Founder of Matcha Maiden & Matcha Mylkbar
Author of Spoonful of Sarah
About this episode [listen below]
Sarah shares how to create a business in the health and wellness space. A professional in social media, leveraging Instagram to build a community of loyal customers and a brand that's here to stay - even before she launched. Take a listen, as Sarah shares valuable insight about business, brand and building your professional network. Transcript below.
"It's very hard when you're doing something you love and no-one is telling you when to stop... You just don't stop and there always something more you can do."
- Sarah Holloway
"A brand begins to emerge and develop with every communication you have with your audience...
It has a louder voice and stronger identity than any product you may be selling.
- Kareena Mitsios
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GUESTS ON THIS EPISODE
Develop a brand. That's what Sarah Holloway did. This "Lawyer turned Funtrepreneur" is the Co-Founder of the delicious Matcha tea powder company, Matcha Maiden, Australia's first Matcha cafe, Matcha Mylkbar AND the author of her insightful and hilarious blog, Spoonful of Sarah.
I think what social media is great for is that it’s democratized influence. So, the fact that you don’t have experience, you don’t have a lot of cash or investors and you don’t have anything really to begin with, doesn’t stop you from reaching people not just in your target market but all over the world, really fast.
- Sarah Holloway
Kareena: [00:00] Hey that Loopers welcome to another episode of In The Loop. Today we have Sarah Holloway with us who you may know from her blog Spoonful of Sarah. She's also one of the co-founders of Matcha Maiden and Matcha Mylkbar. So, going to be chatting to her today about all things business, Instagram and personal branding. So, we're gonna get straight into it. I'm very excited to get into this interview by the way. You have so much knowledge in this space. So keen to share it with our listeners.
Sarah: [00:34] Thank you so Matcha for having me.
Kareena: [00:37] So just to start off with, for those that may not know about you yet, tell us, where did you get started?
Sarah: [00:43] Well I started on a pretty traditional career path. I did law at uni, law & arts, to get into a law firm and be a lawyer, which I did. And, I thought for quite a while that that's where I'd end up. But as soon as I got into the law firm I was in mergers and acquisitions. I was learning a lot about business and the markets and just how the world works and figuring out what full-time work even was. But my creative side wasn't really getting enough stimulation or time and there's not a lot of spare time when you working law firm hours either. So, I knew pretty early on that that wouldn't be my forever career but the business actually came about quite by accident. So, I’m a big believer that you could change your life at any time by a happy accident if you have an open mind. So, I was working at the big commercial firm for the first three years. But, in year one, my partner Nick and I went to Rwanda in Africa. It was an absolutely incredible experience. But I came home with a parasite from just being around and we were out in the countryside. I lost I think it was up to 15 kilos and gave myself adrenal fatigue in the process. Being a typical a-type crazy person, I went straight back to work and didn't take any time off. I ignored all the signs. Just wasn't in tune with my body at all. So, I had a big crash and burn at the end of that year and was banned from coffee. Which, as an M&A lawyer, is like the end of your life. Like how am I going to survive? I was like, okay, well that's the end of my productive human status. And then the universe I feel always has a way around things. So, that was the catalyst for finding an alternative healthier caffeination that gave me the boost of energy that I needed to get through long working days. But, that didn't kind of send me into the jitters or the crash that I would get when I had a full-blown coffee. So, I got sent to the firm's headquarters in Hong Kong and in Asia Matcha is not a new thing, it's been around for centuries. It's not a buzzword it's just a staple.
Kareena: [02:53] A way of life almost.
Sarah: [02:55] And so it was very easy to find, and I suddenly thought oh my gosh. There's a form of caffeination and I love green tea. But I didn't know that there was a stronger more concentrated format. So, it's basically just the leaves ground into a powder. So, instead of throwing them out in the teabag - which is so weird because we all try to eat our greens but then we throw out the green leaves of the tea - you grind it into a powder and then swallow the whole leaf that you've dissolved into the water. So, you get a hundred and thirty-seven times the antioxidants that regular green tea.
Kareena: [03:23] 137 times, that's crazy.
Sarah: [03:24] I know. But you also get just over half the caffeine of a cup of coffee. So, you still getting a solid dose of energy, but, it's got a unique amino acid in it called L-Theanine which makes it slow release into your bloodstream. So, if your caffeine sensitive or you're going through something like adrenal fatigue or chronic fatigue that really affects your energy levels, it's much gentler on the body. So, my partner Nick came over and he was starting to replace his pre and post workout coffee with Matcha so that his coffee count per day wasn't as extreme. And then we came home and couldn't find it. It just wasn't really available. The market was ripe for it, everyone was doing kale powders and spirulina, but they were so outlandish but Green Tea is so familiar. It was just so strange that there wasn't anyone really filling that gap. So, from our own selfish needs it started. We went on Google and we're like we really need to get some of this Matcha or I'm not going to be able to survive because I still couldn't drink coffee at the time. So, we looked for some for ourselves. We could only find it in bulk. We had 10 kilos and were like "oh that's a lot."
