When Carolyn Hartz of Perth, Australia started her business 14 years ago, she didn’t exactly fit the mold of an entrepreneur. She had no business experience. She had been out of the workforce for 25 years raising a family. She had no idea how to send an email or turn on a computer.
On top of everything else, she was 55 years old.
What she did have, however, was confidence, optimism, drive and a strong work ethic. Ultimately, those personality traits and her passion trumped her initial lack of business know-how.
Today, Hartz is the exclusive Australian distributor of xylitol, a natural sweetener that tastes and looks like sugar. Her company is SweetLife, which offers baking mixes, jams, dental care items, a nasal sinus spray and other products made with xylitol.
As explained in this Sydney Morning Herald article, Hartz began educating herself on sugar-free eating after receiving a diagnosis of pre-diabetes. In 2000, she accompanied her husband to a conference in New York and met a woman who told her about xylitol.
After that chance meeting, Hartz contacted the U.S.-based company that sold xylitol and made a deal. She brought the first xylitol shipment to Australia in 2002. It sold out within three months. From there, SweetLife started growing and hasn’t looked back.
The journey hasn’t been easy, however. Hartz has had her challenges, including a huge learning curve. She took a computer course and a three-year-online business course while running her business.
“I was often at my home desk from 7:00 am to 2:00 am 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,” says Hartz in this article.
Last October, Hartz released a book, Sugar Free Baking, in response to customer demand for recipes. Her main reason for starting the business wasn’t to make a lot of money. It was to help others who, like herself, forgo sugar but still want to enjoy the sweet things in life.
Now in her late 60s, Hartz sees her age as just a number.
“It is true that you reach a point in life – usually in your 40s – when there are two ways you can go,” she says in the Herald article. “You can go one way, or you can choose to own your own life, be positive and choose that path.”