Over the many stories I’ve recorded in this series, travel seems to be a common leaping ingredient – either as a way to escape the known and see life differently, or as way to tap into different tastes, textures and terrains.
Sarah Holloway and her partner Nik like to travel. And on those travels they experienced drinking matcha tea (ground organic green tea leaves) as part of a traditional tea ceremony in Japan. And then on the other side of the world, they saw it being used by healthfood outlets in Los Angeles. When they wanted to have it to use for themselves at home in Australia, the only they way they could purchase it was in bulk. So they took the plunge, made an order with the idea of selling off part of stock to like minds. Little did they anticipate how in solving their own problem, they created a new local market for an ancient superfood. And so Match Maiden was born as a side gig.
However it didn’t take long before Sarah felt the pull away from her career in law, and into the business full time. That leap then lead to Matcha Mylkbar, a plant based cafe in collaboration with an industry veteran. Now both Sarah and Nik have found themselves with two thriving businesses – you could say it’s a matcha made in heaven!
What did you want to be when you grew up and why?
I always wanted to be a ballerina and started dancing when I was three. I ended up dancing semi-professionally for many years, but decided not to go down the full-time path and instead finish my high school studies. That’s when my interest in law started to develop and I ended up pursuing a legal career path.
What did/do you study?
What has been your most scary/courageous leap you’ve ever made (preferably in your business/career/life direction)?
Leaving my job as a corporate lawyer to step into Matcha Maiden full-time.
What were you doing before you made your leap?
I was working very long hours as a mergers and acquisitions lawyer at an international commercial law firm.
Who have been the biggest 3 – 5 influences in your life, in terms of your career and doing work?
That is a very hard question – so many people have contributed to my journey in so many different ways.
The two main influences would have to be my mum and my partner (in life and business), Nic. Both of them are my sounding boards for everything in my life but they are also the two other Matcha Maiden musketeers. I couldn’t then narrow the rest of the long list down to three to five! I have so many mentors and role models, I feel very lucky to be surrounded by positive influences.
What did you have in place before you made the leap?
I stayed in my corporate job for six months after starting the business so we at least had some savings, proof of concept and experience before making the leap. I definitely encourage people to follow their hearts, but sometimes it’s okay not to make the jump straight away and just bide your time a little bit to set yourself up on strong foundations.
What was your defining ‘I can’t do this anymore’ moment that lead you to the leap?
I knew that law wasn’t a long-term thing for me, but it wasn’t that I couldn’t do it anymore. I always try to make the best of things and I was still constantly learning so I could have stayed a little longer even just for the security. But when I realised the business had become so busy that it couldn’t survive without a full-time employee, I knew I wasn’t ready to let Matcha Maiden go. I was too excited and passionate about it not to give it the chance to flourish. I don’t think anyone ever feels ‘ready’ to make the jump, but I just knew it had to be then or I’d regret it.
How did/do you overcome/work with the fear that comes with leaping? How do you decide to choose courage?
I think there’s a lot of mental dialogue that goes on when you’re preparing for a leap like that. There is SO much self-doubt – it’s a natural human tendency. You just have to really focus on what you want and how badly you want it. I could see how much Matcha Maiden was growing and how much joy it was bringing to us and our tribe. To think of letting it all go because I was too scared that it might actually continue to succeed? I couldn’t let myself be the reason it didn’t work. They always say doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will. I stuck that quote up everywhere to get me through the tough decision-making. I didn’t want my doubt to be the reason Matcha Maiden lost momentum. At least if we tried and failed, we knew it wasn’t due to our lack of commitment or effort.
I guess you just have to remind yourself that you have to risk it to get the biscuit! Nothing great ever came from staying in your comfort zone and sometimes you just have to push through the discomfort to earn the bigger rewards. You’ll never know if you don’t make that leap. And the worst that can happen is that you fail and you have to try again – it’s not the end of the world! You’ll most likely surprise yourself with how much you can achieve. The biggest shame of all would be if you didn’t give yourself the chance.
How did you fund your leap?
As I mentioned I stayed in my job for the first six months, which was a great source of capital. I am always so excited and supportive when someone is contemplating a leap but I do recommend not jumping too early or too recklessly, because there are some cold hard facts about business and needing funding is one of them! It all depends on your individual circumstances.
What other leaps have you made?
Too many to count! I love stepping out of my comfort zone, but none compare to the move from Matcha Maiden being a hobby to a full-time job. More recently, we also leaped into a hospitality venture – Matcha Mylkbar – which was a whole new world to us too! But we have two amazing business partners who have years of experience in the industry so they have made the transition much less scary than it otherwise would have been.
What leaps didn’t work out? What did you do about it?
I guess I don’t think of many things as not working out, because I always look at what I learnt and how I grew. The ones that didn’t work out are the ones I learnt the most from. I think you just have to look at what you can make out of a less than ideal situation and how you can improve yourself for next time.
What are you most fearful of? How do you deal with it?
I fear losing momentum. I love to keep moving, growing and improving so the idea of slowing down or getting complacent kind of scares me a little bit (which definitely doesn’t always work in my favour – I tend to jam pack my schedule a little bit too much because of it). I deal with it by always keeping an open mind to what else is out there, by having regular check ins with myself about where the business is at and where I am personally, and doing a lot of goal setting.
How would you rate your level of happiness about making your leap?
1 being sad, 10 being rad.
What’s the biggest upside to making the leap?
Going from dreaming up my life to now actually living my dreams. I still pinch myself every day. They say that if you find a job you love, you’ll never work a day in your life and none of it feels like work! It’s bizarre!
What’s the biggest downside to making the leap? And how do you get through it?
The huge responsibility of running your own business. There is a strange simplicity in being employed – you just turn up and do your job then you get paid for it. When you run the show, you have to keep yourself afloat and are responsible for EVERYTHING. It’s quite daunting to never be able to switch off!
What might be your next leap?
No idea! I love that I’ve gone from having a five year plan to not knowing what the next five hours may bring.
What are your favourite words to live by?
Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind. Dr. Seuss is a genius!
Who do you admire who also made the leap?
EVERYONE. The small business industry is very tight knit and there are so many who have gone before me who I admire and take inspiration from. In the ex-lawyer field in particular, Natalie from Greene Street Juice and Samantha Gash (ultra marathon runner) are both huge inspirations for me as well as dear friends. Alyce Tran from the Daily Edited is another ex-lawyer turned entrepreneur who I look up to and have had the pleasure of spending some time with. Outside of the law, the team at Frank Body (also lovely friends of ours) has been an endless source of inspiration and guidance. I could go on forever…
A piece of advice for someone with an itch to leap?
The longer you wait for the future, the shorter it will be. Just do it!
Right now I’m:
Hearing: Calvin Harris
Eating: Sweet potato (my favourite winter food)
Reading: Not as much as I wish I was!
Loving: My heat pack!
Sometimes building your courage muscle comes in tiny increments – like ordering a different kind of latte to entertain your curiosity and stay open to possibility. So this week, get uncomfortable and taste something new for the first time. You never know where it might lead you!
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The Leap Stories
Late November 2016 Release
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