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Success comes naturally to these female business founders

10:23am March 08 2024

For Sinead Roberts and Sioned Guard, co-founders of Wotnot Naturals, the success of their business is built not just on knowing their customers, but working with them to co-create the products they want. 

By their own admission, Roberts and Guard were relative novices in the field of business when they started out in 2004 with a line of natural baby wipes, eschewing chemicals in favour of natural ingredients such as bamboo, organic aloe vera and vitamin E. 

With relatively little competition in the space, the pair soon found their product in high demand.

“When we started out on this journey almost 20 years ago it was super niche. Our customers, not surprisingly, were what you might call the eco-warriors or the early adopters. We found them to be incredibly devoted to the cause,” Roberts tells Wire in an interview. 

“Customers who ordered the wipes online were ringing us to say they were the best thing they’d ever seen. We had a lightbulb moment that these customers were the experts. From that day on every product we created was co-created with them.”

Since those early days, Wotnot has expanded its range to include biodegradable nappies, natural sunscreen and skincare products for babies, as well as sunscreen, tanning and other natural beauty products for adults. But one thing Roberts and Guard always ensure is that any new product is designed with their customers in mind, drawing on feedback from their database of loyal followers.

The business expanded a few years ago to new premises in the Sydney suburb of Frenchs Forest, close to Roberts and Guard’s homes in the city’s northern suburbs. Work-life balance is important to the pair and they make a point of joining office and warehouse staff for an outdoor lunch break on the forecourt most days. 

Their focus has been on growing the business at a sustainable pace, particularly as they juggled the responsibilities of work while also bringing up young families.   

“As new mums, we weren’t able to give the business as much attention as we would have liked in the early years,” Guard says, adding that in their experience the mum is often the one who’s expected to go and pick up their child from school or daycare if they’re sick. 

Backing women in business

Westpac has injected $63 million of capital to support female entrepreneurs, helping more than 350 women start or grow their business, since announcing a $500 million commitment to back more female founders a year ago*. 

“This year we’re looking at how we can do more grassroots funding,” says Shane Howell, Managing Director of Business Lending at Westpac. “It’s great to see that momentum and we’re asking everyone to get that word of mouth out there and talk to friends and family about the offer.” 

The bank is also partnering with the University of New South Wales’ Founders 10X Accelerator Program to provide funding for three $20,000 scholarships designed to support women to balance work and personal commitments while participating in the program.

Wotnot Naturals has banked with Westpac since the start, and Roberts says the bank has been a strong supporter through the good times and the tougher times that all fledgling companies go through. 

“Westpac definitely brought different facilities to us when we wanted to expand and talked us through the different options we had so that we could keep growing,” she says. 

Roberts is proud to have continued a family tradition of entrepreneurship which she traces back to her Irish roots. And when asked the one piece of advice she would give to aspiring business founders, Roberts doesn’t hesitate.  

“Always reach out to your customers, always get their feedback. It’s all well and good to create a product and hope that they’re going to love it but in our case we found that by asking them first and taking that feedback on board it helped us to cut out a lot of mistakes.”

* $500m has been ringfenced for lending to women in business, however Westpac's Business Loans for Start Up and Business Loans for Scale Up are available to people of any gender.


James Thornhill was appointed as editor of Westpac Wire in May 2022. Prior to joining the bank, he was a business and financial journalist with more than two decades of experience with international newswires. Most recently, he was a resources correspondent for Bloomberg, covering the mining and energy sectors, and previously reported on a broad range of topics from economics and politics to currency and bond markets. Originally from the UK, he’s had stints working in London, New York and Singapore, but is now happily settled in Sydney.

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