Sassy Organics is an Australian retailer committed to offering exclusively vegan and cruelty-free health, wellness and beauty products. We spoke with founder Aida Rejzovic to understand why incorporating preventative measures into your lifestyle is a better approach than seeking out temporary, symptomatic relief.
During our interview, it became clear that Aida’s own experience with health challenges helped to form the values upon which she has built her growing business. Equally apparent is her sincere commitment to better serve her customers, a reoccurring theme throughout our discussion. Aida also speaks to her passion for animal welfare and environmental sustainability. This is a good one, so let’s get to it.
I am here today with Aida Rejzovic, the owner and founder of Sassy Organics, a health, beauty and wellness retailer that exclusively offers organic, vegan and cruelty free products. Aida, thank you so much for your time.
Aida: Thank you for having me really appreciate it.
Take us back to the very beginning. What’s the story behind Sassy Organics?
I started Sassy just over six years ago, I was having some health issues, predominantly dealing with a hormone imbalance that wouldn’t allow me to run and wouldn’t allow me to exercise. This had been going on since I was 19. I saw various doctors and they only wanted to treat my symptoms. And that sort of works for a little while. It’s a band aid solution. So, on and off for I don’t even know, probably 15 years, I’ve been dealing with those kinds of issues, never really getting to the bottom of it with any doctors.
I really wanted to create a platform where I could share the benefits of organic living and help provide solutions by way of quality products.
I began reading about the chemicals that we consume, either through skincare or produce, daily products and things that you put on your skin or that you eat. They all contain a lot of chemicals, but I never really thought that would have such a big impact on our bodies. So, I thought look, I’ve tried everything else, I’ll give it a go. I’ll just remove everything. And I remember going into my cabinet and putting everything aside and deciding to start fresh. Obviously organic produce, fruit and veggies was the main thing. Hubby and I went to our first market and I remember taking a photo at the time, he laughed thinking, it’s so cute with our little baskets! That was about eight years ago, just before I started Sassy and honestly, I have never looked back. My health issues have been resolved, I’m running, I’m doing Bikram Yoga, I’m doing all sorts of stuff now, which I haven’t been able to do since I was 19. Before, I’d have a good patch, do my running, and then the issues would always come back and I’d have to stop. It was always on and off. And that’s how I got into the organic lifestyle.
Also, I was always interested in more natural stuff, but 10-15 years ago, before we had smartphones, you had to get the magazine and go to your local health shop that just had whatever they had at the time. About eight years ago, when I did switch, there were a lot more organic brands and it’s become a lot easier to transition to that lifestyle. And as I was talking to my husband, I said, you know, I’m sort of consumed with information, we’re buying everything organic, why not start a business? That has always been my passion anyway. I’ve always loved exercising, I love natural, organic products. Why not just try something where we can combine a passion and a business together? That’s how Sassy Organics was born. I really wanted to create a platform where I could share the benefits of organic living, share some of the problems that I’ve experienced with my customers and help provide solutions by way of quality products. That was the purpose behind starting Sassy Organics in a very long answer!
It’s good to get that context around your health issues and the approach that you took to help resolve them. Can you speak about how important prevention and healthy living is versus just searching for temporary, topical fixes?
Yes. Spending so much time going from one specialist to another, just to be told to do some light exercise, just do something like Pilates… I really wanted to run. I wasn’t born with this issue. When you get some sort of health issue, something had to happen in your body to cause that to happen. So how do we go back and remove that? And what do we remove? If it’s a stress related condition, how do you minimise stress? What if I’m lacking something? What supplements do I need to take to get better? How do I treat the root of the problem, rather than just the symptoms, because the symptoms, may or may not go away, and they may come back.
