Mollydooker Wines was established in 2005 by Sarah Marquis and her former husband, Sparky. The last 15 years have shown their wines, motto and core values shaking the wine industry and proving that wine isn’t just about what goes in the bottle, but the passion and drive of the team putting it together truly makes the difference. (Image source: Mollydooker Wines)
By Ashleigh Buck | @ashkbuck
Launched in 2005, Mollydooker is a family-run business. Receiving miracle after miracle to get to the position they are in today, the winery represents more than just the wine they produce.
Sole owner of Mollydooker, Sarah Marquis, winner of the Telstra Best Business Award in 2019, has always been a self-employed worker.
Growing up with parents who owned and worked in a winery, Sarah was given the opportunity to gain knowledge within winemaking and consultation through them at Fox Creek.
Through her years working in a profession she loved, Sarah knew she eventually wanted to branch out and create her own name in the wine industry.
“I have always worked for myself. It is in my DNA that I like to be in control of my destiny,” Sarah said.
“We were consulting wine making for years.
“We started our own brand, but that was with 50 per cent ownership with Marcus Phillips.
“Prior to 2005, that partnership fell through and we had the chance to open our own winery and brand.”
Going into a business where they had control over the details; packaging, marketing and the message. Sarah knew that she would be able to combine her love for making the wine with her visions as a business owner to create a product that provides its own personality.
Mollydooker differs from a vast range of winery and wines, not just in their attention to detail and quality but the personality and story behind every label. Each is unique within itself yet compliments the wine.
“Every label has a story to it,” Sarah said.
“Take today for example, it was quite funny actually, I was picking stone out for our house and the guy mentioned, “I think my neighbour works for you, she gave me a bottle of wine with the boxer on it.
“And that initial connection they make with our business is why we do what we do.
“I was going into wine shops all over the world, and every bottle was the same, bland and boring. We became the forerunners of the unique labels and giving the bottle a personality.
“I didn’t know I was creative in that area, I was just making wine and bringing up kids. So, I decided to search, and I found the most unique MASH design in Adelaide.
“I view myself as the creative director and I am supported by the illustrator and designer who help put my vision onto paper.
“I think it was looking at the market, nothing stood out, which inspired me to create a wine that made a name for itself.
“For example, the Boxer – our first vintage at Mollydooker – we knew it was going to be the knockout wine, so we wanted to give it a name that would represent that,” Sarah said.
“If you are a boxer, and you box with your left hand you are known as a Mollydooker. It is an old term of a boxer that leads with the left – it is a good name to use for your biggest seller.”
Within any business, coming up with a brand name that stands out from the rest whilst simultaneously reflecting your perspectives and wants for your brand is difficult.
Sarah originally tried a multitude of different names, all coming up short.
“I ended up sending out an email to the 15 staff we had at the time. I told them if they could come up with a brand name in the next three days, I would give them a case of wine,” Sarah said.
“Clearly the motivation of a case was a hit as the names came flooding in.
“At this stage, around half our staff were left-handed—coincidently—and one of them wrote: left hand, right brain.
“I liked it but thought calling it ‘left hander’ was boring. It wasn’t until my former father-in-law mentioned Mollydooker.
“I had never heard of it before, but once he went on to explain that Mollydooker was Australian slang for left hander, I loved it, it fit perfectly with our brand and who we are.”
Mollydooker’s mission statement understandably reflects their vision as a company, ensuring their consumers, buyers and trade partners genuinely enjoy the wine they purchase.
“We have systems and processes, we don’t take shortcuts,” Sarah said, “we go above and beyond to provide excellence and produce a bottle of wine that does make people go wow,
“I had the logo and motto put up on the wall in the barrel hall as a gift to Sparky, and it sits there reminding the workers of what our goal is.
“Every drop of wine is precious, every detail is important; take time, don’t rush, do it properly.”
Running Mollydooker through the COVID-19 pandemic was a challenge
Many businesses this year have struggled to stay afloat during COVID-19.
Sarah returned from a trip on March 17 this year and tested positive for COVID-19 ten days later. Her partner Richard also fell quite ill, which left them wondering how they would run the business.
Sarah’s son, Luke Marquis, commonly known as the Blue-Eyed-Boy, is a global sales manager for Mollydooker.
He explained how the winery made up for the loss of revenue from overseas exports through direct business trading with their customers.
“We did a COVID stay at home special for all of our supporters, club members, everything. And that was a huge uptick in sales. It was awesome,” he said.
“Mum sent out a beautiful email to all our mailing lists and club members saying, “Please don’t come in, stay home, we don’t want anyone to get sick.”
Luke said a 30 per cent discount off wines offered in April helped boost sales significantly.
“A lot of training took place at the cellar door for staff to develop what we wanted to do post COVID,” he said.
“We now have two types of tastings – developing a new premium tasting – and we switched to bookings only.
“It has been a big learning curve, but it has been good push for our business to head in the directions we wanted, going paperless, and going into bookings only has ensured a positive push in our business.”
Charity work and Transform Cambodia
A huge part of the Mollydooker brand is their love of giving back. As a business and individual, Sarah’s warm, gentle and giving nature allows for those in need to receive more than enough to assist in a better wellbeing.
“It has been a life-long mission for me to have a business that creates money so I can help others,” she said.
“It is a part of me, a part of my DNA and it is what my business is about.”
Half of Mollydookers profits and income go towards the charities and communities that need the extra support and donations.
In October, Sarah assisted in helping the community in Napa Valley who were suffering through wildfires. Donating half of the earnings from cellar door and online purchases was just one of the ways Mollydooker supported and helped those who needed it.
“I am giving away profit, but I don’t care,” Sarah said.
“I am making 50 per cent, and I will continue to do this every year, along with our charities, I will always try and help out other causes and those who need our support.”
During COVID many charities suffered from the lack of funds and the inability for donations, Luke explained the lengths to which his Mum, Sarah and the company went to ensure they still helped where they could.
“Mum loves giving back,” Luke said.
“It’s a testament to her and the incredible person she is running such a big business and still managing to give back.
“COVID is proof of that, most businesses will say that charity and supporting those in need is a part of their core values, but the moment things get tough, and money is tight, they stop.
“If you stop during those times, it isn’t one of your core values.
“During COVID the one thing mum did every day was check on her kids in Cambodia, we knew they weren’t testing over there and we wanted to make sure we were doing as much as we could to ensure they had food to eat and they were being taken care of.”
Sarah’s dream of giving back shines through her business and is represented by the message Mollydooker presides. As such a big business, most wouldn’t realise the amount that they give back and that everything they do, they do to help others.
As the sole owner, Sarah hopes to continue her journey to becoming an ambassador of the company and the spokesperson within Mollydooker whilst also striving to achieve her own personal missions.
“My focus is on developing projects and doing less day to day,” she said.
“I want to focus more on what motivates me and that is “making great wine, being creative and supporting others.”