Kareena: [04:32] That is a lot. How many kilos could two people actually get through?
Sarah: [04:37] Well it's two grams a serving, it's very dense.
Kareena: [04:42] So, it could last you years.
Sarah: [04:42] So, 10kg didn't take up that much space but could last a very long time. So, we thought we should probably try and get rid of some of this. That's how the business started. It was just, let's sell a bag or two, to kind of help us deal with all this Matcha. And I thought I could put it on my LinkedIn that I'm an entrepreneur if I sold only one bag. So, that's all I really need to do.
Kareena: [05:06] So many of us dream of one day having our own business waiting for that day when we can leave our 9:00 to 5:00 job and venture out on our own, to be our own boss. But taking that plunge can be a bit scary. So, we asked Sarah if she shared this dream and her answer is not what you might think. Did you ever plan to go into having your own business? It was never something that you even dreamt of or wanted to do?
Sarah: [05:30] So, my partner Nick is a serial entrepreneur. He's had multiple businesses in different forms through different industries and he's very much that self-taught jack of all trades who can just do anything. He's never been as constrained by tradition and convention and the safety blanket as I have. So, I've seen the flexibility and creativity that he had in his life and been really inspired by that. I always thought that down the track there'd be a transition and that might suit my skill set. But, I hadn't set out and thought this is realistically possible now. It was very much, oh I don't know, there will be 12 hundred steps in between this and that and I would love to get there eventually. But, I never ever thought it would be before I'd really actually gotten into my first career that I was like, oh a business. I definitely didn't think that it would come from tea powder.
Kareena: [06:17] So, you never had set out to actually partake in the fitness, health and wellness industry. You just fell into it?
Sarah: [06:27] It was interesting that it was the things that I was most passionate about outside of work. I ended up being able to turn those into my profession.
Kareena: [06:38] That's great though that you can turn your passion into that.
Sarah: [06:39] It's so exciting. So, I'd always been inclined towards health and wellbeing and I was originally a ballerina. So, I had a lot of fitness background. Nick was an elite athlete. So, he had the same kind of interests but didn't ever think I could actually merge that into a career. Now I think it's quite a happy accident.
Kareena: [06:59] That's a great accident if you ask me. Now that you have [turned it into a career], what was the process for you to start these businesses given that you came out of M&A and didn't have any business experience in running your own at that point. How did you get it off the ground?
Sarah: [07:14] I think one of the biggest things looking back that was important at the time was that I didn't go into it thinking I need to end up as a business person with three businesses that turnover whatever. You have to make things achievable and realistic in your mind. And, I love quotes, so probably a lot of quotes will come out. One of them is: “if your dreams don’t scare you they’re not big enough. But at the same time if they’re too big and too scary they’ll be a deterrent to you actually starting.” So, I feel like, another quote that I love is "doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will." And a good amount of self-doubt is natural and healthy and will get you going and shows you that the idea is worthy. But, if it's too much, then it just stops you from actually believing you can do it.
Kareena: [07:59] Yeah you just retreat.
Sarah: [07:59] Yeah, so I think the most important thing we did was just break it down to what is the immediate next step that I need to do to get one step closer to actually selling a bag. And, let's make a realistic goal, one bag to a stranger. And not having any targets or business model or revenue plans or anything. It was just like, okay, well for that we need the tea, the bags, the stickers, we need to know what needs to go on the stickers and we need to find someone to put them on. We're packing it ourselves so what kind of kitchen do we need and what are the regulations. What's our name going to be, what's our logo going to be, what's our colour scheme and where are we gonna sell it. And that just made it very easy and all we had to focus on were those specific things. So, for one day I found a commercial kitchen. The next day my task was to find a printer that can print the labels.
Kareena: [08:48] So literally it was step-by-step.
Sarah: [08:51] Yeah, and I think you can't really expect yourself to jump any quicker than that because otherwise, you're putting so much pressure on yourself that it can all just seem too much. So, we broke it down and then it grew quicker than we expected but we grew into that. Rather than just thinking, oh my God, we've got to turn all 10 kilos into bags and sell them all.
Kareena: [09:12] Absolutely, realistic goals is your message there from what I'm gathering. That's great.
Kareena: [09:18] When you're just starting out resources can be pretty tight. Anything that you can get for free is always a perk which is why so many of us start down the social media path to help raise awareness of our businesses. Social media influencers like Sarah do just that. Not only do they use these channels to build the profile of their business but also their personal brands. So, Sarah shed some light on why and how she leveraged Instagram to build her brands.