It can be really exhausting! These days people are stressed. Stress is probably the main cause of a lot of issues and a lot of illnesses. Pulling back and just doing what feels right for you can help. Going back to, what is it that I really want to do? What is it that makes me happy, rather than stressed all the time? You might think you want to go, in terms of your current career, from A to B, but if you put your body through so much stress, then is it really worth it? That’s why sometimes you have to make changes in your life, especially if something’s not working or you are forever getting sick. You really have to pull back and just listen to your body and do what’s right, because it’s only going to get worse otherwise.
In the six years since you started Sassy Organics, how has your role changed? As someone who has grown a business and become a successful entrepreneur, has your day to day changed?
It hasn’t changed too much. I mean, it has changed, but I still really like being involved. I love responding to customer emails, I still do that. My mum and I pack orders together. I love doing the hands-on stuff. I know at some point, that’s probably not going to be possible, because the more orders you receive, the harder it’s going to be for me to be everywhere.
I think it’s really important to be involved with your customers because otherwise it’s hard to really get the feel of the business and their experience. I received an email last week that made my day. We sell products that are really making a difference to people’s lives and I’ve even had customers email me just because of the parcel and the way we pack it. There is no plastic, there is no tape, there is none of that. They’ll say it still looks so beautiful even though there is no extra packaging, and one customer in particular, she was teaching a class on sustainability. She said I’m going to take your parcel and I’m going to show my students how you can minimise waste, but also make it look beautiful as well. Things like that really make my day.
So, I do like being involved when it comes to customers but the role has changed, obviously, in that, I am doing a lot more interviews like these, whereas at the start, you are just learning how to create a website, the basics, but you certainly develop as a person and as a business person as well. You grow in that role, try to learn as much as you can and then pass on that knowledge to your staff. And as the business grows, you can only do so much in a day.
That’s a good problem to have, isn’t it? And just touching on that the customer interaction theme and being able to make those connections, would you say that’s your favourite aspect of the role? Or is there something else that you really love to do?
Receiving emails from customers is just amazing, the comments on social media, it’s nice to feel that connection with customers. I’m there for them, really, I am.
Absolutely, that is a highlight of the role. Receiving emails from customers is just amazing, the comments on social media, it’s nice to feel that connection with customers. And if someone was to forget to type in a discount code, I’ll send a quick email just to say, hey, you forgot to use the code, I feel comfortable with that. Whereas, if I was completely removed from that process, maybe I wouldn’t feel comfortable. The customers love it. I may get an email at eight o’clock at night, and I’ll respond. I’m there for them, really, I am.
What advice would you give to the year one version of yourself, or other aspiring health and wellness entrepreneurs who are just starting their journey?
Look, do what you love, honestly, if you do things with passion, that passion will show. When you start a business you have to put in many hours, for the first four or five years I would work Monday to Sunday. My day could start at six o’clock in the morning and finish at eight at night. There’s a lot of learning because you’re growing a business. For me, adding a product to a website, it could take anywhere between, 15 to 20 minutes per product and when you have a brand with 70 products, that could end up taking days. By the time you collect all the information, the images, resize everything, add barcodes… you need to take everything into account.
There is also a lot of time that is spent on SEO, you’ve got marketing, you’ve got social media, you have interviews, you have customer emails, and then you have packing, placing orders, receiving orders… there’s definitely a lot of time that goes into a running business regardless of what type of business that is! I would say make sure you pick something that you love, because you won’t make money overnight. Otherwise, after 12 months you will feel completely deflated because the love wasn’t there, just the desire to make money. And that’s really hard to sustain for three, four or five years.
When I started Sassy, I knew it might take years to build a solid business. I had the mindset that year one I’d be pouring money in, second year I may break even, and then just continue to reinvest. We started with nine brands, and 124 different products. And now we’ve got over 130 brands, over 2000 products. To get to that stage, you have to work, reinvest, work, reinvest. Unless you’ve got that mindset, that it’s going to be my life for the next five years, you’ll struggle.
