Keeping it Hot: How this Perth mum created one of Australia’s favourite hot sauces
“No woman wakes up in the morning and says: ‘I’m a woman, how can I do things in a womanly way?’” laughs Renae Bunster, former journalist and current hot sauce small-business extraordinaire.
“Still, the business I’m in can sometimes feel quite male dominated. Traditionally, it was men making this product and before I started making hot sauce it was basically just 20 different versions of Tabasco on the market.”
It was only when Renee came along almost a decade ago and started putting care and attention into packing as many vegetables as possible in to her hot sauce and sourcing the highest quality coconut sugar and experimenting with Goji berries that the Australian marketplace for hot sauce started really revving up.
Still, it wasn’t all fancy ingredients and spectacular spices that launched the Perth mum’s product, Bunsters Hot Sauce, in 2012. The challenges presented themselves early on.
“It can be difficult for new businesses to acquire financial backing to expand,” she says. “Especially for a business that really looks like a cottage industry from the outside.”
Renae got around this initial obstacle by using equity crowdfunding to raise two million dollars.
“Women are naturally great communicators,” says Renae. “As well as being skilled at mobilising groups to support other women. That’s how I was able to succeed at equity crowdfunding.”
In fact, Renae’s money raising efforts were the talk of the town and sales, in turn, went through the roof. Using her journalistic nous, and a little creativity, there has been a lot of buzz, thanks to the ingeniously named bottle, S**t the Bed, which is a consistent online viral hit, generating thousands of sales for zero ad spend.
Deciding to sell on Amazon Australia’s store was a no-brainer for Renae, who’d already had massive success selling her hot sauce to the world via Amazon in the US.
“Amazon is a ubiquitous and much loved selling platform in the US so when they opened up here it was no-brainer for us to use them,” she says. “Their fast fulfilment and shipping makes it so easy for us and it’s better for our customers too.”
“For too long, Aussies have had to put up with shipping that takes too long to arrive. Amazon Australia has been cutting shipping times to be faster than many of us are used to. They’re amazing. And the quicker and easier my customers can receive my hot sauce, the sooner they get that post-purchase gratification. Amazon really is awesome.”
Renae is particularly proud of her growing small business — a business she strongly believes has helped changed the industry in Australia.
Renae’s advice to other female entrepreneurs out there, keen to turn their hobby into a potential business is timely at any time, but advice she wants to share with other women on International Woman’s Day.
"Don’t quit your day job!” she cautions. “Dip your toe in and hustle on the side until you’re certain that your bills can be paid. “And make sure people actually want what you’re selling before you dive in too deep.”
“Use social media wisely, communicate with your audience often, and they might soon become customers. Share your journey and build a rapport. And you never know, one day you might end up becoming the number one selling product on Amazon US like I did. Then you’ll know you’re onto a winner!”
To shop from women-led small businesses, head to www.amazon.com.au/internationalwomensday