BY KERRY ANDERSON
When Sarah Sammon helped reinvent her mother’s farm comprising 1,000 rose plants in 2004, no-one in the cut flower industry could have foreseen just how much this new business would change and bloom.
In what was initially perceived as a problem Sarah saw an opportunity.
Spurred on by her inability to get a job with a career focus upon returning to her home town of Swan Hill, Sarah put her science degree and entrepreneurial spirit to good use researching alternatives to a struggling cut flower industry.
‘At this time traditional confetti started being frowned upon at wedding venues because it caused staining and was not biodegradable,’ explains Sarah. ‘We saw an opportunity and went for it.’
Simply Rose Petals was subsequently launched on an unsuspecting public by this dynamic mother daughter duo. And when I say launched, I mean it in every possible way including confetti cannons that shoot the petals up to 14 feet high and the product being featured on popular Australian television shows such as The Bachelor, X Factor, Dancing With The Stars, The Bachelorette and Big Brother!
Sarah has constantly utilised technology to keep Simply Rose Petals ahead of the many competitors that subsequently scrambled to follow in their footsteps.
Specialised technology allows their rose petals to be freeze-dried, packaged and shipped to 15 countries around the world. Such has been the demand, that they have expanded their number of rose plants from 1,000 to 6,000.
From her rural office surrounded by roses on the banks of the mighty Murray River, Sarah literally spends thousands of hours online each year researching ideas to keep taking the business forward. Social media has played a major factor. Scholarships and awards have also been useful tools.
In 2006 she received a Churchill Fellowship to travel to eleven countries exploring effective processing, packaging and storage techniques, and the latest mechanisation trends in the flower industry. With harvesting of rose petals the most labour intensive activity, Sarah had hoped to discover a way of mechanising this process during her Fellowship.
‘Unfortunately I was unable to discover a machine that was capable of removing the petals without damaging or bruising them,’ she admits. She was, however, able to analyse the latest in air-drying versus freeze-drying technology to help make important decisions for their business.
Her quest for more knowledge is ongoing. Through a Nuffield Scholarship in 2014 Sarah explored further uses for rose petals including edible and organic rose petals in a growing ‘foodie’ culture, spurred on by cooking shows such as MasterChef.
‘Despite food certification challenges in Australia, the Nuffield tour convinced me that rose petals can be successfully produced organically and there is plenty of scope for creating specialty foods and nutritional supplements derived from rose petals,’ says Sarah.
With an insatiable curiosity and boundless enthusiasm driving her to continuously improve the business, it is no surprise that Sarah has been recognised as a finalist through the Telstra Businesswomen’s Awards and, in 2015, received the Veuve Clicquot New Generation Award for female Australian entrepreneur under 40.
Make no mistake. Constantly exploring opportunities to introduce new products, methods, and technologies, has been an integral part of this enterprising rural businesswoman’s journey.
Sarah’s top business tips:
1. Every business requires a determination and persistence that can only be fuelled by passion and hard work. Make sure you are in it for the long haul and not the short financial gain.
2. Innovation is achievable for everyone. It can be as simple as reinventing what's already out there or creating new packaging for your product that makes it easier for your customers to use.
3. You can't expect your business to be healthy if you don't take care of yourself first. The health, fitness and mental wellbeing of the entrepreneur is crucial.