MAMA MUSE: THE VILLAGE MARKET MOTHERS

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They say it takes a village to raise a child, but friends Sarah Schoeller and Marissa Bowden have instead raised a village to call their family. The dynamic duo created The Village Markets, an inspiring home for emerging creatives on Australia’s Gold Coast and are credited with raising the cultural bar in the region and uniting a community.  With four spirited girls between them, the mothers have a deep passion for nurturing other people’s talents as well as their children’s. 

How was The Village Markets born? 

Sarah: In 2008 we were both made redundant from our corporate marketing roles. What could have been a very tumultuous time relatively early on in our careers actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise. It was immediately then that conversations started about the lack of cultural events and great local markets on the Gold Coast. We also found there was nowhere for emerging creatives to showcase their designs, other than a couple of arts and crafts markets. We loved unique and vintage pieces and felt there really was a gap in this style of shopping on the coast. Having both lived and worked on the Gold Coast most of our lives, we knew due to the lack of opportunities for creatives on the Gold Coast at the time, many young people were moving interstate to pursue opportunities in larger cities. We wanted to provide these creatives and any other people who may have a creative passion waiting to be explored, with the opportunity to stay here and have a platform to showcase their wares, as well as giving them a likeminded community to connect and collaborate with, both at the event and online.

How has your vision for the business evolved over the past few years?

Marissa: The business has evolved beyond market day, something we probably never anticipated. We just launched our first business eBook, How to Launch Your Startup, in conjunction with our first networking event, TVM Talks. Our community has fostered a growth into supporting entrepreneurs that builds on the success of those coming through TVM. We’re really focused on the business as a creative community, rather than just a market event.

Would you do anything differently if you were starting over knowing what you do now?

Sarah: There are plenty of operational things we would tweak for sure. We’ve certainly learnt to streamline and develop systems to make life easier for ourselves.

“Raising girls I’m conscious of encouraging them to be confident, independent and kind…especially supportive of other girls.”

 

Some of Australia’s most recognised brands used markets as their launch platform, do you have any great success stories?

Marissa: We have had some incredible success stories come out of TVM, which we are really proud of. Brands that come to mind include Peony Swimwear – Founder Becky Jack sold her very first piece at TVM many moons ago. Other wonderful success stories include Grace Bijoux which is now stocked internationally and appeared in a recent campaign for Sports Illustrated. Kivari, which is stocked in over 100 retail outlets worldwide and has two boutiques. Children of The Tribe, Molly and Polly, and many more.

Do you think The Village Markets has had an impact on the local community?

Sarah: We started in 2008 when the Gold Coast had the brash and brassy reputation as a party town that had no culture. Since then, the region has grown into a hub of creative entrepreneurs across many industries and we’re proud to have been a part of that shift. We feel as though The Village Markets has contributed to the region not only culturally, but on a broader economic scale, particularly during the GFC and retail downturn, we’ve seen market business thrive.

Greatest piece of advice for mothers keen to start their own business?

Sarah: The flexibility of running you’re own business is the best but be prepared to put in long hours of hard work and learning to type with a toddler on your lap.

Marissa: Yes to typing and sometimes breastfeeding with a baby on your lap! Definitely the greatest benefit of running my own business as a mother has been the flexibility.  My eldest is school aged now and I’m always thinking about how grateful I am that I can be there for her. Also go easy on yourself, you’re never going to be able to give 100% to all areas of your life, and that is OK! You’re doing your best.

 

Photographed by Alice Wint of She Cried Wolf

What has been your proudest moment in business?

Sarah: Creating a movement and community that has changed the lives of others. It’s so inspiring to see people doing what they love everyday. Late last year we headed off to Sydney for lunch as Cosmo Women of the Year finalists, that was a pinch yourself moment!

Marissa: I absolutely love watching the relationships that have formed amongst our community, it makes me so happy. Some of our stallholders have been coming to every market for nine years and they’ve made lifelong friends, they collaborate on photoshoots and support each other.  It’s such a positive environment. We’ve had over 2000 small businesses come through TVM, so to be able to provide them all with a platform to launch and grow their business is definitely something we’re proud of.

What do your morning & evening routines look like?

