Vegan eggs, haters and the power of Instagram: Matcha Maiden’s Sarah Holloway
Put together the consumer’s growing interest in health and wellness with the power of Instagram and you have a winning combination. That’s what Sarah Holloway found when she launched a matcha supply business, and more recently, a matcha-based vegan caf in St Kilda.
5 minutes with … Sarah Holloway, co-founder, Matcha Maiden
"The idea came when my partner Nic (Davidson) and I were travelling in the US with our business partners and we noticed an increasing amount of vegan eateries as well as matcha beverage venues. We also discovered the Blue Zones research into the five regions of the world where people live the longest. The main thing they have in common is a majority plant-based diet. So we thought, why not fuse those two concepts together into one venue? Everyone is all about health these days but the vegan message is sometimes overlooked because of the way it’s packaged. We wanted to take all the emotional heat out of it and just present the statistics based on longevity – who doesn’t want to live longer and eat delicious food?
We built a menu that we wanted to be as appealing to non-vegans as it is to vegans, and because of this, our dishes can be quite elaborate. Sourcing the produce isn’t hard at all since we’re cutting out both meat and dairy – in most cases this actually makes things cheaper. For us, the challenge is that we have built things into the menu, like our vegan egg, which take a lot of time and effort to prepare, so that has been a bit difficult to work around. Creating dishes that are still going to be satiating, delicious but also healthy for both vegan and non-vegan palates is challenging but one of the most exciting parts of the whole thing.
I’ve burnt out already a few times since we opened the caf and suddenly had two businesses on our plate. I think the toughest thing is stopping – it’s damn hard work but because you love it, you want to keep going. So pacing ourselves in a world that is constantly changing and where there are always new ideas you could be working on is really difficult.
Having “haters” has also been a little bit tough, personally. With Matcha Maiden, people have control over what recipe they create to suit their own preferences. At the Mylkbar, the meal comes already prepared and of course you can’t please everyone. Especially when the menu is so innovative and creative, it’s not going to be everyone’s piece of cake. So getting used to the fact you can’t please everyone is hard, but there are 10 times as many happy customers leaving which makes it all worth it.
Matcha Mylkbar's vegan eggs
We wouldn’t have a business without Instagram. It is such a valuable tool for enterprise and networking. Both businesses have been so strongly influenced by our social media strategy and it continues to be a major focus for us. Matcha Maiden was launched solely through Instagram and that continues to be our primary source of marketing. It has allowed us to build our community, connect with customers, collaborators and friends around the world. We got into Urban Outfitters stores across the USA solely off the back of our brand identity, which just shows how powerful it can be.
Matcha Mylkbar had 10,000 followers before it launched. We knew how powerful the Instagram hype would be. It’s spread our dishes around the world with several posts going viral and opens up your opportunities to expand. We’ve had people fly in from all over just to try the food, which is so surreal. And it allows us to provide information about opening hours, allergens, menu changes as well as to collect feedback and refine our processes accordingly.