With over 20 years in biotech and 13 years of experience at CMAX, Zoe has seen over 400 clinical trials through the doors with her team of dedicated Business Development and Study Start-Up professionals.

With a Master of Public Health and Health Management, Zoe enjoys leveraging local medical and scientific expertise to help initiate successful clinical drug trials for CMAX’s international biopharmaceutical clients. Zoe is a long-standing member of the CMAX Executive Leadership Team and is a returning member to the 40-under-40 judging panel.

David Simmons

Senior Journalist
Solstice Media

David is a senior journalist at InDaily and has more than eight years of experience in business reporting, covering a variety of topics including entrepreneurship, economics, technology, space, retail and hospitality. He has a keen interest in the arts and music scene and is an advocate for a thriving creative industry.

With a Bachelor of Journalism and Bachelor of Laws (Hons), David is across the machinations of business from the start-up stage through to the scaleup process and is passionate about seeing young South Australians succeed in their creative and business endeavours.  


Jo Thomson

General Manager of Partnerships and Sales
Adelaide Oval

As Adelaide Oval’s General Manager of Sales and Partnerships, Jo Thomson works to attract new events, visitors and corporate partners to South Australia’s most iconic venue.

She oversees a high-performing sales team, responsible for driving millions of dollars in event and Oval Hotel revenue while continuing to grow and elevate the stadium’s corporate offering. Beyond hitting targets, Jo ensures the team maintains Adelaide Oval’s global reputation for delivering memorable experiences, which means she has a meticulous eye for detail and a keen sense of what’s next in the events and hospitality landscape.

Jo is passionate about identifying and nurturing local talent and has a particular interest in supporting the next generation of hospitality, events and tourism professionals at a critical time for those industries. She is always on the look-out for innovative new ideas and ways to ensure South Australia remains a food, travel, event and business hub.

Prior to commencing at Adelaide Oval in 2015, Jo worked across world-class hotel groups and beloved South Australian wineries – which is where she developed her lifelong love of great local food and wine.