Kay Saarinen still doesn’t know who nominated her organic skincare business, Saarinen Organics, for the 2020 AusMumpreneur Awards, which were held online on Tuesday, 9 September.
The business placed first in the handmade excellence category, second in the sustainable business category, second in the product excellence category, and third in the regional business excellence category.
“It never occurred to me that we’d have a chance at winning,” laughs Kay. “We were up against multi-million dollar businesses with boards and directors. I guess we really are playing with the big boys!”
Kay says the wins and placings have been a much-needed boost during a particularly tough year.
Saarinen Organics is located in the Bega Valley, near the small village of Wyndham, and last summer bushfires went through Kay and Gregg’s property, impacting their home and business, and burning the gardens they use to source ingredients for their skincare products.
“What we’ve been through as a family, as a business and as a community has been horrendous,” she says. “This win shows we can ride the storm and come out stronger.”
The AusMumpreneur Awards are usually covered by the Seven Network and winners promoted on morning program Sunrise, but this year the entire event was streamed due to ongoing COVID-19 restrictions in NSW and Victoria.
Kay attended the online event in “sparkles on top with my trackies underneath”.
She is also quick to acknowledge her partner, Gregg, who is now a fully fledged partner in Saarinen Organics, and their 12-year-old daughter, Gemma, for their part in the business’ success.
“I told Gemma last night that this is not just a win for mum and dad,” says Kay. “She’s put in the hard yards as well – going to markets every weekend with us to promote the business, often getting up at 4.30 am.
“In fact, although we miss the income that markets bring, COVID-19 restrictions have been the best break we’ve had in years.”
While Kay was sad to miss out on the experience of attending the AusMumpreneur gala in person, she was blown away just by being a finalist, let alone placing in four categories.
“There were 10 finalists in each category and we had to pitch for each category except one, which was a public vote,” she says. “We’ve invested heavily in making our business sustainable so I was hoping to place third in the sustainable business category.”
Kay started her business with support from the University of Wollongong’s Innovation Hub. She says what she learnt there, and the confidence she gained from communicating with media and pitching her business, were invaluable.
“We won the business pitch for the Innovation Hub and that gave me a lot of confidence in pitching,” she says. “What we learnt took a lot of the guesswork out of it and helped my pitches for Mumpreneur flow.”
For Kay, perhaps the best part of being a mum and entrepreneur is the response she sees in her daughter, Gemma.
“I think it’s so valuable for kids to see their parents working hard, to see how hard money is to come by sometimes and to see us never giving up,” she says.
Inspired by her mum’s work in the garden and laboratory, Gemma has even created her own product – magnesium bath bombs for growing pains – and is a registered business, Saarinen Dragon Art.
“Now she evaluates everything according to the time and effort it takes to make a bath bomb,” laughs Kay.
Big things are on the horizon for this thriving local business, with Kay and Gregg focusing on becoming even more sustainable in the future.
“We live very simply,” says Kay. “We have a tiny house and we invest our profit back into making the business better. Our packaging is quite sustainable, but our goal is to be able to recycle and reuse any single-use plastic we use onsite.”
The Saarinens are looking to buy a small-scale plastic chipping machine, and hope to have it up and running by next year.
“So next year, when we enter the AusMumpreneur Awards again, we’re going to go for first in sustainability,” says Kay.
For more information, visit Saarinen Organics.