TVM celebrates 11 years in business this coming Sunday 6th October and to mark the occasion, our lovely Intern Gemma has interviewed founders, Sarah Schoeller and Marissa Bowden.
For those of you who often visit the vibrant lanes of Burleigh or Stones Corner on a sunny Sunday morning, we would love for you to get to know the brains behind your favourite market and creative community, The Village Markets, founders & creators, Sarah Schoeller & Marissa Bowden.
Tell us about the inspiration behind The Village Markets? What made you pursue your creative dreams?
Marissa: Sarah and I were both working full-time as marketing professionals (this is how we met) and were always travelling and loved events such as the Portobello Road markets and flea markets in Sydney that showcased local creative businesses while also bringing the community together and adding cultural flair to the region.
Eleven years ago there was no regular creative event on the Gold Coast and many locals were moving interstate to pursue their creative passions in larger cities, so we wanted to create a platform to ensure they could remain on the Gold Coast, whilst creating a much needed entrepreneurial culture for the Coast and an event that would change the perception of the Gold Coast - it was about so much more than Surfers Paradise and theme parks.
We worked our corporate jobs full-time and TVM of an evening and on weekends, for a few years before deciding to quit our jobs and focus on TVM.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Marissa: Mum-life means weekdays include busy early mornings and mundane things such as uniforms and lunchboxes, the school run (we try to ride our bikes to school along the beach for a sweet start to the day!) and then either working from a co-working space on all things TVM, or working from home. I’ll add some yoga or meditation to this, when I can. Then, it's school pick-up, some kind of after school activity or we hit the beach for a surf (summer can’t come soon enough!) or a play down at our local beach with the neighbours. Work tasks for me include but are not limited to event prep such as blog posts, processing applications, emails, the live music schedule, PR, the event plan and newsletters. Market day is a different beast of course, we're both generally there all hands on deck.
Sarah: Awake around 6ish before my three children, a quick meditation before they wake then the morning is usually making toast or oats for breakfast, a coffee, getting dressed, walking the dogs and out the door for kindy. I drop off my two girls and then head home to work in between the naps of my youngest. I would normally then check emails, schedule socials and newsletters and get up to speed on anything else we’ve got on. Squeeze in another meditation session and before you know it, it’s time to pick the girls up. The afternoons are spent in our yard on the tramp before dinner. On non-kindy days we hang at home and play or head to the creek.
Explain the rundown of the markets from bump-in to bump out?
Sarah:: Each event is different, but our day starts early around 6am with set up prior to the stall holders arriving. This includes marking out the site, setting up tents and equipment, signage and theming.
Then the stall holders begin arriving and its go time! We greet each vendor on arrival and then it’s pretty fast paced during set up. Once everyone's ready to go, managing the event includes troubleshooting, socials, photographing, greeting musos, enquiries and everything in between (including cleaning and bins!).
Pack down starts at 1PM then it's time to do a site clean and the toilets (the glamorous side of running an event). The day flies and we rarely sit down but its our chance to connect with our community IRL so we make the most of it.
When people are starting a business what aspect is most important and what advice can you give them?
Marissa: We have learnt so much about this since starting our business 11 years ago! This is what prompted us to create our eBook a few years ago, How To Launch Your Startup - so that we could share some of our key learnings with other small business owners in the creative industry.
Definitely make sure you have a clear idea of your objectives and why you are wanting to start a business in the first place. Secondly, if it’s a partnership, make sure you have clearly defined roles.
Sarah: Starting a business isn’t easy and its more work than you can ever imagine. But the rewards are great and make it all worth it.
Favourite thing to do on the Gold Coast?
Marissa: Beach time! We are so incredibly lucky to call this place home, we have the most incredible coastline and sometimes at our local, we can still have the beach (almost) all to ourselves. Big beach days in summer followed by a couple of drinks with friends, the kids running wild - those are the best days!
Sarah: Definitely spending time with my family outdoors. We love breakfast at the beach, followed by a swim. We frequent Rainbow Bay, Kirra, Tally and Currumbin a lot.
What do you expect for the Gold Coast in the next 60 years?
Sarah: I do see the Gold Coast coming into its own. With so many things in the pipeline like the new cultural centre and HOTA being finalised I feel like we’ll no longer be the poor cousin of Brisbane and our cultural scene will thrive. It’s exciting times!
Marissa: Let's hope they ease up on the number of high-rise developments in seaside suburbs! But on a positive note, with so many amazing creative businesses, eateries and the arts going on, the future is looking pretty bright for our city.
In this day and age we all have the opportunity to reach out from the normal 9 - 5 and delve into our passion project. What advice can you give to people to dig deep and find what they love to do and turn it into a career?
Sarah: Nothing beats a good old business plan. Nut out your offering, define your target customer and how you’ll market to them and get started! Seriously nothing beats working for yourself doing something you love.
Marissa: If you're passionate about something, just keep chipping away at it...Where your mind goes, energy flows! A few solid years of hard work and juggling multiple hats is well worth the investment, for sure!
You have won many awards including ‘Gold Coast's Best Market in 2015’ & the ‘Gold Coast's top 3 site by Lonely Planet in 2019’. What are your biggest achievements from the Markets so far?
Marissa: For us, it is the community we have created, it’s something so special. The thousands of small businesses that have been able to launch and trade at TVM over the past 11 years and watching them grow and evolve is truly rewarding. Some of the stallholders we have known since our first ever market all of those years ago and some have gone on to achieve international success - it’s truly rewarding to share this journey with them all.
