A fusion of make-do and creativity

Samantha Fricker has been selling her Vintage Fusions products at markets around WA for the past two years, and through her website for the past 18 months
Samantha Fricker has been selling her Vintage Fusions products at markets around WA for the past two years, and through her website for the past 18 months

ANYONE who has ever lived in a country town knows that when it comes to shopping, things are very different compared with living in a metropolitan area.

Planning ahead becomes very important, as it's not always a quick or easy task to pick up a forgotten grocery item.

Opening hours can be more limited, as can stock selection, and sometimes items may need to be ordered in which can take a day or two.

For Samantha Fricker, moving from the coastal city of Mandurah to the Wheatbelt town of Beverley 10 years ago presented a steep learning curve.

While her husband Rob was born and raised in Narembeen and Jerdacuttup, Samantha grew up in Perth and had never experienced living away from the conveniences of city living.

By her own admission, the "little city chick had some adjusting to do".

"It was a case of, what do you mean there's no late night shopping," Ms Fricker said.

She loved her new lifestyle, having escaped the hustle and bustle of city life to relocate to a farm with their two children, son Jack and daughter Charlee.

But Ms Fricker soon found herself looking for do-it-yourself remedies because she forgot to add items to her shopping list.

"Living in the metropolitan area or major regional centres, you can just pop down to a shop and buy something when you need it," she said.

"In the country there's not necessarily as much choice, and shops aren't open all the time either, so you have to think outside the box."

Ms Fricker also had what she refers to as an epiphany when cleaning her shower one day using harsh chemicals.

"I was feeling dizzy, and I thought, what is this doing to my lung health?" she said.

"As much as I like having a clean shower, I thought there had to be better options."

Ever a creative person, Ms Fricker soon found herself making her own cleaning products, drawing inspiration from her grandmother Una, a resourceful woman who had lived through the Great Depression.

"I would often give Nan a call and ask her, what did you use to do to clean particular things or home remedies did you use?," Ms Fricker said.

"She passed away a couple of years ago, at the age of 92, but the ethics of people from that era were amazing- they always knew how to do things with minimal money and using a bit of elbow grease with things they'd find in the cupboard.

Vintage Fusions uses naturally derived ingredients, such as oil infused with calendula flowers.

Vintage Fusions uses naturally derived ingredients, such as oil infused with calendula flowers.

"It's amazing how easy it can be - there is all this advertising for cleaning products, when all you really need to clean a shower or kitchen bench is some vinegar and bicarbonate of soda."

Things soon progressed from Ms Fricker making cleaning products for her own use, to turning it into a hobby and making them to sell, before finally turning it into a small business.

And when deciding on a name for the business, she decided to acknowledge the inspiration she had gleaned from her grandmother, and called it Vintage Fusions.

More recently, Ms Fricker has decided to join the multi-billion dollar juggernaut that is the global skincare market, within which hundreds of brands are jostling for a slice of the consumer pie.

And while the trained beautician has a growing appreciation for just how big the industry is, she's happy to carve out a niche within the domestic market for the time being.

Working in her favour is a trend amongst consumers towards using naturally based and even hand-made, artisan products.

Ms Fricker said she started making skincare products because she felt like cleaning and skincare went hand-in-hand, and wanted to create a range that allowed people to take a holistic approach to both.

She soon began fielding requests from friends and family for products that could help to alleviate or complement particular skin conditions.

"There seemed to be a market there for locally-made skincare, so I decided to pursue it further and completed an advanced cosmetic science course, which really catapulted my formulating abilities to know how to cater for particular skin issues," she said.

"It's OK when you're doing it as a hobby, but you can only really reach a certain point with skincare before you need a bit more education.

"This has been invaluable as it opened up a whole new way of thinking and doing things, and I've created some very successful products from catering to one person's request."

Making the products also tapped into Ms Fricker's inherent creativity.

"I've always had an artistic streak, I love painting, doing arts and crafts - as long as I am creating I'm happy," she said.

"Formulating has been another artistic outlet for me, coming up with the right combinations to make products - it has a real creative feel through it."

Vintage Fusions has been built on a foundation of using naturally derived ingredients infused with scientifically proven actives.

Ms Fricker said she worked with other small businesses in Perth to source those ingredients, including activated charcoal, naturally derived products from olives, corn to produce the sugars such as xanthan gum, lots of fruit acids, and essential oils.

Her skincare range is extensive with more than 30 products, including a cream cleanser with activated charcoal beads, a face polisher, day and night creams, body polishers and hand creams, while the beard balm and hemp beard oil for men have also proven popular.

Ms Fricker's current biggest seller is her Wild Breeze oil blend concentrate, from her oil blends range, which is for use in diffusers and is made up of an invigorating blend of combination of lemongrass, tea tree, rosemary, lavender, citronella and myrtle essential oils.

She also hand makes bath bombs, shampoo and conditioner bars, while her cleaning product range includes a natural air freshener and all-purpose spray, and toilet fizzies to kill bacteria and deodorise toilet bowls.

Ms Fricker said the beauty of being a small producer was that she could adjust products as she went along, which was really exciting.

"I can do it at this level as I'm working in small batches, and I love having the flexibility that I can tweak things for the better," she said.

Ms Fricker has been selling her products for about two years, and online for around 18 months, shipping all over Australia.

She is currently doing a marketing course which she hopes will allow her to use her website more effectively to promote the business and get products out to more rural areas countrywide.

Ms Fricker will also continue visiting markets around the State to sell her products, which continues to provide her with inspiration for new products as customers seek her advice for curing ailments.

As well as trying to source more sustainable packaging, she is investigating the possibility of creating travel size products.

Ms Fricker said she had received great support both within the Beverley community, where her products are sold at the local visitor centre and beautician, and everywhere else she had travelled around WA.

"It's really nice when something you love doing is validated," she said.

Over the next few months she plans to visit the York Festival which runs over three weekends from September 28 to October 13; the Perth Hills Artisan Markets at Mundaring Christian College on October 20; and the Made on the Left Christmas market at Esplanade Park, Fremantle, on November 16-17.

Her products are also available via vintagefusions.com.au