Adelaide-based solar panel installer Suntrix has been named South Australia’s top business in this year’s Telstra Business Awards. The awards, now in their 21st year, highlight the strength of Australia’s small and medium-sized businesses but also recognise inspiring stories of growth.
Suntrix managing director Jenny Paradiso said the award was a tremendous honour and an amazing surprise. “We started Suntrix only four years ago because we couldn’t find a straight answer on solar, so to now be named South Australia’s Telstra Business of the Year is, quite frankly, amazing,” she said.
“When we were named a finalist we suddenly realised that every other business would be worthy of recognition. Good South Australian businesses like Sprout Cooking and Urban Commercial have great stories about overcoming industry challenges and developing a culture of growth. Anyone starting a business now would be well-advised to look to any of these finalists to fuel their own success.”
Ms Paradiso and her partner, Dave Hille, started Suntrix in 2009 when looking for their own solar solution. She said an industry-wide focus on sales rather than solutions was promoting confusion – and so the simplest thing to do was install their own solar panels. The business grew from the kitchen table as Suntrix started installing panels for family, and then friends, and when referrals started taking off, Ms Paradiso and Mr Hille realised it was time to quit their jobs as a librarian and network engineer to focus on the business full-time.
“It was a terrifying time. We had just had our first child and were trying to balance a part-time job with new parenthood and building a new business – it wasn’t ideal,” she said. “But receiving this honour is fantastic. It’s a testament to our staff, family and friends who helped us get this far.” She said Suntrix, which last year turned over more than $10 million and now employs more than 20 people, would continue to focus on innovation to build smart solutions for smart clients.
“Innovation is really important to us – we have designed a number of products in-house – so that gives us a competitive advantage, as we also get to see the products in our wholesale division,” she said. The market has matured quickly, she said – total installations rose from 375,000 panels to more than 10.9 million panels in the three years to 2010, according to the most recent data available from the Clean Energy Regulator – but consolidation within the industry was favouring companies like Suntrix that focused on straight answers and good service.
As the Telstra’s South Australian Business of the Year, Suntrix will compete for the national medium business of the year and the overall national prize to be announced in Sydney on August 22.
“We really want to thank Telstra for this opportunity. We highly recommend the process to every entrepreneur – the health check was a fresh look at something we had worked on for years, and taking the time to review Suntrix stopped us working in the business to work on the business,” she said.