The City Lane was approached a little while ago to have a chat with Sarah Sammon, winner of the 2015 Veuve Clicquot New Generation Award. I had not heard of the award until recently, but here’s what it’s all about. The award celebrates the strength and determination of entrepreneurial women who have thrived in business. The unfortunate reality is that the business world is still predominately a boys club and that it’s much harder for a woman to succeed. Awards such as this aim to provide role models and hopefully inspire more woman to thrive in business.
Sarah Sammon is the owner of Simply Rose Petals, an online business that is the largest producer in the Southern Hemisphere of freeze dried rose petals for the wedding, beauty and hotel industries. Sarah grew up on her mother’s farm in regional Victoria, and after completing her Bachelor’s degree she travelled for 3 years, working as a Ski instructor in Europe and North America. At this point she returned home to Swan Hill and struggled to find work as employers were concerned that she would resume travelling or that she was overqualified. She decided to turn this challenge into a positive and focused on reinvigorating the family farm with the aim of turning it into a successful rural business.
We sat down with Sarah to find out more about her story.
How did Simply Rose Petals begin?
Whilst my pre-teen years were spent growing up on my Mum’s rose farm, I definitely had no plans to become a rose farmer. It was only after returning from overseas that I decided to help my mum re-establish her rose farm. Together we started a business growing fresh cut flowers for regional florists and venues. Rose farming, however, proved to be a challenge – so much so that our first crop was wiped out due to a disease in the irrigation water. This made me re-think the business model and the end product. After much research I discovered that there were rose farms overseas that had converted their operation entirely to growing rose petals. By the following year, our crop had completely transitioned to rose petals, and that is when Australia’s first ever rose petal farm, Simply Rose Petals, was established.
Who are the people behind Simply Rose Petals?
Simply Rose Petals is a family orientated business which is predominately run and managed by myself and my mother. We have a number of other family members who are involved in the business including my grandmother who turns 90 years old in December. My grandmother was the one who gave us our first loan to purchase a computer for the business. My stepfather has also been instrumental in the success of the business as his horticultural expertise and experience have helped us grow a continually successful crop.
What does winning the Veuve Clicquot new generation award mean to you?
It has been an incredible experience being awarded as the inaugural winner of the Veuve Clicquot New Generation Award. I have been exposed to an amazing network of women including the finalists Jodie Fox (Co-Founder & Chief Creative Officer, Shoes of Prey), Emma Isaacs (CEO, Business Chicks), Aimee Marks (CEO & Founder, TOM Organic) & Tina Tower (CEO & Founder, Begin Bright). I also had the pleasure of meeting the judges, Sarah-Jane Clarke (Co-Founder & former Director of sass&bide); Carolyn Creswell (Founder and Managing Director of Carman’s Fine Foods); Mandy Foley (Founder and Managing Director of Stedmans Hospitality); Jo Horgan (Founder and Chief Executive of Mecca Cosmetica); Kristina Karlsson (Founder and Creative Director of kikki.K); Elizabeth Ann Macgregor (OBE, Director of the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia); and Louise Olsen (Co-Founder and Creative Director of Dinosaur Designs). It’s extremely important to me to highlight the role of young women in business and through this award I hope to encourage and mentor more young female entrepreneurs.
What is the best piece of advice you have been given and who was it from?
One of the best pieces of advice given to me was from my good friend and mentor, Kirsty Dunphey. The advice has helped me on a personal level and in my business as I tend to be a perfectionist which can really affect my productivity and timing. She once told me that ‘perfectionism is often an excuse to procrastinate’.
Is there any advice you would like to give other women who are starting a business?
My main piece of advice for all young business women is to follow your intuition and listen to your gut feeling. Whenever I have ignored this in the past I have seen errors in my decision. An example of this was when we developed a product that I wasn’t 100% happy with in terms of the finished design. I was reluctant to put the product on the market however as we had invested a substantial amount in the production we decided to go ahead. This was the wrong decision as the product wasn’t a success. I should have listed to my gut instinct from the beginning.
Another piece of advice would be not to be fearful of failure. Don’t expect the tough times to end once you’ve gone through the startup phase. Weather the storm, be resilient and you will learn from your experience.
Can you tell us about your new Blooming foods range?
We have just launched our Blooming Food product range, the world’s first range of natural freeze-dried edible flowers. The vibrant, chemical and preservative free flower range includes a wide range of fresh looking flowers such as rose petals in over 20 colours, miniature rose buds, snap dragons, fuchsias, pansies and cornflowers. The edible flowers are perfect for wedding cake decorations, adding a gorgeous vibrant element to this all important part of a wedding. The edible blooms are also fantastic for salads, desserts and food styling. Simply Rose Petals has also partnered with Foodbank, the largest hunger relief organisation in Australia, who provided 25 million meals to people in need last year alone. For every packet sold from the Blooming Food Range, one meal will be donated to a person in need.