13 May 2020
Many small businesses in the Bega Valley are using the COVID-19 crisis as an opportunity to create new products, find different ways of delivering services or adopt new technologies to keep themselves in business. The inspiration and resourcefulness of these businesses is exceptional.
Kay and Gregg Saarinen of natural skin care range Saarinen Organics, based in Wyndham, are always on the lookout for business opportunities.
Graduates of the Bega Valley Innovation Hub’s iAccelerate program run by the University of Wollongong, the Saarinens participated in the Innovation Hub’s ‘pop-up store’ in Bega’s Sapphire Marketplace, after launching their skin-care range for teenagers.
Now they are looking after our dry, cracked hands, brought about by the constant, mandatory washing and sanitising needed to combat COVID-19.
“Our customers were asking us what they could do about their sore, cracked hands and fingers,” Kay said.
“Medicinal alcohol breaks down the fats and oils in your skin and if you are constantly putting alcohol on your hands, the skin will crack and the cracks can get infected; sometimes to the point of bleeding.
“We put our thinking caps on and turned to science; we needed an antibacterial cream that would sooth and heal. It had to soak into the skin, but not leave an oily residue so you could go about your day quickly.
“I consulted a business colleague Jo Lane, a marine biologist and owner of Sea Health Products. Jo turns wild harvested Golden Kelp into nutritious food seasoning and skin care.
“Seaweed is high in silica and has antibacterial elements, minerals, vitamins, amino acids and omega 3 and 6 oils, which promote cell regeneration and skin health.
“So in collaboration with Jo, we created a seaweed and apple cider vinegar tincture, and combined it with nourishing oils and antibacterial essential oils and herbs.”
Kay said the seaweed hand cream and ointment proved so popular, it quickly sold out. But not to worry, she soon made more.
“My customers love it,” she said. “They’ve told us it goes straight into the skin and doesn’t leave a greasy film … and it heals the skin quickly.”
Jo Lane is also an iAccelerate graduate and loves being able to work with likeminded local businesses.
“Kay and I share similar ethics and business mindsets, which is why it’s so great working with her,” Jo said.
Living in Tilba, Jo’s business was significantly affected by the summer bushfires. December to February is the best time to harvest kelp and she couldn’t collect kelp during January at all.
“The water quality meant harvesting wasn’t really possible this summer,” Jo said. “This will impact us later in the year when we may run low on stock.
“I’ve been researching into the concept of kelp farming on the south coast and am in contact with various universities in Australia and overseas. I received a Churchill Fellowship in 2019 and spent three months studying aquaculture farming systems in Europe, Asia, North America and Canada.
“Having been through the summer bushfire disaster, I feel it is even more important to improve kelp farming and cultivation practices.”
Kay and Jo are a great example of business collaboration and innovation.
“We’re thrilled to have an effective new product and are particularly pleased to be able to help so many people during such a terrible time,” Kay said.
“And I think it’s wonderful that during these times of crises, you can work with another local business to solve a problem that benefits the community,” Jo said.