There’s nothing like a global pandemic to change life as we know it, eh? But while social distancing meant simply staying inside for many of us, small business owners were faced with a tremendous challenge: how to continue “business as usual” through highly unusual circumstances.
We chatted to Molly Dunkle, founder of Dunkle, about how she launched a whole new business to not only survive, but thrive!
As a business owner, what was the biggest challenge COVID-19 threw your way?
In mid-February this year I opened the first dunkle studio, a new home for small batch manufacturing and a ‘cellar-door’ for clients to personally experience the brand after selling the products primarily online for six years. To close the doors to the public only four weeks later was a huge challenge, a number of press shoots and speaking gigs were postponed and the momentum from the launch all suddenly paused. It took a few weeks for me to process the changes and reset my strategy.
What was your biggest learning through it all?
Ultimately dunkle has always celebrated simplicity and self-care. The biggest learning for me was to slow down and trust those instinctive ideas for the brand. I brainstormed with a business mentor, connected with local farmers, reformulated my products to feature Australian raw materials, phased out wholesale stockists, and started transitioning the business name from ‘dunkle authentic’ to simply ‘dunkle’. The ideas had all been simmering away for some time, I decided to trust myself fully and go for it.
What is one way your business got creative in order to survive (and hopefully thrive!) during COVID-19?
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. I reached out to local farmers and ordered harvest samples. The quality of the produce was incredible – I knew I needed to reformulate to feature these beautiful raw materials. I now know the farmers by first name who grow, harvest, and process the vanilla beans, olive oil, jojoba oil, and rose oil that go into my products.
How have the past few months changed your business strategy moving forward?
A major strategy pivot was the decision to phase out most wholesale stockists for the brand, opting to focus on building my direct client base. The move came out of the desire for simplicity and to ensure the natural products and testers were as fresh as possible for clients. It felt strange to turn down wholesale order requests during a time of uncertainty, however I wanted to strengthen the brand from the inside with the long-term vision in mind.
What does your new normal look like?
Luckily here in Queensland, I have been able to open the studio doors publicly again with new safety measures in place. As a dual-citizen with the US, it’s been tough to pause my regular visits to see family and friends. In my new normal, I am enjoying feel-good moments from manufacturing new formulas, connecting with clients, hand-writing thank you notes for online orders, and a healthy dose of FaceTiming with loved ones overseas.