If I work every Saturday, every Sunday, I love it, I don’t think, oh my god I have to do this. Instead, I’ll get up at five o’clock on Saturday morning, ready to go. Whatever is it that you do, whether a profession or something for yourself, make sure you love it, otherwise there is no point. You’ll get too stressed, sick and the life you seek will never come. After 12 months, two years, that will show and you’re not going to be able to pretend to be happy. I don’t think it works in the long run. I really don’t.
Intrinsic motivation really does sustain, doesn’t it?
It really does. Honestly, my husband and I went for a holiday last year in December, we just went to Tasmania for four days. And that was our first holiday after five years. Mind you, we can only go away when Australia Post is closed, because I don’t work on a principle that I just shut down the website for seven days, it doesn’t work like that. If Australia Post is open, I’m open. Pretty much all year other than public holidays. It’s take it or leave it basically. Starting a business, you have to be prepared not to have holidays. I don’t want to sound negative, that is just the honest truth. Sometimes you just have to sacrifice but it has to be worth it. We had a New York trip planned when we first launched Sassy and in that first year we ended up cancelling it and put that money into the business. And I really have no regrets, but people have to weigh that up, weigh up what’s important to them.
Your commitment has certainly paid off, hasn’t it? Sassy now features a huge range of products. I’m curious, what’s your vetting process? How do you decide which products to stock?
If a brand is claiming to be cruelty-free but they test on animals overseas, under no circumstances would I stock them.
I’ll look at everything, at the ingredients, at the brands – we get daily emails from brands that want us to stock their product, and sometimes we partner sometimes we don’t. My first thing would be to look at ingredients but also if the products are cruelty-free, vegan and if they’re sold in countries where animal testing is allowed and mandatory. So, if an Australian a brand is claiming to be cruelty-free here, but they test on animals overseas, under no circumstances would I stock them. I’ve got existing suppliers that are bringing out new products, brands I am comfortable with and trust, but I will still ask the questions.
There was one brand when I initially launched, a beautiful, certified organic brand of essential oils, but then I was alerted that they were also selling in places where they test on animals. I emailed them to follow up and they didn’t refuse the claim, so I just removed them. I won’t hesitate. The process sits with me and I’ll also trial some of the products as well, to see how they perform, especially when it comes to skincare. So, if I’m happy, and they tick all the right boxes, then I’ll introduce them to Sassy. If there is a particular ingredient that I’m not comfortable with, or that I don’t understand, I’ll ask for clarification as well. For general consumers, the process of going through every single product could be exhausting!
Consumers can shop with confidence at Sassy Organics, knowing that you are committed to stocking high quality, organic, vegan and cruelty-free goods?
Absolutely. That was my aim, because I remember, back when I initially started testing organics, I was vegetarian and had been since I was 19. About three years ago, I transitioned to veganism. Having to look at a product, even skincare to see if it’s got beeswax or any other ingredient was quite tedious and difficult. I don’t want my customers to have to go through that. With every product that we make sure that all the boxes are ticked, and on our product pages, we’ve got cruelty-free and vegan labels because we’ve made sure that each and every product is absolutely cruelty-free and vegan.
Speaking as a consumer, that is incredibly helpful. Of all the products you stock, do you have a favourite right now? Something that you love to use yourself?
I do and I actually have it here, which is my vegan multivitamin. The brand is Vitus, they are an Australian brand, they use glass instead of plastic packaging so it is perfect for sustainability, if a bit difficult to ship! But that’s okay. It’s a complete multi powder and I mix it up with orange juice. That’s your daily multivitamin, it meets your 100% recommended daily intake of vitamins. And B-12 is super important for vegans, but also vitamin C, D, folic acid, calcium and iron. And rather than synthetic ingredients, it is whole food based. You’ve got things like brown rice, you’ve got fermented peas, flaxseed, pumpkin, kale, spinach, potato, and things like that. I use it every day and honestly can’t recommend this enough.
That’s one way to save you having to munch on so many spinach leaves.
It really does. Vitus is a beautiful Australian brand with Australian-made products. They also have a wide range of other supplements, they’ve got vitamin C, spirulina, a dedicated B-12 supplement. Everything vegetarians and vegans need every day.