Kareena: [09:42] When you started out, because you were a startup and you didn't have those big plans, I have read that one of your goals was to create a strategic plan around Instagram and pushing it out that way. So tell me why you chose Instagram as a means of getting your tea out?
Sarah: [09:58] The first reason was just that it was free.
Kareena: [10:02] Startup. Limited resources. I get that.
Sarah: [10:04] Yeah, lean start-up. It was at the time, I mean the algorithm now is a little bit more finicky, but at the time it was very organic. You could grow a really big audience that was very targeted very quickly. It was really efficient for an online store because we started just online. There were click-throughs that you didn't have any other means. There wasn't as much transparency of driving sales and driving traffic as there was on any other platform that we could think of. And also, I was sitting at a desk. I was a lawyer. I could be on online platforms and it was something I already loved. I was already loving the photography. I love food and I love photography and I used to be that person that takes photos of my photos all the time even before I had an actual reason. And, I still do it. But now I have an excuse.
Kareena: [10:53] Don't we all!
Sarah: [10:53] Yeah, and I thought, I actually really enjoy this anyway. So, building it around a launch of something and having an actual purpose rather than just my personal account, which is just food in bad lighting, was fun. You could see your traction growing. I think what social media is great for is it's democratized influence. So, the fact that you don't have experience, you don't have a lot of cash, you don't have investors and you don't have anything really to begin with, it doesn't stop you from reaching people not just in your target market or in your home market but all over the world really fast. And, they already have interests that you know they share. You can target them based on what they already enjoy. So there's clear food bloggers, wellness bloggers and health people that you can target and make sure that you're not getting as much of irrelevant audiences in the beginning when you're like, I can't afford to be targeting that many people anyway.
Kareena: [11:49] Did that form the basis for your strategy? You had a key groups or demographics that you were targeting?
Sarah: [11:54] Yes. And they were very defined at the time. It was very easy to pinpoint. You could just get on a tangent and go from one to the other and find 50 people that would be ideal to connect with almost straight away because they were already making smoothie bowls and they were already posting the kind of stuff that you wanted to eventually have involving your product. Yeah, and it's really open. There's no barriers and there's no need to contact this person through 10 managers and whatever. You just can directly contact them and reach out. Even now it's a little bit different that bloggers all have management and the whole landscape is changing quite a bit. But, at the time, it was just so easy. We made so many friends so fast. And, it was really low risk because we didn't have much capital.
Kareena: [12:42] You garnered 10,000 followers before you even launched your product which is an incredible statistic. When you think about it, you didn't have a product for people to take photos of at the time, yet, you had this community. So what did you do to foster that community before a launch?
Sarah: [12:57] Yeah, so the 10,000 followers was for the cafe Matcha Mylkbar. I think I was the one that said that wrong. When I go back and look at the Matcha Maiden page - the other day went all the way down the bottom - we used to do a celebration post for every thousand. So, it was like 1,000, 2,000 and 3,000 with like these terribly designed tiles. So, I was like no, that must be the other account that that happened with. Anyway, we started with a thousand. But still, starting anything before you've actually got your product is a pretty big deal.
Sarah: [13:30] And, it's just observing the trends. The thing about social media and it’s instant nature is that you can really observe what your audience wants and then can the stuff that’s not working. So, we looked at other pages that were really successful and what they were doing. They all had really clear aesthetics, colour scheme, voice and you could recognize their stuff. In a sea of all the Instagram photos that there are out there you could go that's whatever brand. We wanted to create that same thing. So, we worked really hard on making sure that our photos, our imagery and our brand voice would capture the people who are liking that in other places. And, then just really made an effort to spend time on it. I had a lot of time again behind a desk. I was a terrible employee at the end. But, made an effort to engage. Not just spam people but engage with the people that we wanted to build relationships with and pay attention to what was going on in their world. So, if they had a birthday, acknowledging it, and just being active. At the time if you were consistent and committed and on it quite a lot the results would come through quite quickly.
Kareena: [14:39] So, how do you feel that's evolved and changed now?
Sarah: [14:42] I think the way that things have worked out which is not very transparent. And, I think the algorithm actually changes quite a lot. So, even if you do get a master on it, it changes by the next day. The organic following that you could grow just from your momentum and if you had a formula that was working you could just keep growing. I think now things intervene so that your content doesn't get viewed by everyone. It's so manipulated the way that things get done. So, it's so much harder to just grow from good content and a good product. Which means that you can't just start a business off the ground and expect to get 10,000 followers that all see every post and then that click through to buy. So, it's just that the directness of that relationship has faded a little bit. But, I think it's still a really engaged platform where people do get most of their news about new things and where they do interact with brands more than they do on any other platform. So, it's still really valuable. It's just a bit different and a little bit slower.
Kareena: [15:42] That hasn't made you consider moving to another platform and trying to build a following there?
