Sarah Davidson (nee Holloway) is host of the epic podcast Seize the Yay and has had a range of very “celebrity” guests on the podcast.
In this episode, we tap into how to use well-known names to grow your brand and business, how to make those connections with them and act around them.
In this Episode:
01.52: Who is Sarah Davidson?
07.03: Sarah’s most profitable and enjoyable business
11.46: How Sarah got big names on the Seize the Yay Podcast and how you can do it too.
22.00: Advice for building a following on Instagram
29.10: Biggest business mistake
34.23: Biggest business success
38.14: The next big thing for Sarah Davidson
Sarah began her working life as a mergers and acquisitions lawyer at a leading international law firm. While she enjoyed several years building strong professional foundations, she found it increasingly challenging to reconcile the all-consuming corporate lifestyle with her personal passions for health, wellbeing, creativity and adventure. In pursuit of balance, Sarah and her partner started Matcha Maiden closing a gap they discovered in the health food market for matcha green tea powder. Matcha is now one of the world’s premier health food trends and Matcha Maiden is leading the way with a growing community of over 1500 stockists including Anthropologie across the USA, Australian and US warehouses, and a very bright (green) future.
Sarah has now hung up the suits and heels to step into the business full time. In 2016, the matcha mission developed into a physical venue and cutting edge cafe, Matcha Mylkbar, which is taking the food world by storm. Sarah now splits her time between the two businesses and is thoroughly enjoying life as a full time funtrepreneur. She has also started a podcast, Seize the Yay, which investigates the difference between success and happiness, the importance of cultivating “joy” and showcases the down to earth, human side of her diverse and esteemed guests.
Sarah Davidson (nee Holloway) is the co-founder of Matcha Maiden and the Matcha Mylkbar as well as being an influencer and the creator of the chart-topping podcast Seize the Yay. In this episode we talk about building connections with well-known people to grow your business. We chat about how she landed Gary Vee as a podcast guest, hanging out with Chris Hemsworth, and how to act around famous people, plus we talk about some of Sarah’s toughest business lessons.
You’re listening to the Clare Wood podcast, where we talk all things business, finance, marketing, and mindset for entrepreneurs, sharing practical tips, and actionable advice to help you take your business to the next level. Introducing your host: me! I’m Clare Wood, I’m a numbers geek, a travel lover, and a reality tv addict, and I’m here to empower you to create an extraordinary business and an amazing life, because I believe you don’t have to choose between the two. Now let’s dive right in to today’s episode.
I’m super excited to have today’s guest, Sarah Davidson. Welcome Sarah!
Thanks for having me!
Who is Sarah Davidson?
Can you share who you are and what you do?
I started out as a corporate merger and acquisitions lawyer, on a very traditional career path, when about 5 years ago my now husband, then partner and I accidently stumbled on a gap in the market for matcha powder. I had burnt myself out, had adrenal fatigue, and then found that matcha is a much healthier form of caffeine. In our own self search we stumbled across a business idea, so this happy accident drew me out of law and into the world of business. Lawyer turned fun-preneur. Being a lawyer was a bit draw and didn’t fully encompass my creative, excitable, brain-explosion side. I’m full time on Matcha Maiden, and a year in we started a plant based café, which is Chris Hemsworth’s favourite café in Australia, called Matcha Mylkbar.
I love how you skipped past that. Have you met him?
Absolutely! We spent 2 New Years a few years ago at his house in Byron and in San Diego. You’d like to think that you keep your cool in the face of Thor, but I did not. I couldn’t say words.
From there we went into hospitality and food and the wellness world, then I released with Nic as my business partner, we joined two brothers who are huge in hospitality, and gone from having an independent career to having business partners in everything but also into product and service based businesses that were narrow and weren’t allowing the other part of me of wanting to help other people have an ah-ha moment. I was increasingly getting opportunities to do speaking but I wasn’t publishing that stuff. So I started the podcast Seize the Yay and that forced me to think about the things I’d learnt over that transitional period of going from one life to another. It culminated in the philosophy of the podcast – Seize the day is very goal, metric and success orientated which is important but can distract us from whether we are actually enjoying it. So that is the third arm of what I do, the podcast, then that will lead to being a quote flip book and events. I’ve gone from a planned life to things being a lot more of a question mark but I love that.
