Lawyer turned Funtrepreneur Sarah Holloway, is the co-founder of Matcha Maiden and Matcha Mylkbar. For the last few years, their green tea powder has been responsible for the mouth-watering green tea lattes (and food) flooding your instagram feed! We chatted to the go-getting, health and wellness guru about turning her side hustle into a full-time business in just six months!
Guest Interview by: Sarah Lindsay!
1. Hi Sarah! We are so excited to be chatting with you today. First things first, coffee or matcha?
Matcha every time! It’s been almost three years since my last cup of coffee and I haven’t looked back.
2. Have you always been a badass businesswoman in the health industry?
Not at all, I started off as a corporate mergers and acquisitions lawyer with no background or qualifications in business, food, retail or health. This incredible transition wasn’t even in my most distant dreams and rather fell upon us when we stumbled across a gap in the market that we wanted to fill for ourselves. It all started off as a side project (I wouldn’t have even called it a “side hustle” because it was literally just a creative experiment and a way to put that first 10kg minimum order of matcha to good use, since that’s a lot for two people to consume alone!) Six months later, I jumped in full time due to overwhelming and unexpected demand from all around the world (namely, Urban Outfitters in the USA), and love to use the whirlwind journey to reassure people that you can change your life completely at any time if you open your mind and step out of your comfort zone.
3. Making the switch from corporate lawyer to the original Matcha Maiden must have been a huge change. How did you make the decision to go out on your own?
My lifestyle couldn’t have undergone a more drastic transformation, it was a very overwhelming but incredibly exciting transition. It was of course quite scary at times, but in the end, it wasn’t as hard a decision to make as I had thought to begin with. Once I realised that the matcha mission fused my passion with my profession and united all my skills and interests (unlike law, which appealed so strongly to one side of me but left the creative side a little stifled), I knew it was something I would regret not pursuing even if only to see where it went. I reverted to my trusty “which option is a now-or-never-option” and while law would always be there as a back-up, the social media, globally accessible, e-commerce world where entrepreneurship is democratised might not last much longer. So, it really just made sense to pluck up the courage to take a risk knowing my future self would regret it if I left my fears and doubts overcome me. One of my favourite quotes is “doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will” and it remains my mantra!
4. As a super successful business babe, what has been your favourite “I made it” moment?
In that first year, it was the moment where Urban Outfitters confirmed our supply agreement because we were still packing the product ourselves in a friend’s commercial kitchen in a VERY ad hoc, unglamorous manner so it hadn’t quite dawned on us that our customers went beyond our friends and family. It’s also quite hard in the world of business to measure your progress objectively because there aren’t the same clear metrics are there are in an individual career within a company (like year markers, KPIs, performance reviews etc), so achievements along the way like making the finals of the Telstra Business and Business Women’s Awards were further, wonderful confirmations that, while we still think we’re “winging it”, maybe we have actually made it because real-life business people think we have. There was the time Karli Kloss was in Australia and wanted to try some Matcha Maiden so her team contacted us and I realised how far our reach had really grown just from a little idea scribbled on a serviette completely ignorant of what it might become. And our most recent would be being selected as one of the five companies in Australia in Chobani’s first domestic Food Incubator Program after two successful NYC cohorts – the founder, Hamdi, is the ultimate entrepreneur and success story and to be recognised as worthy by a company we admire so much was a real “pinch me” moment.
5. What are the best aspects of owning your own business?
Coming from quite a structured corporate working environment with lots of layers of hierarchy and bureaucracy, I think my favourite part of running my own business is being able to remain agile and make decisions on a whim then implement them without any procedural hold ups. It’s so exciting to realise there are literally no limits as to what you can do, other than your own self-limiting beliefs. It’s such an exciting environment in which to unleash your creativity and I can’t believe I ever operated in another way! Plus the people you get to meet and the stories you get to hear, it’s such a dynamic and diverse environment to get to work in and I am grateful every day for the way it has opened my world up.
6. And the worst?
Boundaries. There are none. You are your business and it never leaves you. My biggest and most interesting challenge has been going from waiting eagerly for the holidays to never wanting to take one because of having so many ideas to execute. There’s ALWAYS something more on the to do list and no one else you can delegate it to, because you’re the boss, you wear all the hats and the buck stops with you. It’s a huge responsibility – a blessing and burden at the same time. I’m still learning how to strike a sustainable balance and am alarmed how challenging it is because you just want to stay relevant and keep your community happy and keep innovating and thriving, but it can’t be at the expense of your own wellbeing. Plus working with your partner, as Nic and I do, makes it hard to separate our relationship with our working life but we’re getting there slowly!
7. For all the ladies that are thinking about taking the plunge and changing careers, what would be your three top tips?
Timing is everything – you don’t want to let an opportunity pass you by, but you also don’t want to leave too early before you’ve got proof of concept, some capital and a plan. Staying at the firm for six months before leaving was a great balance for me, because we all still need to pay the bills as well, so timing can be crucial and waiting isn’t always a bad thing.
If you’re doubting yourself, you’re completely normal but probably wrong – if your idea doesn’t take off, don’t let it be because you didn’t give it a chance to! We are naturally built to doubt ourselves and fear risk, and while that’s healthy to consider as a relevant factor in your decision, it shouldn’t dictate the final choice. Come back to that quote – doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will. What’s the worst that can happen? It doesn’t go that well, but you refine your idea for the next iteration. You either win or you learn, there is no failure.
You are the sum of the 5 people you spend the most time with – you can’t do anything without the right people around you who believe in your idea and give you the confidence to move onwards. Consult as widely as you can and tease out the people who can give advice, provide support, help marinate your ideas and just be there for the journey. They’re so important! No one did it alone!
8. Business aside, what are your favourite self-love practices that help you to feel your best?
I meditate twice daily, which I used to think was SO impossible and such a commitment of time but now I understand it as a necessary way to make the most of the rest of the day.
I get massages regularly and have stopped feeling guilty about it. They really help me relieve tension, get some distance from whatever is going on and restore perspective and a sense of wellbeing.
I also go out for breakfast most days, which I know sounds indulgent to some, but it is the best investment I could make in setting my day up right from the beginning. I don’t drink or indulge in much shopping, so I figure it’s just my way of splashing out on something little but with a huge impact. Work out what makes YOU feel good and own it!
Follow Sarah's journey at: @spoonful_of_sarah