Greg and Sue O’Donoghue have dedicated their whole life to business. Their lifelong passion, Green Olive at Red Hill, a vineyard and sustainable farm on the Mornington Peninsula has taken up most of their attention over the past 17 years, but in 2015, they decided to try a new project and started their natural skincare company, Green Olive Body. We talk to Sue O’Donoghue about their latest endeavour.
“I’ve always been interested in looking after people, and while this has taken many different forms throughout my life, from nursing to promoting a healthy and sustainable food at our winery, it has eventuated in formulating products to heal various skin ailments.” Green Olive Body didn’t happen overnight, though. Sue explains that the road was “long and exhausting, with lots of trial and error, but ultimately, rewarding.”
“After I left school, I studied nursing and then worked as a nurse for several years in remote areas of Western Australia, in both Aboriginal and mining communities. During this time I was well aware of the harsh weather effects on our skin. I met Greg in 1989 and a few years later we traveled through Asia, the Middle East, Europe and South America building up life experience. These experiences were so influential that we ended up naming our animals after places we visited (Pisa the Maremma, and Rasa and Indi our Kelpies).
“A few years after returning to Melbourne and having children we decided to make a sea change and purchased a property on the Mornington Peninsula, what is now Green Olive at Red Hill - our life, love and home. We planted the olive grove and then decided to open a cafe in Sorrento. We are very busy people now but nothing will ever compare to how busy we were during those five years at our cafe in Sorento; we had two young kids and were trying to get a business up and started - two very time consuming endeavours!”
Pisa the Maremma (left), Sue and Greg O'Donoghue with their kids Sophie and Sam (middle), and the Green Olive at Red Hill property in 2018 (right).
Over seventeen years of cultivating our farm we’ve established a vineyard; built a farm kitchen and store; launched farm classes, tours and now, body products, including a range of body washes and lotions, olive oil soaps and our signature product, Olive Balm.
“I have used traditional skincare all my life and never thought that it would be negatively impacting my skin until I googled some of the ingredients in my moisturiser - I couldn’t believe it.” It is only recently that the effects of traditional beauty products have on our health, has been studied and the results are concerning. One study showed that in a group of 2,540 individuals, 97% of them had been exposed to phthalates. These phthalates, a group of toxins found in makeup, shampoo, nail polish and body lotions, have been linked to male genital birth defects, decreased sperm counts, and altered pregnancy outcomes in animal studies. “Greg and I realised the need for natural skincare products that didn’t put people’s health at risk and saw it as a great opportunity.”
Sue describes their decision to start their body product business as daring but inevitable. We had the core element of Green Olive Body on the farm the whole time, it just took realising that there was a market for clean beauty products to inspire us. This “core element” is cold pressed, extra virgin olive oil extracted from olives they grow in their olive grove to serve as table olives as well as olive oil in their restaurant. "We knew that olive oil hosted a number of health benefits when consumed and when we researched the effects it can have on the skin, everything fell into place.”
Green Olive Body’s products are all 100% natural and made with quality ingredients, some of them grown on the farm in Red Hill. “It was really important to us that we created products that actually worked, this meant growing or sourcing high quality ingredients and creating blends that targeted skin issues that many people face. Our skincare philosophy is an extension of our farm philosophy: use natural, farm-grown ingredients to create quality products that people love.” Sue and Greg worked with a local chemist in the Blue Mountains who helped them formulate their line of skincare products which launched in 2017. “Our hero product is the Olive Balm; it’s the product that we get the most positive feedback about and the product that’s shaking up the beauty industry the most.”
“The business model for the Olive Balm is actually quite interesting. Most skincare companies create lots of different products that target specific skin problems but the Olive Balm is an all-in-one product. We really thought about what to put in the balm and the eight ingredients that made the final cut are broad enough to help many different skin issues but with enough nutrients and beneficial properties that it would actually help those issues!” Some of the problems that the Olive Balm can help are eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis, burns, surgical wounds, bites, cuts, rashes, dryness, irritation, skin dullness and more. They have many testimonials of people who the Olive Balm has helped. “We’re really proud of our Olive Balm and we’re so glad that people love it as much as we do.”