If anyone does want to learn more, check out episode 1 of the Seize the Yay podcast. I love it! You share so much about your journey and what you’ve done.
You’re a very busy woman, I’d love to know what percentage of your income is derived from your activities and do you have a favourite business or place to spend your time?
Sarah’s most profitable and enjoyable business
Match Maiden was pretty much 100% for the last 4 years, maybe 90% because of a few speaking gigs, and having grown a following on Spoonful of Sarah.
Matcha Mlkybar is hospitality so it is a much more difficult industry to make money in. Rent in St Kilda plus staff, plus it’s only 38 seats so there is only so much you can take from that. The goal is not so much to make money but as an investment, but we haven’t made that move yet. It’s not a big part of the income, but a big part of our time.
Since starting the podcast, it was a completely none financial hobby and that’s a big part of the idea. And it is based on the idea that you need to have things that are fun and aren’t a financial metric. However, that slowly and unexpectedly has grown a significant audience and I’ve been able to build partnerships into it, and get sponsorships for some episodes. Those partnerships cross into speaking gigs and ongoing presenting, and writing articles as well. I’ve worked with 5-6 key companies and we’ve all been on the journey together for over a year. So now, since last year, the Seize the Yay and the Spoonful of Sarah brand has really grown, and Match Maiden has taken a back seat in terms of my role and not being so necessary. I’d say 60/40 now.
It’s incredible how quickly that transition has happened.
SARAH:It’s weird I haven’t thought of it as proportions as now. It just which is more needy, rather than the one that pays more or which one I want to do more. It’s like 3 children, and each need me a different stages more than the other, and at the same time.
I love Matcha, it will always be my first baby, but I think now I’ve found a way to be closer to the people interactions, that’s the bit I love the most.
Congratulations, it’s wonderful to watch your journey. I just did a podcast on pivoting and how you can change and be called in a different way.
Back on the podcast, Seize the Yay is a massive hit, and you really captured my attention when you had Gary Vee as a guest. How did that come about?
How Sarah got big names on the Seize the Yay Podcast and how you can do it too
I still think, did that happen!? One of my favourite quotes is the one from Maya Angelou “People will never remember what you said or what you did, but they will always remember how you made them feel.” And I have moved from an environment which makes you focus on the wording and forgetting about the feeling. Now I’m in a world where they only remember the feeling – whether it’s positive and uplifting or draining and a challenge. It came about firstly, I had interviewed Gary’s former Chief Strategy Officer, who is an amazing Aussie who had moved to the US to work with him. She’s been in big tech companies and had a great pedigree. She had a really positive experience on the podcast then a little while later, I had Justin Dry who is the founder of Vinomofo. We had a great time on the podcast as well when he was on, and a couple months later, he had been working on the Empathy Wines collection with Gary Vee. So through being wine nerds they had a close relationship. I mentioned to him that one of my dreams was to have Gary Vee on the podcast.
That’s the other thing I’ve learnt about big goals, like that, even if they seem impossible. Sometimes from the time you put the feelers out it can be years before something happens, but the longer you wait to start, the longer it’ll take to get there. It’s a matter of time and being in the right place at the right time. Don’t cut yourself out from it too early.
I had mentioned I was a big fan, then nothing for months. Hadn’t thought about it, wouldn’t have known how to contact him. Then, I saw he was coming to Australia and I thought is this the moment. He was coming for launch of the Vinomofo Empathy Wines collab, so I thought I’d call Justin and said I could do an episode with them and feature the launch, is there a chance you know who I could contact, not asking can you ask him for me, but can he point me in the right direction. And I didn’t ask at the time when there was no real opportunity and Gary wasn’t in the country. When it’s more tangible it’s a lot easier for someone to take action. So he put me onto his right-hand woman and gave me his testimonial which was incredible generous. And next thing is he said yes.
