From librarian to managing a multimillion-dollar solar business: it may not be your typical career path, but Suntrix Managing Director Jenny Paradiso isn’t afraid to follow her passion into uncharted territory.
It’s a passion that has not only directed her career, but helped boost a fledgling industry in the state.
So why does a librarian start a solar company?
“A lot of people ask me that!” laughs Jenny.
“This wasn’t a career I considered, or studied for, it arrived from a passion and turned into business. Public libraries have a strong community focus, and I’m still in that role, providing something that’s good for the community and that has a greater purpose.”
“I’ve always said that I want to change the world for the better. Suntrix is a good place to start.”
In 2008 Jenny and her husband David Hille, a network engineer, had their first baby on the way and were looking for affordable, reliable solar energy for their family home.
“We considered ourselves ‘yuppie hippies’,” Jenny says.
“We wanted to do something good for the environment but if it’s hot, I want to be able to turn on my air conditioner, if it’s cold I want be able to heat the house.”
Solar fitted the brief – but they couldn’t find an experienced and affordable business to fit their needs. The answer? Source your own.
Word quickly spread from family and friends, and Jenny and Dave soon realised they weren’t the only ones after environmentally-conscious creature comforts – which prompted them to think bigger.
Their business, Suntrix, was born in 2009, and Jenny says the last eight years have been a “solar coaster” ride.
“We started the business from our kitchen table, just the two of us,” says Jenny. “The solar industry was just starting to grow in South Australia – there were some really good government incentives, which definitely helped, so we grew very quickly.”
Named Telstra South Australian Business of the Year in 2013, Suntrix expanded from a turnover of $250,000 to $7.3 million in its first year.
Regarded as innovators in the solar energy field, Jenny was named the Telstra 2016 South Australia Business Woman of the Year, and then took home the national Telstra Business Women’s Entrepreneur of the Year award.
“To win the national title was a real coup for South Australia…there is still that misconception that Adelaide can’t actually compete with the eastern states,” she says.
“It’s so good to be able to prove that we can and that we are.”
Today, Suntrix employs around 30 staff with a head office in Campbelltown, working across residential, battery storage and large scale commercial projects across the country.
Their locally-designed myWatt system, a home/business solar and energy monitoring tool, is installed on every Suntrix system and is being exported everywhere from China to the Netherlands.
Suntrix is also making headlines with Australia’s first 100kW floating solar farm, which took to the water in Lismore NSW this November. Floating on a pond, it generates electricity to partially power the nearby water treatment plant.
Jenny says South Australia has been the perfect base for their fast-growing business.
“Starting our business in South Australia was perfect for us, it’s my home base and where I grew up, I have a good support network here, not only of family and friends but of businesses as well.”
“Renewable energy is the future; South Australia in particular has been very progressive.”
Suntrix may have gone international – but what happened to the kitchen table where it all began?
“I still have it!” says Jenny.
“I will never give that table up. it’s still in our house and it will be there forever.”