Sarah: [15:47] I think at the beginning everyone gets a little bit like "this algorithm, how do you that, I'm a loyal Instagram user." And you kind of get frustrated watching your growth for a particular time went like this and then it suddenly just like plateaued. You do feel like you're pouring all this effort into it still and not seeing necessarily any results or knowing that people aren't actually seeing your posts here. It gets frustrating and then you take a stand. Then you don't have a good relationship with it for a couple of days and don't look at it. But then you realize it's still valuable and that's shooting yourself in the foot because there are still things you can get from it. Which, in the cafe for example, that's how we deliver customer service and that's how we get even bad feedback, it's how we get constructive feedback, it's how we know what specials are going to do well, it's how we know how we deliver public holiday hours. It's still the main platform where people go to find out stuff about you. S, if you're just putting your foot down because it's less efficient well it's still free. So, it's like, what are you complaining about? And, the alternative, there's not another platform I think that does that same thing yet. So, it's not like you can jump to anything. You can have other platforms. Facebook is great for different reasons and so is YouTube. There's just so many options. But for the purpose that Instagram serves it's still serving that purpose - uniquely. You just got to deal with the changes but stay agile. So, make sure that you're not just going, oh well I can't do that, and just leaving it. Still stick to your strategies but just adapt them.
Kareena: [17:17] It's no secret that the rise of Instagram influencers demonstrates that people are interested in other people. The individuals behind the brands. Which begs the question: is a strong brand presence enough to create a successful business? Or is it important to show who you are too? Developing a personal brand alongside your business is becoming increasingly common. But considerations must be made in regards to how they intersect. One brand ultimately impacts the other. So how do you make them work together? Sarah shares how her personal profile, in her blog Spoonful of Sarah, works with her other businesses.
Kareena: [17:51] Tell us about Spoonful of Sarah, when did it get started?
Sarah: [17:53] So, it was literally just my personal page because the Matcha ones were very dedicated to a product and it was kind of inappropriate to just be putting dog photos and stuff up.
Kareena: [18:06] Things about your life?
Sarah: [18:07] I mean just stuff where customers would be like: "who even are you?" And so, it started as just literally my personal page. And then I think as the businesses grew and our profile as the owners of those businesses and the journey from corporate to business in such a short amount of time became known, that grew its own profile on the side. And, I didn't really do anything with it in the beginning, I was just like, oh, okay, cool. Still kept posting very similar values we live and breathe what Matcha Maiden and Matcha Mylkbar are all about. So, wellness, fitness, food and health. Just obviously in a more personal way. But then I've been doing a lot of speaking gigs and the audience kept growing and so now I have sort of turned it into my way to show the behind the scenes of running a business. But also show all the things that you can't really show on the business page. So, when shit hits the fan and I need to share that because it's hard. The business page is always going to be glossy. It has to be. And you can show behind the scenes of the packing and all of that stuff. But if shit's really going bad you can't. It's not on brand. It's not the purpose of that page.
Kareena: [19:21] Yet, you're still sharing it. You're still being transparent with everything that's happening.
Sarah: [19:24] Yeah. I think that's my way of being transparent which is keeping a personal page that has become a brand. It has values and I have rules about what I will and won't post. But there's also a point to which I'm like it has to be unadulterated. I can't make that glossy too. It can't go that way. It can't go a business even though it is a business. It sort of runs as its own business with speaking opportunities and content creation and all the other things that are coming out of being a lawyer turned funtrepreneur. But I love for every really posed photo that I put up, if I have to put up quite a posed photo, I always post my bloops which are like these ones in between. Or, I'll post like the camera roll of how many photos it took to get the right one. Yeah, I really try to keep relatable and I hate the word authentic just because everyone uses it too much now but there's no other word, I'd like to just keep it real. You know I actually have quite bad anxiety and I think social media really flares that sometimes. So, hiding that is something that makes it really difficult because you want to be the light. I want to be a good example for people and “seize the yay” is my life philosophy. So, finding your happiness and finding your joy.
Kareena: [20:45] Great philosophy!
Sarah: [20:46] Yeah, there's so much you can do. We have more control over our happiness than most people acknowledge and they don’t exercise it because they don’t know they have it. I'm really passionate about showing people that you can do that and shedding the self-doubt and understanding how the brain works to sort of tap into that. But part of it is also showing that the fallout of working too hard is it you feel shit or you burn out or you get anxiety or being on social media too much can give you like comparison anxiety or guilt about resting or you know there's so many other things that come out of it. If all of us people, who people are watching closely, aren't sharing, then we're not explaining what you need to expect or we're not actually sharing the reality of how it all works because there's always going to be backlash from anything that's high intensity. There's always something that you know a bodily reaction happens. So, that's what Spoonful is. It's just like, this is the full picture. I mean it's still obviously not the full picture. It's still the highlight reel but I try and put little bits of my gooberness in-between. So it's funny I swing from super serious, like, check out these new shoes it's having a launch. And then my stories are like *insert gooberness*. Well, you know, you just need it. Sorry, I'm just getting way too excited. That's the bit where I'm like this is the real me. I'm Matcha Maiden part of the time but also part of the time I'm in the fetal position with period pain.