Sarah: My morning usually starts with my two year old greeting me in bed. We start the day with breakfast and then walk the dogs at the local nature reserve. After that its the kindy drop off, F45, then home to work or on non kindy days we head to Talley Creek or the Tweed River for a swim. In the evening, we burn off any energy outside on the trampoline and swings, 5pm dinner, bath, books and bed. Both the girls are asleep by 7pm!

“I have a deep respect for my children as individuals and always try to create space to allow them to explore and develop on their own.”

Marissa: At the moment I’m getting up at 4:30am to try to squeeze in a morning walk before my husband has to leave for work at 6am! It’s early but I much prefer to start the day with some exercise, I always feel much better for it and find I am much more productive. My kids are snoozers so wake around 7am and we have loads of cuddles, then it’s brekkie, lunches, getting dressed and out the door for school and for my youngest kindy, three days per week. On the non kindy days we will meet some friends for a coffee and swim at Tally Creek or our local beach in Palmy. Evening routines during summer have been after school beach sessions until sunset some days! I try to squeeze in two yoga sessions per week, which doesn’t always happen. Then home for dinner, a bath and some books before bed. I’ve also recently been doing a children’s meditation with the kids when they get into bed, it literally sends them (and me) straight to sleep.

Motherhood is … 

Sarah: Motherhood is overwhelming love and a learning next level patience. Some days I can’t quite believe the little people growing before my eyes.

Marissa: The deepest most overwhelming kind of love. Selfless, exhausting, rewarding, an absolute privilege.

Can you share a little about your journey into motherhood with us?

Sarah: Lola was born via emergency caesarean after a routine OB appointment at 39 weeks. The procedure was such a shock and took me sometime to get over, as did having a newborn! I found the isolation of not being able to drive and sleep deprivation hard. It wasn’t until we booked a session with a sleep consultant, who showed us a simple night time routine, that I felt some sort of normality was restored. Lola is now a spirited almost three year old and was joined by a little sister, Posie, fourteen months, in 2016, who was also born via emergency caesarean, despite holding out 10 days over for a VBAC.

Marissa: I was 28 when we had our daughter Stevie and we’d been married five years so were really excited to start a family. We had two miscarriages prior to falling pregnant with Stevie. I think mostly due to stress personally, as we almost lost my dad during that time and it was really traumatic. I enjoyed every moment of pregnancy (once the morning sickness stopped at about 14 weeks) and had a really great birth. I was induced with gel just after my due date and went into labour 30 mins later, labouring in the shower on a swiss ball with my beautiful husband Rick hosing my back with warm water – so good! The birth was around five and a half hours, short but intense! My youngest, Pepper, was conceived straight away and pregnancy was great, although a little more tiring with a one year old in tow! I was induced again and my waters broken, laboured in the shower on the good old swiss ball once again and she was born within three hours.

What is the biggest lesson pregnancy and birth has taught you?

Sarah: You can not plan for birth, but only prepare yourself. My husband and I did a Calm Birth course prior to having our first daughter and I could not recommend it more. Even though her birth didn’t go to “plan” we had so much knowledge that we stayed calm and in control.

Marissa: Women are freaking warriors.

“The deepest most overwhelming kind of love. Selfless, exhausting, rewarding, an absolute privilege.”

Describe your parenting style?

Sarah: I have a deep respect for my children as individuals and always try to create space to allow them to explore and develop on their own. We follow daily rhythms at home and the girls have very limited screen time (none until two years old), a philosophy my husband and I feel strongly about. They have a small selection of toys, dolls, crayons and pencils to allow them to use their imaginations at home for play and most of their time is spent outside and I always try to make room for art. Raising girls, I’m conscious of encouraging them to be confident, independent, kind and especially supportive of other girls.

Marissa: I guess we have a really organic approach to parenting. We’ve never read any kind of parenting book because at the end of the day, I personally think parents really know what’s best for their own children. In our house it’s so important our girls feel loved and safe, always. We love to be together as a family, the girls really thrive on quality time so we have plenty of family adventures, road trips, beach sessions, reading books every day together. We live right near the beach so it’s important the girls are outside often and they love to climb our frangipani tree. Rick also built the girls a beautiful big art desk which we’ve filled with all their treasures, so that keeps them busy if they are inside. They are both extremely creative with wonderful imaginations.

Photographed by Alice Wint of She Cried Wolf

When you are feeling overwhelmed with the demands of motherhood and life, what do you do?