Also on a professional level, when Sarah and I were finalists in Cosmopolitan magazine’s Women of the Year Awards a couple of years ago and travelled to Sydney for the event alongside women like Lizzy and Isabella from SPELL, that was incredibly humbling - and damn fun!
SS: I think last year was a big one for us. We were awarded the International Womens Day Patron Awards in March, then in November, were awarded Griffith University’s Outstanding Entrepreneurial Alumnus Award. It was such an honour to receive these awards for our contribution to the Gold Coast community.
We’ve also had 5 children between us in the last 8 years, which is pretty bloody amazing!
Tell us about the first ever market you held and the major differences to now?
Marissa: Our first market consisted of nine stallholders lined-up on the grassy oval and Sarah and I stood there with clipboards asking people (mostly our friends and family, ha!) to join our mailing list. We used MySpace to reach out to emerging designers. Now, 11 years later, we have up to 110 stalls, twice per month in Burleigh and once per quarter in Brisbane, as well as having established a strong brand and community.
Sarah: Well our very first market had just nine stalls and we simply just showed up and walked around with clipboards collecting email addresses! Now, we average 75-110 stalls per event, have two event staff and rarely sit down. How times have changed!
How did you see the markets as a platform for establishing face to face relationships with customers and stallholders.
SS: Market day is the perfect opportunity for vendors to connect with customers and our community IRL. In a digital world, this connection is crucial for everyone.
MB: This concept has actually evolved so much since we started, when I think about it. When we started, it was all about connecting small businesses with consumers because it was a tough gig opening a shop front and spending large amounts on advertising, particularly via traditional media.
These days, the essence is still similar but there's also the added component of sales and brand presence being so focused on social media and online for most businesses. Which can be quite impersonal. So for our shoppers, it's still that wonderful face-to-face connection they get, touching and feeling products, meeting the maker, the thrill of stumbling across a new brand or seller, those are the things people love about coming to TVM.
The Gold Coast is such a creative hub, the home of many awesome brands like yourself. How do you feel about the Gold Coast as a platform for creatives?
Marissa: It’s such an exciting time on the Gold Coast, there is a real energy and entrepreneurial culture and so much opportunity for small businesses. It seems as though the word is out and instead of locals moving away for opportunity, interstate folk are flocking to our beautiful city to start and grow their businesses - where else would you want to live and work, really?
Sarah: We’ve come a long way since we started in ’08. Where creatives used to leave the Coast to start their businesses, we’re now seeing designers travel to TVM from Sydney and Melbourne to have a stall. The Gold Coast is now known for its entrepreneurial spirit and startups.
Australian consumers are starting to favour brands who adapt an ethical green ethos. What sustainable practices does The Village Markets have in place?
Sarah: We aim to be a plastic-free event and have been for several years and encourage vendors to use reusable bags. We also have market bags and picnic packs available for sale at TVM. We’ve been holding the pre-loved Rack Sale since we started and its really encouraged the reuse and recycle component of TVM.
What are your favorite local Gold Coast brands?
Marissa: Oooh it’s a bit hard to play favourites! However many of my personal favorite pieces, homewares and those of my childrens wardrobes are from local brands found at TVM. In my opinion, it’s the #1 place to discover incredible brands and know that you're supporting a local and not wearing mass-produced items. Some current go-to’s include Opia, Forgotten Modern, Nicotte, Bandikoot, Sweet Child of Mine, Halcyon Daze, Snoep, Harvest Clay and Drift plus many more.
Sarah: Some of my favourites are Peony, Alfie, Kivari, Akazi, Annette Daley Designs, Drift Trading Co, Scent of a Rebel, Harvest Clay, Esther Shelley Designs, F+H Jewellery, Rustic Peppermint, Two in the Sun, Stevie Jean, Nicotte, I could go on all day.
What part of your job would people find most surprising?
Marissa: When I tell people I own a market, to this day their response will still be ‘oh, what do you sell?’- it’s still a tricky one to explain! So I guess, the concept of actually starting a unique business such as ours is often surprising in itself! And also, that we do attend every event ourselves and setup/packdown (along with two staff members).
Sarah: Between Marissa and I, we do almost everything, only outsourcing our accounting. Or cleaning the toilets after an event!
Who would you like to have a 30-minute meeting with?
Marissa: Kelly Muller (KMC Consulting) or Tess Robinson (Smack Bang Designs).
And perhaps the entire cast of Younger (Netflix series) - my guilty pleasure!
Sarah: I’d love to sit down and chat with Lizzy and Spelly from Spell Designs. Their business model and sustainability practices are enviable.
What do you feel when you are feeling uninspired?
Marissa:Meditate, yoga or catch up with my girlfriends, that is always so good for the soul!
Sarah: A good chat to the friendly folk at TVM always help, or attend an event with inspiring business owners.
Who do you love to follow on Instagram?
Marissa: Travel accounts (I'm a sucker for travel! My sister and I share our personal travel features and interviews with like-minded families at @the_travelling_tribe_).
I also love to follow creative brands/people from around the globe and inspiring women doing like-minded things!
Sarah: My favourites are:
Best advice you have ever received?
Sarah; Don’t ask for permission, beg for forgiveness. One of my bosses used to say this all the time and it’s always stuck with me.
Marissa: Be kind.
Come and celebrate 11 years with us at TVM this Sunday 6th October and make sure you say hey to Marissa & Sarah!