I love that they come in glass and not plastic. Beyond organic and cruelty-free, I take it that being eco-friendly is also important to Sassy Organics. Could you speak about the role of sustainability in your business?
Last year we did some calculations, and we saved over 100 kilos of plastic, and this year will end up being twice as much saved.
When we started the business, it wasn’t the first thing that was on my mind, but as we grew it became apparent that we were sending so many shipments, post packaging, bubble wrap… that’s just a lot of plastic. Then ultimately, the customers are the ones that are having to deal with that. We spoke to Australia post and changed our contract so that we could use our own recyclable shipping materials, which meant it was more expensive for us, but it was the right thing to do. We removed all the plastic post satchels that were going to end up in landfill. Last year we did some calculations, and we saved over 100 kilos of plastic, and this year will end up being twice as much saved.
We use recyclable paper to wrap products to make sure they don’t get damaged, because it’s important that our customers are not left with any plastic whatsoever. If we have a larger parcel we use biodegradable tape, which is actually really cool. I take a lot of pride in the way I package our shipments, I make sure even though we use craft paper, that it’s packaged nicely, so when you open it, it doesn’t look like a dog’s breakfast. It’s about finding a balance, making it as pretty as it can be while being super eco-friendly and sustainable.
It’s good to see the ethos of beauty also transitioning to how the products are packaged as well. And as you said, you have grown and changed as a company as time has gone on. Have you noticed any similar shifts in the wider health, beauty and wellness industry during the same time?
Look, I definitely have, and I see it in the way the parcels are arriving to us. When we purchase from our suppliers the packaging has changed, which is really nice to see. Because otherwise, we’re the one left with the problems, the bubble wrap and things like that, that I just really, really don’t like to see. I’m receiving items in smaller boxes, with not too much packaging. It is definitely shifting in the right direction.
And a lot of smaller brands attempting to enter the market, they have sustainability as a core value. They talk about their own packaging, how the products are packaged, whether they’re in glass bottles and things like that. You and I know this is driven by consumer demand. If you want to be in business you need to listen to your customers and you have to do what the right thing is.
Do you think that consumer demand is also helping to move the industry toward adopting more vegan and cruelty-free products?
I say this with much passion, I want customers who are vegan or not vegan to get a hold of products that are truly cruelty-free.
They do, but there is one thing that does bother me though. At Sassy Organics we are vegan, I’m vegan, my whole family is vegan. I say this with much passion, I want customers who are vegan or not vegan to get a hold of products that are truly cruelty-free. Especially when it comes to skincare and makeup, you know, like the fact that mascara is tested on little rabbits. I want everyone in Australia to have mascara that is not tested on animals. What bothers me is when I see big companies, and I’m not going to name them, but the companies that are coming out with few products that are vegan they’re claiming to be cruelty free. But when you’ve got sister companies that are not, or you’re still sending those products to countries that allow testing on animals…
Consumers may not be aware of that, but most people are pretty good at spotting the difference, but not everyone. And everyone is just jumping on that sort of trend, now, vegan and cruelty-free, but some of those big companies are not, I’m not going to say all but some of those big companies don’t live those values. That’s where shopping with smaller businesses, businesses that you can really trust, is probably the key to making sure that you are truly supporting brands and businesses that are living those values. Rather accepting at face value the ‘tick’ or a little logo on a product.
On that note, aside from shopping with Sassy, if I wanted to be sure that something was vegan or cruelty-free or organic, what would I need to look for?
If you can shop for brands and products that are certified cruelty-free, or certified vegan, for example, it’s a good start to know that you are getting a truly vegan and cruelty-free product. As I said, some of the bigger brands have those certifications, but then the same company has products that are tested on animals, and you may not know. The key is to find a business, like Sassy Organics, or another business, where, as the founder, I live and breathe the cruelty-free lifestyle. You can be assured that there is no way that I will stock or sell those products, if it ever came to my attention that they are no longer vegan or cruelty-free, I will remove them, regardless of the profits that are coming in. I don’t want to support those brands.
