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Chook sale triggers business career for Ahrens rising star


When teenaged entrepreneur Aaron Bain sold three chickens to the family of Ahrens Group managing director Stefan Ahrens in 2010, he had no idea of the impact the meeting would have on his business career.

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Bain began working for the Ahrens Group soon after and now heads up a major division of the large SA-based diversified national steel and construction business.

“I came straight out of school and I was one day a week through the last three months of Year 12,” the now 28-year-old says.

“I sold three chooks to Stefan’s wife and kids and we got talking when we did the deal and one thing led to another and I was talking to Stefan 48 hours later and I think I started 10 days after that so it was entrepreneurial from the start.”

Bain was last night announced as the 2021 winner of the Colin J Peters AM Memorial Award through the Industry Leaders Fund (ILF) program.

The award was instigated by the family of the former chief executive of Castalloy who was also one of the founders of the ILF. It recognises a business leader who has made the biggest difference in employment and wealth generation in South Australia.

Bain’s prize includes a $21,000 scholarship to undertake further study and he plans to use it to complete a Melbourne Business School Advanced Management Program next year.

“I’ve come straight out of school and into a working environment and I’ve grown with the company but I’ve never had any form of external training,” he said.

“I don’t regret that for a minute as I’m a big advocate for on the job learning but I think there’s a different dimension I can bring to my leadership through some external platforms that I haven’t previously been able to do outside of work.”

Bain became operations manager at the Ahrens Kingsford factory north of Gawler at the age of 21 and now looks after the group’s silo and shed business nationally.

Away from work, he is passionate about harness racing with more than 100 horses around Australia and a training base at Gawler.

He has recently ventured into thoroughbred racing too and plans to begin training racehorses with the assistance of a newly appointed foreman from November 1.

“I started out with three chooks and went to 300 and then I ventured into three horses and we’re heading towards 300 so the chooks turned into horses,” Bain jokes.

Community participation is factored in to the ILF judging.

Bain is one of four directors of the Carnival of Cups, a not-for-profit body promoting the racing industry in the Gawler community.

The group will run its inaugural Gawler Carnival of Cups racing festival from October 15 to 24, including the harness, greyhound and thoroughbred editions of the Gawler Cup.

The ILF aims to help current and future SA business executives achieve their full potential through professional education scholarships.

This year’s 39 scholars received grants worth a combined $514,000, topping the ILF’s annual total for its 12-year history, with 15 women among successful candidates.

Other recipients included:

The ILF, a non-government organisation, is private-sector funded and has been running since 2010 when it transitioned from a state-based apprentice training scheme.

The 2021 Scholars will attend programs offered by Harvard Business School, INSEAD Singapore, IESE Business School, Oxford’s Said Business School, Melbourne Business School, the University of Adelaide, Stanford Graduate School of Business, the University of South Australia, MIT, Shinka Management and the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

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