What do you do when you can’t find a space or event where you can sell your too small or unwanted-but-still-stylish clothes, but don’t want to just throw them away? You create your own markets of course, and fill them with not just racks of pre-loved clothes, but also some of the most creative and sustainable local makers and shakers around.
At least, that’s what Sarah Malengret did when eBay lost it’s lustre, which is how the Metre Market, now The Market Folk, came to be. These days, what was a humble community market filled with racks of second-hand clothes has turned into a thriving market empire, with monthly markets in Coorparoo and Newstead, regular pop-ups and big things to come. We chatted to Sarah about how she found the confidence to turn her weekend side hustle into a full blown business—and what she’s learnt along the way.
The Market Folk went from side hustle to full time gig—what did you do before that?
Before I took The Market Folk full time I actually worked at on a large national infrastructure project—my background is in accounts and finance. My last role at the project was a Risk Analyst before going on maternity leave—very different to what I do now although I feel fundamental mind and skillsets can be transferable anywhere you go! This was a really tough role on me but unbelievably valuable for my business skills.
Was it scary taking it from a part time gig to a full blown business?
In my case it really wasn’t, although if you had of asked me to quit my job a year or two earlier (and run the markets full time) it would have been a different story. Which really just comes down to the right timing for these kinds of things!
This decision all started when I was made redundant from my full time job when my daughter was just six weeks old and I was eight weeks into maternity leave. While this sounds harsh, it was just the push I needed to plan my future, one where I make my own rules, am a part of creative industries and ultimately get to raise my daughter hands on. Having a little baby in your arms changes perspectives! The markets at this point had been on hiatus for two years, so I had a good space of time to get all my ducks in a row before launching the markets again—this time by myself!
Was there a particular moment or idea that inspired you to create the markets?
The Market Folk is actually an evolution of Metre Market which was started in collaboration with a close friend of mine in 2015. We were looking for a platform to sell our preloved clothing, sick of eBay and there were no apps back then. You were able to register for your ‘metre of space and sell away’ in a more up-market setting. Over time more and more creative businesses joined our events, which are the markets everyone has come to know today. Preloved is still a very important factor within our market/values however it no longer was predominately a preloved event, so we rebranded to The Market Folk to better capture what we are about.
What did you want to achieve by starting The Market Folk?
The Market Folk is a collaborative creative community. Initially as mentioned above the markets were created for preloved fashion but as we have evolved our main goal is to give local independent businesses the opportunity to showcase their work in a relaxed and friendly environment. We are very lucky to partner with some of Brisbane’s best lifestyle precincts which gives these small businesses a chance to trade in spaces and customer bases they may not have normally had access to! On the flip side we provide our partnered precincts with lively community events drawing locals down.
What has the whole process taught you about confidence and backing yourself?
Goodness, it’s been one year now since I took the markets up on my own full time, I don’t think I could have survived if I didn't back myself and confidence is something that just grew slowly along with me. In saying this, there are still moments I don't have all the answers or know if I have made the right decision! Trust your gut and stick to your character and values is what I have learnt.
What has also helped me is to understand with running public events that not everyone is going to like you, your stalls, your opening hours, your locations and so on, you can’t take it personally you have to back yourself and keep your business’ goals, values and objectives close in mind. Markets have good and bad days, it’s about setting the right community up to withstand the good and bad!
What’s the biggest hurdle you’ve had to overcome since launching the markets?
For me the biggest hurdle in 2019 was juggling life and small business in combination. I think if you asked any small business owner this hurdle would be up there. Although I call my own shots, working my own hours sometimes means 60 hour weeks, on top of being a mother, and life commitments can get very challenging. It’s also very expensive in the early activation stage of business where you don’t always see return on investment early on which can be frustrating considering the output and sacrifices.
Looking back, is there anything you’d say to your younger self?
Trust in timing and have patience. Everything is meant to happen when it happens, as I mentioned earlier if I didn’t complete that recent project role and be put through immense emotional challenges I don’t think I could handle the pressures of running my own business today. Enjoy your life but look at every role and every person in your life as a valuable learning lesson.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received and from whom?
Mine is more a general quote that resonates with me by Winston Churchill: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal, it is the courage to continue that counts.” This is small business life to a tee!
What’s some advice you can give people thinking about kickstarting their side hustle but struggling with the confidence to do so?
I highly recommend following the Australian Government “starting a small business guide.” It is available online and is packed with all the tools, templates and information to help you get started, and it asks valuable questions. You don’t have to be perfect and have all the answers upfront but it helped me gain the confidence to start—things I wasn’t sure on I bookmarked and came back to later on. Don’t use the guide as an excuse to not to start but have it there on the side! When creating a product or service make sure you do your research, markets for example are a great testing ground for new products and pricing.
I remember feeling a little lost at the start finding the right graphic designers, branding, websites, accountants and so on which is why I am launching an affiliates program to help our small businesses find the right people at the right time in their journeys—stay tuned.
Who are some of your favourite local storeholders that we’ll find regularly at the markets?
Hello Lola Ceramics and their colourful hand painted pots, Love Cleanse Candles’ luxe candles, Meta Design Co’s handmade clothing, Ohh De Naturale’s handmade skincare and Design by Fish and Handmade Collective Co are some of our lovely regulars!
The pre-loved rack sales are a huge part of the markets—how do you think the perception of second-hand fashions has changed in recent years?
Pre-loved fashion has come a long way, there are exciting reports that came out recently saying Australia’s second-hand economy is worth over $34 billion with clothing sitting at 57% of that. While I think we used to donate everything at local donation bins (still important for charity) at the rate we acquire things they can’t always process the clothes and things still end up in landfill. I don't think that is commonly known. With targeted pre-loved clothing events you have items being sourced directly cutting out any excess waste.
What’s next for The Market Folk, anything exciting in the pipeline?
I am working behind the scenes on a couple of exciting pop-ups as well as the recent launch of the market blog. The blog is very exciting as it gives us ownership and a voice to our followers in a long-term sense rather than relying on social media algorithms. One exciting feature is the ‘get to know series’ where we interview our stall holders. Everyone has such diverse backgrounds and stories so this will be on ongoing piece in 2020.
Be inspired by these eight other female-owned business in Brisbane.
Image credit: Supplied