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…
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!
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.
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!
Almond butter on a banana – SO good!
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.
Hi Jessica, I believe in synchronicity so when I was guided to you .on FB I was intrigued and inspired. I turned 46 last week and my husband bought me your book. I wanted to thank you for sharing your wisdom in such a beautifully presented way. My copy is now filled with tabs and post it notes with actual notes throughout. I am dairy intolerant since having my gallbladder removed 15+ years ago, I don't eat meat, very minimal gluten and was told 12 months ago my gut was not digesting my food properly so I wasn't receiving sufficient nutrients and taking supplements would be a waste of time. My weight fluctuates tending to gain rather than lose but now I believe I have a tool to help me bring my body back into balance that I need for my health and longevity of life - so again thank you. The first few steps to creating a stronger path forward for my health has found its foundation in your beautiful book, The Healthy Life.
With kindest regards Samantha
I'm writing this email because I wanted to tell you how much I love your blog and how you really helped me in my health journey. Thank you for sharing all your advices and experiences.
When I started my studies, I was drinking lots of coffee and I was eaten the wrong foods, and feel bad about it, I wasn't at my best. So I had done some research on the net but at first I didn't found advices that are for me, and then I found your blog. It was exactly what I was looking for, good advices and healthy recipes. Now I'm following your advices on rest more, and snacks between meals and prep the meals and take time for myself to reconnect with my body and let go my anxiety, etc, and I have a more balanced life and have a new relationship with food thanks to you.
I bought your book and it's honestly the best book I have ever bought. I suffer from IBS and anxiety. I have paid so much money seeing naturopaths however after reading your book and all of your tips I'm noticing so much of a difference, so simple and easy to follow. And symptoms have dramatically decreased. Also you have helped me to relax. Currently drinking the protein health smoothie! Thankyou your amazing.
Hey Jessica! I haven’t yet brought ‘The Healthy Life’, but I do have the clean life and your slim down plan! I would like to thank you so much for the knowledge your share and the message you put across about health and wellness. I’m studying Nutritional Medicine in Melbourne and absolutely love the philosophy that you share with your JSHealth community. The work you’ve done to show people that leading a healthy lifestyle isn’t boring, tasteless, difficult or depriving is amazing and hope to share the message myself one day. You’ve inspired me to start my own blog , to share the message and have taught me so many things about my own health! You should be proud of your achievements! Thank you again
I searched for help and tips through the Internet and found Jessica Sepel. This is seriously not exaggerated, but she was the reason why I have dared myself to eat again, to have snacks in between, to nourish my body. I could slowly improve my negative thoughts about my body image and my stupid anxiety of gaining weight. Besides, The Cleanest Gut was awesome too! A huge thank you! Especially from my mum. Seriously, without you I wouldn’t be where I am now!
Congratulations on your new book! It looks absolutely gorgeous. I’ve been following you on Instagram for a few years and you’ve inspired me to slowly but surely eat healthier without giving myself a hard time when I don’t. It made me so happy (and weirdly proud) to see the Daily Mail article on The Healthy Life. I remember trying out your recipes before you even had your eBook out! I can’t wait to get my hands on the book. Keep up the great work.
Cooking in this way truly brought out the foodie in me and has instilled a huge passion for health and wellness! Life throws you hard and frustrating things sometimes but I truly believe that this is where we learn more about ourselves and what our passions in life are! Thank you for inspiring me on my journey to health and wellness!
I am a yoga teacher in Johannesburg and am thrilled to have bought your book today. I love making healthy, nutritious food for my family, friends and fellow yogis! Thank you for this book and your inspiration (had to share a pic of my book on my recipe stand in the kitchen).
I bought your beautiful book during the week and told my bestie to go out and buy it also! I love love love it. It is the book I would give to my younger self if I could (I am 41 years old). Everything is just so sensible and informative and is definitely a book all teenagers should have. This should be a text book for girls becoming teens. I will love going back and re-reading it many many times and can't wait to make more of the recipes. Thank you Jess - you are an incredibly inspiring woman and you should feel so proud
My fiancé bought your book and we have cooked some of your meals. Amazing! I love your outlook on a healthy lifestyle and your hints and tips with preparing tasty meals are fantastic. Thanks for reviving us to live a healthier lifestyle and get our bodies wedding ready.
I want to empower you to make good choices, every day. I want you to enhance your understanding of health and nutrition. I'm committed to making sure you live the best life. Because you deserve it. Are you ready to start feeling great?
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