That’s a strong answer and clearly you are confident with the products you stock and the customers you serve. It’s been a few years now that you’ve been steadily building this successful business. What’s next for Sassy Organics?
We plan to double the range so that customers have more options and we want to do a lot of charity work. At the moment, we support smaller charities like Lambcare, and a couple of other animal shelters where we donate products to them and support their fundraisers on an ad-hoc basis. But we want to make that more regular, that’s definitely next.
Every time I go to one of these shelters, I just want to take all the animal’s home! And, you know, these guys work 24/7. A lot of volunteers that are running those shelters or rescue places, I feel like, the very least that we can do as a business is support them financially. It’s hard work. It’s 24/7. I considered having a couple of little lambs here. But the least that I can do is support them financially, because sometimes you just physically can’t do it all, you can’t run a rescue and run a business. If you can’t put in your time, you can at least put your money toward helping others.
There are only so many hours in the day yet so many worthwhile causes. A question that we ask all of our guests is, with everything that’s going on in the world today, individually, as a nation or as a global community, what would you say is a modern remedy to those issues that we’re currently facing?
Look into preventative measures, rather than just dealing with symptoms, that’s the key.
When it comes to health, you know, I’d say, we are doing so much more these days than we ever have. We’re being over ambitious and our bodies are not coping, so you just have to pull back. I do Bikram Yoga a couple of times a week and hiking on the weekend. And that’s just beautiful. Because otherwise I’d be just in front of my computer, which I love, but sometimes I need a break to recharge. It’s really important to sometimes do a little bit less and just reevaluate your life. Where is it that you want to be? Do you feel really excited to get up in the morning and go to your work? If you find yourself saying no five times in a row, in a single week, it’s time to start looking for other options. Daily meditation also helps. You don’t have to be super spiritual to meditate, anyone can meditate. Even just taking 10 minutes out of your day to sit and be quiet, to relax and switch off, that’s really important. Mainstream media have a way of scaring and stressing people, that’s what sells news. But sometimes you just have to switch off and do what makes you happy.
Also on health, look into preventative measures, rather than just dealing with symptoms, that’s the key. Get your sleep. I used to run on five, six hours sleep, now I’m getting my eight hours sleep and my body’s just loving it. Sleep is just as important as nutrition. Get some decent organic fruit and veggies and juices and smoothies in in your body. And in terms of animals, if you can, rescue animals rather than buying a dog or a cat from a shop, or a breeder. Go and have a look at your local shelter, there may be a pet that’s suitable for you for. It doesn’t have to be a cute little puppy. Giving another animal another chance at life is just so rewarding. Stop buying animals on Gumtree, because you are just creating demand for the animal breeders.
And become active! Active in groups where you can make a difference. You can also check with your local council to see what your local council is doing in terms of animal welfare. You can get involved in that way, if there’s a planning application, for example, for larger farms and things like that, you can always participate, you can object if you don’t agree. It’s really important for animal lovers not to just love animals, but you need to be active in some way as well to make a difference. Otherwise, if you just feel sorry, but don’t do anything, nothing will change.
So don’t neglect yourself. Don’t neglect animals.
Pretty much you know, it sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it?
Well, thank you so much for your time it was great to learn more about your business but also the story behind it and the values you uphold. Where can people find Sassy Organics?
There is our website and we are also active on Instagram, where we post our stories, also Facebook and Pinterest. You can also reach out by email, I love getting customer emails, where I can help with recommendations and I’m ready to answer questions anytime.
Fantastic, I’ll make sure to link all those in the show notes as well. Thank you so much again Aida, it’s been an absolute pleasure speaking with you today.
Thank you so much, Russell. I really appreciate it. ■
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This interview was lightly edited for clarity and brevity. A Modern Remedy may earn a commission from products or services listed on our site.