Kareena: [22:22] The whole spectrum basically.
Sarah: [22:23] Yeah, it's just I might not post about that but I like reminding people that there are times that you don't post about. Not because you're hiding the reality of it but because who feels like taking your photo when you feel like that. What am I going to take a photo of?
Kareena: [22:40] So it gives that overview of everything.
Kareena: [22:44] A brand begins to emerge and develop with every communication you have with your audience. It highlights what you're passionate about, what you stand for and what you're aiming to achieve. As Sarah put it, it has its own set of values. So, care needs to be taken when building this aspect of your business. It has a louder voice and a stronger identity than any product you may be selling. If your goal is to have a long-standing career as a fitness, health or wellness influencer, you need to consider what actions will help you build that brand.
Kareena: [23:10] So, you speak about brand quite a bit in terms of Spoonful and Matcha Maiden. How big is developing a brand part of your consideration set when you're making decisions?
Sarah: [23:22] I think everything comes from a brand level. Every interaction that you’re having is from the brand level. It's not the product. We've focused very much on the product and the education about Matcha as a thing because we're introducing it to a market that it was really unfamiliar in. Then in Matcha Mylkbar it was very much the vegan eggs, the mission of the plant-based food and the Blue Zones. But the more that we've developed the more you realize that the businesses that survive different decades and survive the rapidly changing landscape of what's popular and what isn't, they're the ones that have loyalty at a brand level and the products almost irrelevant. Not irrelevant, it has to be obviously a good product. But you want to also be agile so that you can shift between products or you can swap if all the Matcha tea farms got a crop disease or something like that. You want to know that your loyalty is at the brand level and that's the bit that builds community. That's the bit that builds the feeling around the product. That's the bit that leaves people with an impression. And, I always say another quote, "people won't remember what you say or what you do they'll always remember how you make them feel." And that comes from the brand level. That's not from the content that you post individually. It's not from the products that you sell individually. It's from your brand identity. If you have a message, whether it's a product or a lifestyle or whatever, building a brand around it just makes it more powerful rather than it just coming from nothing coming, from nowhere, and not having clear values or a philosophy or a person who's behind it. It's very hard to actually get through to people. And we all have such short attention spans. Either you don't have the attention or if you've got it, you've got it for two seconds.
Kareena: [25:09] We're being bombarded by messages all the time. It's hard to take it all in.
Sarah: [25:14] Before Spoonful became a brand by itself, in that it sort of generated its own audience and then I sort of had a brand without realizing. But now I'm very conscious of what's on brand and what's not on brand. Because that’s how you have influence over people, being loyal to your brand.
Kareena: [25:34] I know you've done a lot of work especially with Matcha Mylkbar in approaching it, from a brand perspective, from a non-vegan perspective on a plant-based diet. Was that done on purpose?
Sarah: [25:46] Yes. So, none of the founders are strictly vegan. We all are increasingly plant-based. But don't put full labels on it and also just enjoy a very flexible open diet. But the big thing for us was we were travelling. So, it came about because one of our now business partners who I actually did law with, so a very long-term friendship. He lasted three weeks. He's a hospitality heavyweight. They've had multiple venues and flipped them and are just really well regarded in the industry. This is his jam, he and his brother, the Filippelli brothers [Mark & Attil]. Their cafe was actually our first Matcha Maiden stockist, right in St Kilda. So, a nice little circle. So, we were travelling in the States together and he was looking at the food and we were looking at the drinks because Matcha. So, we ended up on the L.A. cafe circuit just doing the rounds together. We noticed that the two big trends coming out of everywhere were Matcha drinking and plant-based eating and thought how can we unite. What's the common ground, other than just health, like what's the common ground. And that's how we discovered the Blue Zones Research which is the five areas of the world where people live longer than anywhere else. Tiny geographical areas that just unusually have this crazy longevity and there's been all these studies into what they have in common that make them live so much longer. One of the main things is plant-based eating. And, the Blue Zone with the most 100-year-olds is Okinawa in Japan where they drink lots of Matcha. And so we sort of thought we're big into the health and food and wellness industry and we've never seen these statistics before. Why has it taken us that long to discover it. And the big barrier has been the packaging of the information because it often comes from the more radical end of the vegan spectrum because they are so passionate about how dramatic the statistics are about the sustainability of food sources on the planet but also sustainability of your body. It lasts a lot longer if you give it majority of plant-based food. We were like, oh my god, no one is putting this vital important information in front of the mainstream in a way that they can digest it.
Kareena: [28:00] It's true!