Again, it’s a combination of wanting it so much you’d do anything, and not pushing too hard, so when they wouldn’t reply not pester them, just trust that if it’s meant to happen it will. And don’t push too hard before it’s even possible.
You did an Instagram story with him and you looked totally like ‘yeah this Gary Vee’. That’s just how you roll.
I don’t think you know how you are going to be in that situation, but then in front of them and they are just a person and a you that has done really great things, but still probably feels a bit weird about it themselves, and they are talking to you like a normal person. You can’t be anything else. Inside I was exploding in all directions. He was so down-to-earth and that makes you feel so comfortable.
Have you now gone, who can I get now?
It’s become a weird thing, to start at the beginning and not have any pull, then people being so generous with their time and getting bigger and bigger people recognise it. As you grow it’s an easier pitch, because if you’ve had those people before, they know you aren’t just some celebrity news cycle reporter and others have had a good time and given testimonials.
As people like Gary Vee have said yes, I do think who else could I get on the podcast. So what’s happened is, I have been able to get amazing guests on the show but actually the best part is I have an audience that will listen no matter who or what, so I can showcase those with a low profile and tell their story. I’m so interested in humans and what they do and how different that is from other people. We can get in a bubble of similar people, and that can be why we don’t take big steps or create change in our life, because we don’t become exposed to what else is possible. I really value diversity. It makes me excited that listeners will trust me to tell stories even if it’s from people they haven’t heard about.
There are obviously other metrics of success than fame and fortune, so it’s really cool you can show that.
What advice would you have for anyone who wants to build their following on Instagram?
Advice for building a following on Instagram
SARAH:We have a lot of different pages, they all grew quite naturally, no one really had experience in Instagram and its growth metrics. Matcha Maiden was very early on and our personal profiles came later and by accident almost so we didn’t come into with a massive growth strategy.
What I have learnt it even if someone gives you a recipe for what helped them grow, you have to do what is sustainable for you. There is not point saying you’ll do XYZ if you hate it or doesn’t feel right, or if that means putting up crappy content just to fill that day/time. You have to enjoy it and maintain that frequency and not use all your photos in 10 days etc. People are in it for a long game, we live on this platform, and you need to hold up to that. What can I sustain is a big perspective that is important to me.
Matcha has a following of those who want educational content and they follow us for beautiful food photos and recipes and it’s centred around health and wellness.
On Spoonful of Sarah, if I post a picture of food, they are like why do I want to see that? You aren’t in it. It’s too different. Even across our own accounts.
So pay close attention to what works for you, what gets engagement and why people are following you in the first place. Consistency is a really important thing, whatever frequency they choose. Like a business brand, with your personal brand, stick to it, in regards to colours, what type of posts, long form or short form, what would you listeners hate, how much time they have to read the caption, you’ll find it out quickly by experimenting. And lastly, if you don’t enjoy it then your followers won’t enjoy it because it’s forced and you won’t be engaging. It won’t feel good it them.
For me I wanted to start showing the s**t bits too, not just the pictures in a nice dress and heels at an event. Sharing the ugly photos was a big shift for me. Tell people what you are doing and why. Communicate. Post regularly, aim for peak hour when people are in transit, don’t post on Friday nights because most people aren’t looking at their phones, but Sunday definitely because people are hungover and looking at their phones – there are a few uniform rules. If you are having fun and enjoying the content, and the people following you, then more people will follow.
It’s such a cringe word now but authenticity is huge.
Authenticity, for some people is showing the bloopers, but for others that’s not them. Their brand is beautiful preened and it is authentic to them to be dressed nicely etc. Just be authentic to what is easy for you, what your life looks like, and people aligned to that will stay.
Biggest business mistake
Reflecting on your business journey so far, what has been your biggest screw up?
