Self-described ‘lawyer turned funtrepreneur’, Sarah Holloway is an incredible business woman and lover of good food, health and travel – we can relate! Having built a massive business empire with her partner Nic in under a year (Matcha Maiden – supplying the highest quality Japanese green tea leaves to cafés all over the country!), she is a total #girlboss. She can’t live without avocado or sweet potato (us too!) and swears by a banana with almond butter as her go-to snack. Read on to find out more of Sarah’s Day on a Plate…
- Tell us a little bit about yourself – who you are and what you do.
I started out on a very different career path, as an M&A lawyer at an international commercial law firm (I know, can you even imagine? Seems like a lifetime ago). While I was still there, my partner and I started Matcha Maiden as a creative side project slash hobby when we couldn’t find a product for ourselves. We had discovered matcha in its traditional ceremonial context in Japan and then got hooked in the US and Hong Kong when we started seeing it used more creatively in smoothies, lattes and food. When we came home, we found no one had really made matcha accessible, affordable or appealing to the growing health food market despite its amazing health benefits (it has 137 x the antioxidants of regular green tea!) We couldn’t find a middle ground between the expensive ceremonial tea and the lower quality sweetened alternatives, so we decided to make it ourselves. 18 months later, Matcha Maiden is my full-time gig and we have warehouses in AUS and the US, 1000+ stockists around the world, a beautiful matcha family of 80,000+ people, and more recently, a physical matcha specialty venue called Matcha Mylkbar. A very dramatic but incredible lifestyle change!
- What was the ‘uh ha’ moment that inspired you to get in to health and wellbeing?
Like many of us in the health and wellness space, I found my passion for health and wellbeing when my own was compromised. I’ve had a few health crises in my life, which teach you never to take your health for granted and suddenly bring the importance of a healthy lifestyle very sharply into the spotlight. You suddenly want to dedicate everything you have to making other people take their health seriously and help them feel better on a day-to-day basis. I became a total health nut a few years ago and this ramped right up after I got quite ill after a field trip to Africa. I lost a huge amount of weight and was banned from coffee – if you’ve ever watched Suits, you’ll know that a lawyer without caffeine is NOT okay. And that’s where I discovered matcha – a much gentler caffeine source with a unique amino acid called L-theanine that ensures a slow release into the bloodstream and makes it far gentler on the body. I didn’t really think at the time that I would be able to make a new career out of health and wellbeing but the minute that became a possibility when we’d had a change to grow, I knew it was meant to be. It was about 6 months in when we got our first big USA contract and I knew this was it for me – I resigned the next day and haven’t looked back! I now know what they mean when they say if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life! I still pinch myself that this is what I get to do everyday.
- Talk us through a typical day in your life.
The beautiful thing about running your own business is that there is no such thing as a typical day. My corporate life was extremely structured, predictable and routine-based (which also has its benefits sometimes, but which mostly felt very restrictive for me). I LOVE mixing it up and using all the parts of my brain on different things, so I thrive in this more spontaneous and varied entrepreneurial environment. You never know what you’ll be doing each day because you just can’t predict what will happen in your business.
There are a few things that are more typical though i.e. breakfast! I LOVE going out for a big nourishing brekky to start the day well and we are spoilt in Melbourne with an amazing breakfast/brunch scene. So I usually start the day exploring a café and schedule meetings around that. I try to exercise before eating too, because if I leave it to the afternoon it usually gets bumped off the list. So I often wake up about 7am for a 7:30 class then head to breakfast about 9am. Breakfast is pretty predictable – I love eggs, greens and sides so there’s almost always some kind of egg + spinach/kale + mushrooms + roasted tomatoes + avo combo. Big days require big meals! And I’ll usually have a matcha on the side too – just as a plain tea. I like it straight up.
Anything after breakfast is a bit unpredictable, but ideally I’d spend a few hours powering through computer admin. I work from everywhere so sometimes this is at home, sometimes at another cafe, sometimes at Matcha Mylkbar (if I can get a table!) I’ll work through until lunch and then usually schedule a meeting over that time, often at Matcha Mylkbar as I like to check in each day. My favourite dishes are the baked sweet potato longevity bowl with avocado guacamole and added eggplant balls or the heirloom tomatoes with crispy kale and almond feta and an added vegan egg. I’ll usually have another matcha or another kind of tea (I adore tea). If I’m not at Mylkbar, lunch is usually a big salad with lots of vegies (I love roasted vegies) and some kind of protein, usually chicken at lunchtime.
The rest of the afternoon and evening is mostly just work, which is different depending on which business has more going on at the time. Nic and I both wear all the hats at Matcha Maiden so that could be anything from freight to fulfillment to PR to marketing to social media etc. Matcha Mylkbar then adds all the many things that a hospitality business owner is responsible for. I LOVE to snack in the afternoon to keep me going (it’s dangerous letting me near the pantry) and I’ll often grab something around 3/4pm like a bowl of Greek yoghurt with nuts and berries or something avocado related. I’ll then keep working through until dinner – Nic and I spend most of the day working separately but we usually come together for dinner. Sometimes, we’ll have events or speaking gigs in the evening (or increasingly “occasional” non work-related things – entrepreneur life looks very glamorous from the outside but the work is pretty relentless but you live, breathe and love it so much that it’s all worth it). If we’re home, we take a break for dinner and have some kind of stir-fry, salad or protein + veg. And then I have something sweet most nights like a bit of raw chocolate or some fruit. And of course we walk our beautiful Golden Retriever, Paul!
Written down this all sounds quite organized and civilized, but most days honestly pass by as a total jam-packed blur! Our businesses are both quite new so we’re flying by the seat of our pants a bit, but little bit by little we are becoming more structured and working harder at finding more balance. It’s all a work in progress, that’s what I always say! I wouldn’t change any of it though, it’s been the craziest but most wonderful adventure so far and I can’t wait for what comes next!
- Three foods you can’t live without?
- What’s your go-to snack for those days on the run?
Almond butter on a banana – SO good!
- … And any last words of advice or tips for those starting out on their health journey?
Be kind to yourself. They call it a “journey” for a reason – none of us are perfect and some days you’ll nail it but other days your health might take a back seat because life gets in the way. And that’s ok, it’s a constant learning process and you just get back on board the next day. Most of us are still trying to find the right balance and sometimes it’s a struggle but the mere fact you are consciously setting out on a health journey at all is amazing.