Former mergers and acquisitions lawyer, Sarah Davidson (nee Holloway), explains how to get out of our comfort zones and into the space where magic really happens, all while finding health and balance in the process.
Health and wellness advocate, entrepreneur, café owner, podcaster and former mergers and acquisitions lawyer, Sarah Davidson has an impressive resume. In her leading role as the co-owner of Matcha Maiden, she also gets to work alongside her business and life partner, Nic Davidson, every day.
But life wasn’t always so rosy for Sarah. Her journey has been facilitated by a series of events that she believes guided her path, shaped her business ventures and moulded her into who she is today.
Sarah grew up in the leafy suburb of Caulfield, Melbourne where she completed a successful scholastic career – a theme that continued throughout her later study.
After a settling-in period, Sarah found that she thrived in the academically rigorous environment and achieved the scores she needed to attend Monash University to study law/arts (languages). She was snapped up by a large, commercial law firm straight out of university and spent the next three years working in the legal industry.
It seemed like Sarah’s life was right on track. ‘I was on the conveyor belt of achievement’, Sarah says. ‘It was the glorification of the busy. It’s not that I didn’t love what I was doing, it’s that I never even asked myself whether I loved it or not.’
It was during the first year at the law firm that Sarah had her first big health scare.
“I squeezed in a month-long field expedition to Africa and ended up getting quite sick. I didn’t listen to my body and went straight back to work [at the law firm]. I ended up really unwell and lost a huge amount of weight,” said Sarah.
‘My body was so weak that I had to give up coffee, and that’s when I first got hooked on matcha tea.’
Sarah has always been a traveller, starting young with her family and then later with Nic. It was while travelling to Japan that she and Nic first discovered matcha tea in its traditional context. It was love at first taste.
“When I had to give up coffee for health reasons, as someone who was used to drinking ten cups a day it was really confronting! But matcha was a much gentler caffeine source and my saving grace.
“When we came home we couldn’t find a product that suited us. They were either too expensive, too hard to get, too hard to use, low quality or mixed with sweeteners.
“We saw a gap in the market and set about filling it. It was also an excuse to spend more time together.”
Matcha Maiden was originally just a hobby – a side hustle for Sarah and Nic to cut their teeth on. Both remained in their jobs – Sarah at the law firm, and Nic at his own creative agency, while still hustling for their new business.
But after Sarah collapsed on the bathroom floor at the gym due to overwork and exhaustion, she knew it was the wake-up call she needed.
“When I spoke to my doctors and they said, ‘What do you mean you’re working 20 hours a day? Why? How?’ I didn’t even realise it was weird, or that I had limits,” she explained.
“I’d had what is called an adrenal fatigue episode, but I realised that my collapse was completely self-inflicted. I had a complete lack of understanding of the body having any limits.
“I had literally used up all my body’s resources and hadn’t put anything back in.”
The collapse was the wake-up call that Sarah needed. She knew it was time to make some changes, so began the long process of recovery and building herself back to a base level of wellness.
“I had no concept of my body’s energy bank needing to be refilled, it was just go, go, go. So it was important to learn to slow down, and have enough energy to have a job, run a business and be outward facing.
“It wasn’t just my physical health that needed addressing,” explained Sarah. “My mental health had taken a beating too. I had crippling anxiety in the first six to 12 months of our business. I learned that I couldn’t completely ignore the metal health side any more – it’s probably the most important one.”
Hence began Sarah’s investigative process into what balance means for her. For Sarah, it means twice daily 20-minute mediation sessions, yoga or running three to four times a week, keeping Sundays completely free, turning her phone off after dinner and just going slower. She also keeps a wellness journal to track her progress and triggers.
“Writing down the way you feel after doing a big presentation or podcast or live show, helped me to understand myself.
“I found I was really exhausted after those types of events, and I needed time to recover.
“Now I spread things out, and take the time I need afterwards.”
Sarah has found the key to balance is not having a key.
“Balance is not a destination – you never actually get there. And at different stages in your life, it looks different anyway.
“As long as you’re trying to achieve some kind of balance along the way, you’re probably setting yourself in good stead.”
As the co-founder of Matcha Maiden and Matcha Mylkbar, Sarah understands the particular difficulties that affect the work-life balance of people who are starting a new venture.
“In the initial stages of business you will definitely hustle hard. And sometimes that might mean a few sacrifices in the area of wellness. You might need to pull an all-nighter or work a few weekends.
“That’s just the reality of getting a startup off the ground. But that doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to look after yourself in the process,” she said.
“You need to honour yourself and your wellness and recognise your value outside of your productive self.”
Part of getting this work-life balance is finding the right tools for your job.
“When we got our first big contract with Urban Outfitters, Nic and I were packing every single order.
For that reason, Davidson has found that investing in the right technology result in a reduction of time spent doing busywork, which means she has more time to focus on strategy and wellbeing.
“We quickly realised that couldn’t go on and put in place streamlined processes. It’s the same with our administrative tasks.”