Sarah Schoeller talks entrepreneurship ahead of Cosmopolitan awards

The Village Markets co-founders Marissa Bowden and Sarah Schoeller.

When Griffith graduates Sarah Schoeller and Marissa Bowden were made redundant back in 2008, they had no idea their business journey would lead them to be nominated for Cosmopolitan magazine’s Women of the Year awards.

But now that they’re here, the co-founders of The Village Markets are thrilled to be in such esteemed company. “We’re so honoured!” former Bachelor of Business student Sarah says. “We’re finalists alongside some amazing women and it’s such an honour to even be nominated.”

In a boost for Griffith University, fellow nominees also include Griffith Business School graduates Thessy and Yiota Kouzsoukas of Sabo Skirt, and Arts Education and Law School’s Alana Nastin-Byrne of Femeconomy. They’re nominated for Fashion Designers of the Year and Entrepreneur of the Year respectively.

Sarah and Marissa’s big business brainwave came to them during the GFC. After a strong start to her career with positions within the BreakFree, Mantra, Peppers and brands in the tourism sector, Sarah’s progression stalled with a redundancy. Wanting to make the most of her downtime, Sarah joined with Co-Founder Marissa to develop a business plan for The Village Markets between jobs.

“Marissa and I believed the Gold Coast lacked a cultural event that catered for all ages and we longed to bring together the creative community,” Sarah explains. “Having visited markets in London, Melbourne and Sydney, we created The Village Markets as a unique boutique market that showcased a curated selection of stalls, great food and amazing live local music.

“We then pitched it to interested parties and kicked off in October 2008,” she says. “By this time we’d both started working again and I had joined Zarraffa’s Coffee as the Marketing Manager.”

Their creative idea blossomed and is now a Gold Coast institution, helping to foster the careers of other designers and artists. Sarah says a number of their early stallholders have launched at the markets and become a huge success.

“Becky Jack from Peony Swimwear sold her first bikini at The Village Markets and now has an international brand. Kirsten of Kivari started at The Village Markets while she was working as a radiographer; she just recently opened her first boutique in Freshwater, New South Wales and is stocked on!” Sarah says.

Other great TVM success stories include Molly & Polly, which launched its bikini brand at the markets and is now stocked on; and Mahiya, a bohemian fashion label that started at the markets and is now a global brand in 140 stores.

Sarah says she hopes their story, and nomination for the Cosmo awards will provide inspiration to potential entrepreneurs. “I would hope we can inspire other women to pursue their dreams and not be disheartened when things don’t always go to plan. Our journey hasn’t been typical and we only started when faced with a closed door,” she says.

Sarah thinks the awards are a brilliant way to highlight the efforts of some amazing women at work. “Unfortunately women are not treated equally in the workplace, nor are they fairly compensated for their work or recognised for the putting their careers on hold to raise a family. There are so many women doing amazing things in the workplace and their own businesses, that the more awareness we can raise, the better.

“In the last nine years we’ve built as amazing community of talented folk who all support one another and that’s something I’m pretty proud of.”

The Cosmopolitan Women of the Year Awards is a public vote. To support our Griffith alumni, vote here before 10 October.