Kareena: [28:00] And of all people I'm like I'm a health nut. I know a lot about plant-based food. I have a lot of vegan friends but I don't listen to them because I have bloody animals on my Facebook feed and I just don't see the writing underneath it. There's nothing wrong with it but it's just not really approachable.
Kareena: [28:18] They're using shock and awe tactics as opposed to something that is approachable and digestible.
Sarah: [28:22] Yeah, a lot of people just tune out. So we thought there has to be a way because it converted us into dramatically cutting our meat consumption and changing our own provenance of what we eat. Mark's Italian also he's like well this is going to be challenging. Both of Nick and my family came from the country. So, we eat meat and three veg by default. For no reason, just because it's like, that's what a meal is. We thought we need to make people more conscious even if it's just one meal a week. That's more change than opening a vegan restaurant for vegans because they're already vegan so that doesn't actually help ongoing changes.
Sarah: [29:00] So the idea of Matcha Mylkbar was a plant-based venue that you could almost go into and not realise until you have eaten and left that you've eaten vegan. So, it's tricking mainstream people into an experience that's really good for them. And, into converting them and opening their mind without them knowing when they first go in, so they don't have all these expectations or this idea that it's going to taste like cardboard.
Kareena: [29:26] Sarah and her business partners have a shared vision for their brands. They want to impact cultural change as a means of improving the lives of each of their loyal customers. Their gentle approach to sales is more about education and empowerment and much of their success can be attributed to their understanding of how to communicate with their audience in a way that actually have their message heard.
Kareena: [29:44] So, beyond just approaching people that would have had an interest in health and wellness but maybe not been aware of these facts. Are you trying to achieve a cultural shift towards healthier eating practices for people overall?
Sarah: [30:00] Absolutely. Yeah. And I think the fact that it come it's coming from people who aren't taking bright line rule approaches to their eating it almost makes it more impactful. Because if it's coming from people who are like the picture of health and they're 100% vegan everything sustainable. It's amazing and it's empowering that they've done that with their lives. But it also doesn't have that overlay of like what's realistic on a day-to-day basis. For some people who have kids or who have families where it's very difficult to of be 100 percent vegan. We want to make those small lifestyle changes a once or twice a week thing that overall creates a huge amount of change. Then culturally that changes the approach to that kind of eating as well. It's not, it's an over there thing. It's an incorporation into my week that's not a full-time thing.
Kareena: [30:49] Was that one of your goals when you set to create these businesses?
Sarah: [30:51] Yeah, absolutely. It was a lead by example and educate incidentally. So, not to ever be an activist or pushing things on people but allow them an experience that opens their eyes by accident. I think the forced approach isn't sustainable. And, I'm also which, I realized this the other day, terrible at sales. It's really actually amazing that no one in our business does sales. We don't like that role. We've finally, three years in, actually mapped out who's doing what and what roles are missing. And, sales is the biggest thing. But no one sits and does sales because we're all like ewah.
Kareena: [31:38] Which is incredible considering the success that you've had.
Sarah: [31:40] But I think it's funny that you don't necessarily need, not that you should focus on it, but you don't necessarily need that if you focus strongly enough on the messaging and the benefits of the product. That kind of happens. And we have reached the stage where we probably need to fill that gap. But I think you know what you enjoy and what you don't and I don't like cold calling and doing all those kind of things. So, that gentler approach, this is our offering, you can come if you like. Getting it in front of people. Exposure is the big thing. But then let them make their own decisions about what they feel about it.
Sarah: [32:12] And then with Matcha Maiden the powder itself isn't as approachable as we wanted it to be. So, we're like, we need a gateway drug. What's the gateway drug going to be? So, we did a collaboration on a raw vegan Matcha chocolate with Loving Earth because that's a gateway drug. It's an easy way for people who aren't familiar with it to get an idea of the flavour, the colour, what it is and make it more palatable. That's the same with vegan. We've made it Instagramable. We've made vegan eggs, so you almost can't tell visually or taste right or texture wise.
Kareena: [32:43] You can't at all, it looks incredible.
Sarah: [32:45] Yeah, it's all about making something familiar that's not familiar so that the scariness or the foreignness of it fades away. That's engendering change from the inside without being like, change, because this. And I think it's all based around our own research of a study group of three people that we don't respond as well to that kind of education for ourselves. So, we were like, how can we address people like us who need a different approach to trying something new.
Kareena: [33:19] Being a successful entrepreneur is as much a journey of self-discovery as it is building upon the skills required to run a business. A solid understanding of strengths and weaknesses is required to help overcome new challenges. So, Sarah tells us how she deals with situations she's never encountered before and the importance of surrounding yourself with the right people to help get you through.
Kareena: [33:39] It's interesting that your whole approach to business is literally being authentic to you. You work with your strengths. All of you do. So, what do you do when you come across challenges or things that you haven't encountered before that probably isn't in your skill set?
