Entrepreneurs with social impact take top alumni honours

23 October 2015

Entrepreneurship, determination, and a passion for giving back to the community have earned two UTS Business School graduates the prestigious UTS: Chancellor’s Award for Excellence at the 2015 UTS: Alumni Awards held on Thursday 22 October.

Lance Kalish and Ido Leffler (B Bus 2000), who co-founded natural beauty company Yes To Inc after meeting as students at UTS Business School, were honoured by UTS Chancellor Professor Vicki Sara AO, during the ceremony, which also celebrated the outstanding achievements of a number of alumni from across the university’s seven faculties.

2015 Alumni Award winners

UTS Chancellor Professor Vicki Sara AO, far left, and Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor William Purcell, with 2015 UTS: Alumni Award recipients, from left, Andrea Myles, Tanya Farrell, Lance Kalish, Genevieve Clay-Smith, Dr Lacey Johnson, Ralph Kelly, and Christopher Wood (on behalf of Jane Needham SC).

Since founding the start-up in 2006, Kalish and Leffler have transformed Yes To into a multi-million dollar international business, building it to become the number two natural beauty brand in the United States with stockists across 15 countries.

Alongside their entrepreneurial success, the duo’s commitment to driving social change through their business was also acknowledged.

“Lance and Ido have created a wonderful business model, with giving back to the community at its core – working to educate children on healthy living, feeding the hungry, and providing school equipment to disadvantaged children. They provide an outstanding example to other entrepreneurs on the power of business to create positive change,” said Professor Sara.

Through their Yes To Seed Fund, to which they direct a portion of the company’s profits, they teach children about nutrition and healthy living through projects including micro-farms in Africa and organic school gardens. They have also developed two cause-related brands – Yoobi school supplies and Cheeky Home disposable table-top products – which has seen them donate classroom supplies to one million children and meals to more than four million people in need in the United States.

“We always felt that finding a purpose for our business was as important as driving a profit,” said Kalish. “Understanding that the more successful your business is, the more you are able to give away and make an impact on society – it’s the best driver you can set for yourself and your employees.”

More than 200 alumni, staff and students attended the gala awards ceremony and dinner in the UTS Great Hall on Thursday 22 October to honour the achievements of 11 of the university’s most outstanding graduates, whose qualities of innovation, leadership and compassion are changing the world around us for the better. Amongst this year’s recipients were innovators in technology and health, drivers of social justice and change in the community, and leaders across business and the legal profession.

"Lance and Ido have created a wonderful business model ... they provide an outstanding example to other entrepreneurs on the power of business to create positive change."

Ralph Kelly (B Bus 1991; MBA 1998), the father of 18-year-old Thomas Kelly, who was killed in an unprovoked attack during a night out in Sydney’s Kings Cross in 2012, was recognised with the UTS: Community Alumni Award for his work as founder and director of the Thomas Kelly Youth Foundation, established to help combat alcohol-related violence on Sydney streets.

The 2015 NSW Young Australian of the Year, founder and director of Bus Stop Films, Genevieve Clay-Smith (BA Comm 2009), was also recognised for her work establishing a not-for-profit production company focused on creating inclusion in the film industry and employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

Other award recipients included Jane Needham SC, NSW Bar Association President; Professor Carolyn McGregor AM, whose big data research is helping NASA’s planned mission to Mars in 2030; and Dr Lacey Johnson, who was recognised for her breakthrough research in the field of blood cryopreservation.

The event was hosted by UTS Chancellor Professor Vicki Sara AO and Vice-Chancellor Professor Attila Brungs, with writer, presenter, broadcaster and UTS alumnus Sunil Badami acting as Master of Ceremonies.

Read more about the 2015 Alumni Awards, and the inspiring stories of this year’s Award recipients.

Highlights of the 2015 UTS: Alumni Awards Ceremony

2015 Winners

Lance Kalish and Ido Leffler

Lance Kalish and Ido Leffler

UTS: Chancellor’s Award for Excellence
UTS: Alumni Award for Excellence – UTS Business School

Bachelor of Business (2000)

Co-Founders, Yes To Inc

“Understanding that the more successful your business is, the more you are able to give away and make an impact on society – it’s the best driver you can set for yourself and your employees.”

Lance Kalish and Ido Leffler embody the passion for innovation, agility and entrepreneurship that are at the heart of the UTS Business School ethos – and one of the faculty’s outstanding success stories.


Ralph Kelly

Ralph Kelly

UTS: Community Alumni Award 2015

Bachelor of Business in Marketing (1991)
Master of Business Administration (1998)

Founder and Director, Thomas Kelly Youth Foundation

“Our vision is to foster change and provide new strategies in creating a more responsible drinking culture, ultimately providing a safer and healthier community.”


Genevieve Clay-Smith Genevieve Clay-Smith

UTS: Young Alumni Award 2015

Bachelor of Arts in Media Arts and Production (2009)

Director and Co-founder, Bus Stop Films and Taste Creative
 
"I wanted to make film studies accessible to those who might not usually get the opportunity to learn about the subject at university or TAFE.”


Rong He Justice Rong He

UTS: International Alumni Award 2015

Master of Laws (2004)

Deputy Vice President, People’s Republic of China Supreme People’s Court
 
Justice He has played an important role as China embarks on comprehensive reforms to deepen the rule of law, build a more open and independent judiciary and provide greater protection of human rights by preventing miscarriages of justice.


Chris Bulmer

Chris Bulmer

UTS: Alumni Award for Excellence 2015 - Faculty of Design, Architecture & Building

Bachelor of Applied Science in Building (1991)

Chief Executive Officer, Pacific Group Holdings Pty Ltd
 
"We not only create a strong Indigenous supply chain, but help our fellow Indigenous businesses to build their own reputation and long-term success."


Andrea Myles

Andrea Myles

UTS: Alumni Award for Excellence 2015 - Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences

Master of Arts in International Studies (2007)
Master of Arts in China Studies (2011)

Chief Executive Officer and Co-founder, China Australia Millennial Project

"The rise, or return, of China is up there with the digital revolution as the greatest moments shaping the 21st century, and it’s time to get on board."


Chris Bulmer

Carolyn McGregor AM

UTS: Alumni Award for Excellence 2015 - Faculty of Engineering & Information Technology

Bachelor of Applied Science in Computing Science (1991)
PhD in Computing Sciences (2003)

Canada Research Chair in Health Informatics, University of Ontario Institute of Technology
 
"I'm just amazed at the pathway that I've been on, the doors that open, and what we've been able to achieve."


Tanya Farrell

Tanya Farrell

UTS: Alumni Award for Excellence 2015 - Faculty of Health

Master of Nursing in Midwifery (2000)

Executive Director, Nursing and Midwifery, Royal Women’s Hospital, Melbourne

"My challenge every day is to ensure that we are able to both meet the needs of our nurses and midwives, and ensure that women, babies and their families receive the best care possible."


Jane Needham

Jane Needham SC

UTS: Alumni Award for Excellence 2015 - Faculty of Law

Bachelor of Laws (1991)

President, NSW Bar Association
 
"There is a real impetus around making the legal profession a better place to work as a whole, not just for women but for everyone."


Lacey Johnson

Dr Lacey Johnson

UTS: Alumni Award for Excellence 2015 – Faculty of Science

Bachelor of Medical Science (2002)
Bachelor of Medical Science (First Class Hons) (2003)

Principal Research Fellow, Australian Red Cross Blood Services
 
"My goal as a research scientist is to contribute to society in a positive way. That is why I love the applied research area, as you really get to see the work you do get translated into the real world."