A tourism chain, pet food company, photography equipment developer and money transfer firm have each won a share in $1 million to help them expand their businesses overseas.

Jucy Group, K9 Natural Foods, enlight photo and KlickEx were declared the winners of the 2011 University of Auckland Business School Entrepreneurs' Challenge at an awards ceremony last night. The four companies will receive the money in the form a low-interest, three-year loan.

Business School dean Greg Whittred said the entries for 2011 were the most robust yet and the winners came from a diverse range of industries. The six finalists had been whittled down from a pool of 60 entries.

The keynote speaker at the event, former Fonterra chief executive Andrew Ferrier, said the best piece of advice he could offer entrepreneurs was to focus on their market when developing a product.


"It's been quite a journey for Fonterra and we talk about innovation and everyone likes to invent cool stuff and Fonterra certainly invented some cool stuff ... but what we didn't have was a really good customer focus," Ferrier said.

"We applied about $100 million a year to innovation but in the end we were inventing things and then going and finding a market for them.

"You need to start with the customer and work backwards."

The Business School said last night that it was injecting a further $2 million into the challenge, bringing the total funds under management to $5 million.

New Zealand expatriate and former member of the Business Roundtable Charles Bidwill and another anonymous donor each gave $1 million to top up the funding pool. Bidwill contributed the original $3 million in 2009.

Piako Gourmet Yoghurt, a previous winner, is now stocked at luxury British department store Harrods and has also signed a distribution deal into Japan. Allpress Espresso, which won in 2009, used the money to build a cafe and coffee roastery in east London.