Sarah: [33:53] It's really hard to make a call sometimes whether it's worth you learning and upskilling or whether that's going to take so long that you might as well just hire someone to do it for you. And I think it's just about knowing and being in tune with yourself. So, I find that there's a lot of things I'm not good at but some of them I actually want to learn. Some of them I'm like I actually really don't enjoy that task so there's no point me learning. I think that with social media. So many people are like "I need social media in my business, but I hate using it." Well, you can't be the person then because it shows. It shows if you're not passionate about what you're doing. So, if there's an area that I know I'm not very good at which, an example, would be the figures. I just don't engage with the numbers which is terrible because that's the first thing you should do as a business person. I'm so about the other measures of our success and achievement that I don't spend enough time. And it just feels urgh to me. That's one area where I can't just delegate that to someone else. I need to understand that. So, I've gone and found mentors or people who are really skilled in that or that I know are good at it to sit down with me and help me work around to learn, how to read things and little tricks and tips that make it easier and more interesting. Whereas there are other things, like packing, you know at the start I was like I love this. This is manual labour. It's really fun. It's mindless. But we couldn't keep up with the demand. So, there's a point where you have to get someone else in to do that. And there's also a point with coding, for example,e I actually really like learning about coding. And Nick, obviously Nick, is amazing at coding. Yet, but even both of us there's so many things that we would love to do even more advanced. He wants to go next level with the coding but he's like it'll take me 20 hours. We don't have 20 hours. And we can get someone to do that for a hundred bucks or whatever it is.
Kareena: [35:47] Yeah, that's 20 hours off his plate.
Sarah: [35:47] Yeah, it's all a balance of what you want, what you want for the business, what you want for yourself and what you want to end up with at the end. Then weighing that all up.
Kareena: [35:58] So, in sourcing your mentors for those times when you want that insight and input, how do you go about building your professional network and any tips and tricks you have around that?
Sarah: [36:07] That's a really interesting one because I actually started networking at uni. I knew at the time I was like most of these people aren't relevant to me and I can't foresee them being relevant in the next five years. But, I don't know why, I just sort of knew that I wouldn't end up being just a lawyer and that eventually, I would want to know what other people are doing. So, I started going to The League of Extraordinary Women and all of that stuff before I'd even had a job. And then have just continued to always network within what's relevant and a little bit outside that as well knowing that relationships are going to be the most important thing. I think people often come thinking that you will ask someone to be a mentor and they'll say yes and then you'll just have this mentor relationship. You don't just allocate someone like that. Ideally, we all want one but it doesn't happen like that pairing off. Unlike in law where your hierarchy of who you ask next is really clear. In business, you don't have anyone really that is the logical next step. So, you build that yourself through building a really wide network and casting a really wide net through events. You have to be proactive because you don’t have the office where you’re bumping into people all the time. Just get to know them. Invest in knowing their skills, what they're good at, what they're not good at and then by the time you actually need something it's really clear. I know that person is good at this or I know they know someone who helped them with this. So almost everyone, our bookkeeper, our accountant, we've had a financial adviser, we've had no label designer, and everything has come from someone else recommending someone. It's such a good small word of mouth community as well. People are really sharing of their contacts. And, that benefits them because they've done a referral and you know it's just once you put an effort into networking it becomes a lot more natural.
Kareena: [37:57] That's interesting because they say women have a lot of trouble asking at a certain point. So, in the networking, how have you overcome that and felt comfortable asking for something when you needed it?
Sarah: [38:06] Yeah, it's hard. And women also tend to feel like they're going to be a burden or like we're a bit more conservative with that kind of thing. But it was actually a quote that helped me which was "it's a no, unless you ask." And if you don't ask, it's definitely a no. So, what have you got to lose. The worst they can do is say "oh, actually I can't do that." It doesn't hurt you. No one needs to know about it. And I've also found that once I started testing that I was just like, look, I'm just going to ask, screw it, people say yes. All the time. It's just about finding the right kind of wording that makes you comfortable with asking and not being abrupt or demanding about it and just finding something that you can feel okay with.
Sarah: [38:48] It gets you to the point where you also know that you're going to be able to give back to them something at some stage. And the other thing that also really helps is, when you do ask, offer something back. Say, I would really love half an hour of your time if you can give it. I know you're really busy, but I'd be happy to have you in for a meal at Mylkbar any time you want. Host a team meeting at the cafe. Offer something. That makes you feel better because you're trying to be reciprocal. And that makes them feel better because they don't feel like you're taking them for a ride. Yeah, it's just strategies about what makes feel comfortable.