Sarah: I’ll ask my husband for timeout, even if it’s five minutes, sometimes I’ll sit in silence or other times I might pop on a meditation or go to yoga. Or lately after the kindy drop off and gym, I’ll go for a quick ocean swim prior to starting my day.

Marissa: Yoga! My ultimate me time. And hang with my sister and my girlfriends, probably drinking bubbles or margaritas!

Can you impart a golden piece of advice for other Mama?

Sarah: Find your Mama tribe and catch up weekly and don’t be afraid to ask for help. There’s so many amazing practitioners around to help families that you never need go it alone.

Marissa: Make time for yourself, its good for your soul and your sanity. Even if it’s just one yoga class per week, or a beach stroll and a coffee. Definitely find a crew of likeminded mums, you’re going to need each other.

“Women are freaking warriors.”

Can you describe your personal style both fashion and home?

Sarah: My style is fairly relaxed and my wardrobe mainly consists of a stack of free flowing dresses, tees, linen and denim, most by local labels like Spell, Kinga Csilla, Kivari and Opia. At home it’s currently a mish mash as we’re waiting to renovate, but a mixture of art and homewares from our travels to Alice Spring, Italy and France, turkish kilims and Beni Ourain rugs in the girls rooms.

Marissa: I am definitely more focused on comfort, simplicity and fabrics in my old age. I also like to support local labels, St Agni, Opia, Oakie, rather than mass produced chain store buys, although I do like to incorporate a little Glassons or Zara into my outfits because, well, budget. I am most definitely very at home wearing jeans or denim shorts and a shirt. My home is very relaxed and lived in, we have some handmade pieces scattered throughout and plenty of beautiful pieces I’ve collected at The Village Markets over the years. White walls, timber floors and earthy tones are my jam. Art works by my beautiful friend Tess Guinery and fun accessories by Kawaiian Lion, as well as photographs of our families and our travels.

Who is your ultimate Mama Muse? 

Sarah: My Mum and sister (who are both teachers) are my greatest inspiration. They are both passionate about raising children and aspire to change the lives of children through education and I’m constantly in awe of the effort they go to to create a memorable and creative learning experience for their students and own children. From studying later in life, Mum discovered Steiner and my parents made the unconventional decision to send us to a local Steiner School. This has shaped my parenting style and approach to education greatly. Mum’s never been afraid to break norms if its something she believes in and she’s instilled the belief in my sister, brother and I that we could do anything and these are qualities I greatly admire, particularly now as a mother myself.

 

Marissa: My mum and my sister for sure! My mum has been such a great role model for my sister and I. She’s always had such a strong focus on supporting other women and celebrating the success of others. My sister and I always laugh at each other as we’re the first to stop someone in the bathroom or on the street to tell them how beautiful their skin/hair/smell is! But generally, I think being kind and genuinely complimentary of others, particularly women, is such an important quality and one which I will most certainly be passing on to my daughters. Mum has also taught us to believe in ourselves and speak our truth, she’s taught us kindness and also to never settle for less than you deserve. We’re a family of lovers, who wear our hearts on our sleeves. My sister and I are extremely similar in the way we parent our children and she’s one of the kindest most generous souls I know. I am also in complete awe of the many women out there who run their own businesses while being mothers – the ultimate mama muses!

Best beauty secret for busy mums?

Sarah: Water, sunscreen, movement and a good facialist!

Marissa: Drink lots of water, move your bod, swim in the ocean and try to go to bed reasonably early!

Drink of choice?

Sarah:  A glass of Rosé

Marissa:  A margarita.

Book recommendation?

Sarah: The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle and The Complete Buddism for Mothers by Sarah Napthali

Marissa: Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty and am just about to start The Husbands Secret (she sure knows how to write a good book!). I’m also really excited that holistic education studio and movement, Whole Beings, have just launched their first eBook, A Simple Guide to Slowing Down and Nurturing a Mindful Being, I’m looking forward to downloading my copy.

TED Talk or Podcast recommendation?

Sarah: To raise brave girls, encourage adventure – Caroline Paul for TED. And I’m currently podcasting The Tim Ferris Show, She Did it Her Way and Your Creative Start

Marissa: I’ve just started the Your Creative Start podcasts, which I am enjoying.

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