Perth business woman Carolyn Hartz (pictured) is proof that age is no barrier when it comes to running a business. The 67-year-old founder of SweetLife, started her company when she was 55. Today, SweetLife, Australia’s leading creator of sugar free products, is enjoying strong sales annually with investments in improved infrastructure, processes and systems, as well as a revamped website and marketing to support long-term growth.
“I experienced a great deal of negativity when I established SweetLife as people thought I was too old. At 67, which is just a number anyway, my drive is stronger than ever. I have a business that I am so passionate about because what we sell can change lives for the better,” says Carolyn.
It was at a conference in New York in the year 2000 when Carolyn had a conversation with a woman which she says completely changed her life. A self confessed sugar addict, Carolyn had been diagnosed as pre-diabetic and missed sugary treats terribly, but the chance encounter at the dinner table left her believing it would be possible to enjoy them again.
“She told me about a company in New York that sold xylitol, an all-natural sugar free sweetener made from the birch tree or woody fibre of the corn cob that actually tasted like sugar. They also had a cake mix that was sugar, grain and flour free and very low carb. This was a revelation,” said Carolyn.
Carolyn was the first to bring xylitol to Australia in 2002 and within three months the first shipment had sold out. SweetLife grew from there and its message has resonated with individuals who needed to cut back on their sugar intake. Sales have been growing as a result and Carolyn has a team on site working on the day to day business operations. She outsources advertising, marketing, packaging and distribution – in total there are 25 individuals working to service and grow the brand. Carolyn plans to release a cook book this year filled with new sugar free baking recipes and is busy developing a new branded product line.
Carolyn admits starting the business did have its challenges. She had no idea how to use a computer or send an email, let alone the complexities involved with running an import and food manufacturing business. She had also been out of the workforce for 25 years raising her family. Determined to succeed, Carolyn completed a computer course and enrolled in a three year online business course, which she studied while running SweetLife.
“I was often at my home desk from 7.00am to 2.00am at least five days a week and many weekends. I was truly out of my comfort zone, but had little time to think about it. Everything was challenging, but also exciting. I was on a mission,” Carolyn said.
Carolyn believes her drive and determination stems from a difficult childhood where her father was an alcoholic. She knew she had to work hard to achieve what she wanted in life and escape her background. Her experiences instilled a will and determination to succeed, as well as teaching compassion.
“I have always been a great believer that there is no such thing as failure. If you keep working hard and get up every time you fall down, another door will open. You have to work hard and keep your mind and eyes open for opportunities. Luck is when opportunity meets hard work.”
Her message for older Australians interested in establishing a business is that it’s never too late.
“Starting or running a business at any time of life is exciting but doing it at my age is the very best thing you can do. You are never too old, providing you are passionate about what you do and what you want to achieve. Every morning I wake up energised by what I’m building and the change I can make to every day Australian’s health.”
For more information about SweetLife visit the website www.sweetlife.com.au