Sarah: [39:20] I literally took it so far to the point one day where I was like I really just want to write this article for The Huffington Post. I don't know. I'd read Thrive. Arianna said in the book just e-mail me. I know people say ahhh, but she's like, if you ever question, e-mail me. So, I emailed her. And she was like "Cool, love that article." I've got the e-mail. She wrote back from her personal e-mail address and it was published the next day. I was like, if I didn't ask, it's a no.
Kareena: [39:51] There you go, that's an amazing example.
Sarah: [39:51] Now I can frame an e-mail from her e-mail saying, "Hi Sarah" and be like "Oh, Arianna!"
Kareena: [39:54] I would totally do that too!
Sarah: [39:55] I would have always thought that she would say no or just ignore me. And also, what's the worst that happens if she ignores me? Nothing happens. Actually, there is no effect in the universe anywhere except that I spent five minutes writing an e-mail. Big Deal. I think fear is just such a big thing. We're so scared of stuff that will happen, which, when you actually think about what would happen, it's like, what is so scary about no reply? Nothing. It's actually nothing. They're not going to hit you, they're not going to slander you in the news. Nothing is going to happen. I think the whole business journey has been a big exercise in just getting over myself. You really think that things are a bigger deal than they are.
Kareena: [40:46] If you've been hesitating about taking that leap and starting your own venture. It's time to listen to these inspirational words from Sarah. What would you say was the biggest lesson in going into this journey?
Sarah: [40:55] Oh god, there's so many. So, "Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will" is my biggest thing because I was so close to canning the idea altogether because I actually talked myself into thinking it was the worst idea in the world. That and I never would have known I would still be a lawyer. It's just crazy how much our bodies go into self-protection mode. You just have to get over it to give yourself a chance to show what you can do. And you can't show what you can do, and you can't prove. People say "I don't know if I could." It's like, well, have you actually tried? Until you try, you don't know. So, I think it's definitely just quelling the self-doubt and acknowledging it as like a natural human thing and moving past it. The other biggest challenge would be pacing yourself. The hardest thing in leaving a corporate job is that, that gives you structure. It's very logical that when you're in the office you're working and when you're not in the office, well in law you do take your work home, but it's when you're on annual leave, you're on leave. When it's a sick day, it's a sick day. It's very hard when you're doing something you love and no one's telling you when to stop or what to do and it doesn't feel like work in the beginning. You just don't stop. There's always something else you can do. Always. You can always contact an influencer, you can do a newsletter or you can bring out a new product. There's no end to the list ever. So, just understanding that the rolling to do list has to have break points where you breathe and do life. Because, you get to the point, at the end of the second year, I wasn't enjoying it anymore and I was like I might as well just be in law and get annual leave.
Kareena: [42:36] Then not have all that other stress where you're constantly thinking about it.
Sarah: [42:36] Yeah, cause you're killing yourself over something that you're doing for the joy. We all say I turned my passion into my profession and then you just hate it because you’re your own boss and then you treat yourself like a terrible person. So, it's just getting that relationship with yourself right, with your boundaries, with what you want and not letting the hustle get in the way of what your original purpose in the whole thing was. We all move into business and think it's wonderful that we get all this flexibility, but no one uses it. We're like, I can work from anywhere and then next minute in Melbourne for five years straight not moving.
Kareena: [43:11] It's one of the biggest misconceptions that people think going into it. To escape the rigidity of a 9 - 5 to get more flexibility and then you just don't.
Sarah: [43:18] And you can. It's just that we don't because we get so bogged down, and "I couldn't do that." And, it's like, well no one actually is stopping you this time. There is actually no human saying you can't do that.
Kareena: [43:29] Yes, absolutely. Well, thank you so much for joining us on the couch today.
Sarah: [43:33] Thank you for having me!
Kareena: [43:36] We do have one last thing we'd like you to sign off with. I know you're a big fan of your quote of the day. So, is there a quote you'd like to share with our Loopers today?
Sarah: [43:47] Oh my gosh, I don’t have one for today. I haven't chosen todays yet. Give me a second...
Kareena: [43:58] It can be an oldie. A favourite.
Sarah: [44:01] This is a Dr. Seuss one.
Kareena: [44:02] Oh, I love Dr. Seuss.
Sarah: [44:04] "Be who you are and say what you feel because the people who mind don't matter and the people who matter don't mind.".
Kareena: [44:11] That's perfect.
Sarah: [44:11] You do you. You do you.
Kareena: [44:12] You do you. That's my favourite saying!
Kareena: [44:14] Beautiful. Again, thank you for joining us.
Sarah: [44:19] Thank you for having me.
Kareena: [44:19] We were very excited to have you here. And that brings us to the end of this interview. So, if you'd like this episode of In The Loop, make sure you subscribe to our podcast, so you can get new episodes every week and feel free to leave us some feedback. We always love to see ratings and comments from our listeners. So, if you want to hear more from us about the business end of being an influencer. Just tune in next week and we'll catch you then.