I screw up daily but I think that’s all part it. Everything you learn, all the biggest lessons, there is always a screw up that got you there. That’s helped me cultivate a healthy attitude to failure – it’s a win or it’s a lesson. You don’t get anywhere by sitting on it, you learn the lesson, grow from it and move on, learn to be agile with it, that’s helped me become a more resilient business owner.
In the beginning I think my biggest mistake was over or under estimating what we needed. Lack of experience, no experience in forecasting, sometimes we would get self-doubt and then be stuck with not enough stock to give our customers or the opposite and think we could afford economies of scale and buying way too much and having to throw stock out. Most of the big screw ups were the financial under-committal, we’d cut our teeth on smaller batches so when it came to bigger ones we had more of an idea of what we needed.
One of the bigger ones though, was we hadn’t read our marine cargo insurance probably and we lost stock into the ocean on the ship over, and we weren’t covered, and we lost a huge amount of money which set us back for months and months.
There are too many to count, but the one thing I struggle with personally, is the inability to manage myself. You get so passionate and excited about getting your business the best it can be. Seeing the impact of your labour, there really is no rest then, if you are enjoying it. Still to this day, but to a much lesser extent, my time is spent overdoing it and then realising and recovering, it’s a vicious cycle. It frustrates me more than most mistakes. I have all the ingredients, I run a health and wellness business afterall and I just let mine slide in pursuit of making it better.
You are totally not alone in that! I think as entrepreneurs we hold such high expectations, and I think if you are doing well, imagine how much more you could achieve if you put in longer hours. We all have to take something out of that though, and we all have to look after ourselves through the journey.
Yes, and nothing is ever really worth anything if not sustainable. What’s the point of going hard if you can’t maintain it pass 3 months because of burnout. It’s wasn’t a success then. You are in it for the long run, not hit and crash. You want your business to be even and sustainable, and you have to manage yourself as part of that.
So what has been the single biggest thing you have done in terms of success?
Biggest business success
Boundaries. I’m not there yet, but learning where they are and ways to force me to listen to them. At the expense of things you really want to do or really care about, but you need to guard them more viscously. So Nic and I have been together for 10 years, and the first 5 were living very separate careers, and then to come together and work together, and survive that, most couples will know it’s hard enough to be two people and make a life together, let alone when you life and work is intertwined. We had no personal or relational boundaries when we started.
I’m not financially motivated, I notice them and their importance but they aren’t the way I measure if I’m doing well. Success for me is more based on how I feel. Having Miranda Kerr and Gary Vee on the podcast hits certain goals, but it’s more important for me to manage myself and enjoy the ride.
One of the big lessons is learning to say no to the things we don’t like. But the next step then, which is really hard, is learning to say no to the things you do want to do, because you can’t do it all. You have to say no to good stuff and bad stuff, put those boundaries in, and then get to enjoy the good stuff that I’ve said yes to, more. That has made me feel more successful. My success comes from internal feelings.
So my very last question is, what is next for you?
The next big thing for Sarah Davidson
I usually have a list of goals and a year planned out, but this is a weird year, I’m just staying really open minded and committing to being more fluid and not having a fixed goal post, and start looking towards having a family. We want to say yes to anything that might come up and not have a plan and just see what happens. I don’t know what the next few months looks like, but I kind of like that.
I do have a book coming out in August/September, so that will be a big milestone, and a lot of editing and figuring out details of the launch and cover in the meantime. Old me would have been like, ok that’s one thing, what else. New me is like, I think publishing a book for a year is a good to focus on and have one timeline, and the rest can fall in around that.
I can’t wait to see what’s next for you. If you want to find out more about Sarah’s businesses, see today’s shownotes.
Thanks so much for coming on Sarah!
Thanks so much for having me!
Thank you so much for joining me today, if you enjoyed this episode, please make sure you subscribe to receive future episodes, and I’d be so grateful for a review on apple podcast! If you’d like a copy of the show notes or any of the links mentioned today, please jump over to clarewood.com.au/podcast and remember that Clare is spelled CLARE, have a wonderful week and look forward to chatting to you again soon!