Cosmetics queen sitting pretty as farmers get some skin in the game

Brisbane’s Molly Dunkle is building a skincare empire with niche Queensland farm produce at the heart of her expansion plans.

Feb 19, 2021, updated Feb 22, 2021
Brisbane skincare specialist Molly Dunkle is putting some unlikely Queensland farmers on the map. (Photo: Supplied).

Brisbane skincare specialist Molly Dunkle is putting some unlikely Queensland farmers on the map. (Photo: Supplied).

Rising cosmetics queen Dunkle says there have been two game-changing developments in the last 12 months that have delivered near 40 per cent growth in sales – COVID-19 and the decision to use more Queensland-grown ingredients in her products.

When the pandemic drove more shoppers into the online environment last year, Dunkle saw demand for her skincare range spike.

In 2021 she’s building on those gains – especially to an international market – by promoting the Queensland raw materials used to create her products.

It’s a strategy that’s putting places like Inglewood and Goondiwindi on the radar of a new clientele, soaking up the olive and jojoba oils from farms in the southern Queensland region, better known for its wheat, cotton, beef and wool.

Vanilla bean is another key ingredient, sourced from Russell and Mary Spanton in the state’s far north in Port Douglas.

Cosmetics make up a large proportion of the vanilla bean market, says Spanton, who will harvest just 100 kilograms of the crop annually.

Established 20 years ago, Spanton’s enterprise, Vanilla Australia, is regarded as the oldest producer and on-farm processor in the country, known for using no chemicals in the extraction process to produce vanilla essence.

Spanton’s vanilla beans, which take nine months to progress to harvest and then another 18 months curing before they can be sold, are also sought by distillers as a base ingredient of gin.

He says the CSIRO once deemed north Queensland as the best region in the world for growing vanilla, so he’s glad its reputation will be carried across the world as Dunkle’s customer base grows.

“It’s perfect here for growing vanilla and unlike a lot of countries that produce more than Australia, we don’t use slave labour,” he said.

“The Queensland product is better from both a production and ethical standpoint.”

Dunkle said working with local farmers had been an uplifting experience during an otherwise tough 2020.

“During a time of reflection, I explored the idea of sourcing raw materials from Australian farmers to further the connection from plant to product while supporting the agricultural industry,” she said.

“It feels good to share the harvest stories with my clients, to know they are directly supporting the farmers with every purchase.”

Originally from the US, Dunkle spent some of her childhood in Brisbane, before returning in 2012 to complete tertiary study and launch her business the following year.

Each product is handmade by Dunkle in her studio in Fortitude Valley, although at the time of writing she was in negotiations for a bigger site in Brisbane to accommodate the growth in her business.

She’s also on the hunt for a new, quintessentially Queensland raw ingredient that’s proving more difficult to source than she first imagined.

“I’d really like to get my hands on some locally produced mango seed oil,” she said.

“It just makes for the most beautiful moisturiser, but no one at the moment seems able to supply locally, so I’m looking to places like India, which isn’t ideal, as I’d rather keep my products Queensland based as much as possible.”

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