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It’s been a year since Larry Emdur hosted Australia’s leading business event, and in 2024, he has plenty of distilled wisdom ready to share.

The CEO Magazine prepares to name Australia’s top executives for the 13th iteration of the Executive of the Year Awards in Sydney. This year is set to be more inclusive with new categories to choose from – not to mention an impressive lineup of high-profile judges deciding who will make the final cut.

But beyond the stiff competition and nervous anticipation will be an evening of celebration and lighthearted entertainment led by returning emcee Larry Emdur.

This year marks a unique milestone for The Chase and The Morning Show host, who is brimming with enthusiasm when asked what he is most proud of.

“This year has proven to me that if it feels right it usually is,” he says.

“I reckon surviving 40 years in the cut-throat world of television is a reasonable achievement, but to be honest I’m incredibly proud of my recent little side hustle, The Ben Buckler whiskey, winning a gold [medal] at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, one of the most important in the world,” he marvels.

“This year has proven to me that if it feels right, it usually is.”

Emdur is among the 61 percent of Australian entrepreneurs who operate a side hustle alongside their day job, according to a recent national study by GoDaddy’s international research initiative, Venture Forward. Despite the accompanying stress, 64 percent of those surveyed reported that their lives had improved since starting a side business.

It’s not the first time that Emdur has ventured outside his comfort zone, having competed on Dancing with the Stars Australia and participated in the iconic Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race in 2020. But striking gold with his first foray into the world of spirits is something he could not have imagined.

“This year has proven to me that if it feels right it usually is,” he says. “I’ve definitely leaned heavily on my motto ‘If not now, when?’ It’s actually tattooed on my chest and it’s a constant driving force for me.”

An International Success

Now even more familiar with the same values – grit, vision and passion – that underpin the Executive of the Year Awards, Emdur admits that The Ben Buckler wasn’t an overnight success story. In fact, it took around four years from the initial idea to cultivating a commercially viable product in collaboration with Corowa Distilling Co Head Distiller Beau Schilg.

Even with his personal motto etched into his skin, Emdur says he struggled to take action for a long time, until it dawned on him that the present moment was the right time to begin this new chapter.

“I had everyone on my team and many in the industry telling me this was going to be a great business, but I had to throw myself into it,” he recalls. “I was reluctant at first to move so far out of my comfort zone, but a little bit of self-belief, a deep breath and I dived right in.

“Best decision ever. It’s been a wonderful success. Once The Ben Buckler won the gold [medal] in San Francisco it achieved wide commercial releases here.”

His signature blend captures the essence of what it was like growing up in Sydney’s eastern suburbs in an area known as Ben Buckler – located in the northern part of Bondi Bay – and strikes a delicate balance of sweet and savory.

“I was reluctant at first to move so far out of my comfort zone, but a little bit of self-belief, a deep breath and I dived right in.”

Since his first big win, Emdur has his sights set on global expansion ahead of The Ben Buckler’s official launch earlier this month.

“We have some big goals with the whiskey; locally we’re expanding the range and we continue to make as much noise as we can. Meanwhile, many overseas territories are lapping up quality Australian whiskies so there’s some very exciting opportunities floating around,” he says.

With this excitement, Emdur will take to the stage on 14 November to honor the visionary leaders who lead others along the path to elevating the business world in a multiple of ways.

“I enjoy seeing people being genuinely excited about winning an award; that moment when all the hard work, the blood, sweat and tears seems worth it,” he says.

Do you want to network with industry movers and shakers? Make sure you don’t miss out on being part of this year’s prestigious awards.

Ready to Apply?

If you are looking to apply for the Executive of the Year Awards, click HERE.

To view this year’s categories click HERE.

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