There are a select few Australian CEOs who bear the entrepreneurial spirit we generally see in blue-chip innovators. Tony Quinn, Managing Director of V.I.P. Petfoods, is one of those entrepreneurs who have flown under the radar while building an expansive and profitable portfolio. He made his debut on the BRW Rich List in 2011 with his wife, Christina, having amassed an impressive $219 million, which has since jumped to $370 million in 2013—an impressive feat considering the couple spent $25 million to revive the iconic Australian confectionery company Darrell Lea.

Tony is a self-made success story who has changed the retail and manufacturing landscape. “One thing that’s quite important in my journey is that I pay an extraordinary amount of tax. I have done things honestly and above board—which is difficult, to be fair—to climb the mighty ladder. There are only a few people who have managed to achieve that ‘from nothing, to some value’ in one lifetime. A lot of people inherit a tradition, or money, or knowledge, or whatever they inherit. I am fortunate that my mum and dad are still alive, but I didn’t get money or anything from them except good, hard work ethics.

“I have to say that my dad is quite a creative person. And my mother is just a typical mother. Neither my mum nor my dad was brought up in a business environment, but they ran a business in Scotland, albeit it wasn’t hugely successful, but it was still a good learning experience for me. My dad was a very well-known dog trainer—dog whisperer, almost—and at 15 years old he was an obedience champion in the UK with an Alsatian dog. People would ask him later in life, ‘What did you feed the dog?’ thinking that there was something in the food. He said, ‘I boil up some ox cheeks and rice, and that is what I feed him’. People would say, ‘Can I buy some from you?’ And that’s really how he got into making pet food.

“It wasn’t a business plan with a whole big strategy and market share and capitalisation and any of that kind of thing. It was just that he started making pet food for people other than for himself, and for 10 years he operated without a bank account. So it’s a great story. But he didn’t actually buy or acquire or invest; he basically just started with a spoon and a saucepan making dog food. And then, of course, that grew and he had to cope with growth. Because he hadn’t had any formal training or mentoring, it was a long and arduous journey for him, and I was part of that as a young fellow.”