Hey, kids! Just answering a few of the more common questions I got from Instagram’s new “Ask me a question” function that doesn’t seem to be working on my page. Such a fun idea, but I know I’ve been super annoying posting it then not replying so figured I could answer some of them here because I’m such a creep and have so enjoyed reading other people’s answers!
Does this work now?
No, not yet. Lols
What is your ethnicity?
Ahhh this is an interesting one! My heritage is South Korean and I was born in a town called Daegu City (which is the city of Apples and Nic happens to be from Tassie, the Apple Isle – cuuuuuute). I was adopted when I was six months old and have lived in Australia ever since (so when people ask me if I remember my birth parents or miss Korea – no, do you remember much from when you were 0-6 months?) Both sides of my family are country bumpkins ,so I’m a full blown bogan with a very Anglo surname, Holloway. I have a younger brother, Alexander, who was also adopted from South Korea – different biological family but SAME BIRTHDAY!!!!! That’s why I’ve always believed so strongly in the universe and her powers!
For several reasons, I used to think I could be partly something else and most people assume I’m a halfie (even some of my dear friends who have met both my fully white caucasian parents and observed them with us two fully Asian looking children – bless). I had Shirley Temple ringlet curls when I was younger, my hair is brown and far from jet black, I have freckles all over my nose and many other silly things that made my think I could be a melting pot. BUT, I did a 23andme DNA test in the US last year and I’m full blown oriental teahouse, guys.
How does your eyeshadow stay on during a workout? / How do you touch up your make up after a work out?
Yep, I’m guilty. While I ideally remove my make up before working out to clear out the pores, most of the time I come straight from something else and am just happy to fit in some movement. So that means I do often have make up on from the day during a workout. It definitely gets a bit messy and sweats off my face, but my eyeshadow generally stays put for a few reasons. I think because of the single lid of Asian eyes, there’s less friction to rub off eyeshadow when you blink. I’m sure there’s a scientific explanation, but that’s just my anecdotal evidence. Secondly, I have quite a dewy base when I do wear make up – a really natural moisturiser and then a mineral foundation powder that breathes and sweats with your skin so it’s never dry or too matte (which means the eyeshadow applied over the top of that might stick better).
As for touching up after a workout, that’s something I do try to avoid as it just cakes on top of the sweat then and clogs my pores. I used to have quite temperamental skin and, while it’s been pretty good for some time now that I don’t hit up Maccas after dancefloor sessions and leave my make up on overnight like I did in my early 20s (god I’m a nana), I’m still a bit paranoid about clogging my pores so I try to wash my face and then re-apply from the start if I have to go out again. In the interim, I just let the sweat dry and try to avoid people until I get home haha
What’s your favourite book?
The Harry Potter series, hands down. I was smack bang in the middle of the HP generation and I still re-read them over and over and get the magic every time. I had a long break from reading for pleasure though during my law degree and career, when I was reading so much for work that I just couldn’t see it as a relaxation activity. I was finally getting back into it but then had ANOTHER big hiatus when I was reading too many “business-y” or “self help” books and couldn’t ever switch off from learning or developing myself. Having said that, there are some amazing books out there that can motivate you like nothing else and give you some serious pearls of wisdom – some of my favourites are Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg, Thrive by Arianna Huffington, Eat Pray Love, Men are from Mars, Women are From Venus… you get the gist. But my favourites these days are either complete fiction or based on true stories and they’re mostly crime or action (especially war – I know, I’m a huge weirdo but when you find things that transport your brain away from work, you go with it!)
One of the coolest books I’ve read is called Emergency Sex (which has nothing to do with sex at all) that tells the loosely true stories of three UN workers who overlap across the major war zones of the 90s and details the UN operations from the ground up. It’s banned in the UN bookshop as it’s “controversial” apparently, but it’s such a fascinating way to learn about the crises in Somalia, Haiti, Rwanda (which Nic and I have visited FYI), Cambodia and Bosnia. I love books that teach you something about history without being a plain history book. Dan Brown’s books are amazing for that – Angels and Demons and the Da Vinci Code are two of my favourite books. Another one is Shantaram, which is an incredible (albeit long) book written by a guy who escaped prison in Australia and fled to Mumbai and became part of the slum community there. It’s so far from my reality that it stretched my brain and I loved it. There are SO many more, I don’t even know where to go next, but let me know if you want more.
How did you start your business?
Quite a happy accident actually! As I mentioned, Nic and I spent a month in Rwanda on a charitable expedition and I got quite sick from a parasite. I came home and went straight back to work without resting in typical A-type fashion and ended up losing 15kgs and giving myself adrenal fatigue. I was banned from coffee as it was giving me the jitters and panic attacks, which all but signalled the end of my life as a functioning human being. I was an M&A lawyer of all kinds, so the hours were pretty crazy and I was a 10 cups of day kind of girl at the time! Luckily, I got sent to my law firm’s HQ in Hong Kong and in Asia, matcha has been around for centuries so was readily available unlike here. I learned that it contained quite a strong hit of caffeine but with a unique amino acid called L-theanine that makes it release slowly into the bloodstream so it’s much gentler on your adrenals and body generally. I got absolutely hooked and was using it not only in matcha lattes but bliss balls, salad dressings, even face masks and Nic came to visit and started using it in his pre and post workouts instead of coffee shots. When we came home, we couldn’t really find a suitable option – there was only really expensive ceremonial grade which was too costly for daily use or Asian grocery equivalents filled with sugar or fillers. Nothing in the middle – so we went online and found an organic blend but could only buy it in bulk and that’s how the idea to sell some came about. We thought it’d be a nice creative side project and an excuse to spend more time together. Before we knew it, we’d sold out and six months later got into Urban Outfitters across the USA and I had to leave my job to fulfil the orders. That was 3 years ago now and we’ve got warehouses in Mel and LA, 1500+ stockists around the world, the cafe Matcha Mylkbar and a bright green future ahead!
Are you and Nic vegan?
No, we’re not strictly “vegan” but are increasingly majority plant-based in our eating. Neither of us particularly enjoy bright line rules around eating or lifestyles as we have learnt through various experiences that the best thing you can do is listen to your body and its evolving needs, which may change even from season to season or week to week. But also, we felt that our work at Matcha Mylkbar could be less intimidating and more approachable to the mainstream if it wasn’t coming from strict vegans only and was supported and championed by people who once ate “meat and three veg” by default without any mindfulness but who discovered the research on sustainability both of the body and the planet and realised you can make great overall change with little daily changes. So if all of us eat plant-based a few more meals per week even if not ALL meals per week, the change might be less drastic but perhaps more impactful in the long run. Having said that, with kitchen teams as incredible as ours, it’s not hard to eat plant-based most of the time and when we do eat meat we are much more conscious of its provenance and sourcing.
How was the venture into hospitality which can be a brutal industry?
Definitely a very steep learning curve, as it is its own beast – nothing like any other world we’ve operated in before. It can be unrelenting and stressful BUT also incredibly rewarding, especially when you’re doing something that generates change and excitement like Matcha Mylkbar does. After building Matcha Maiden as a more online, product-based business, it was thrilling to have a physical embodiment of the brand and be able to interact with customers face to face. It also allowed us to engage in so much culinary innovation and food science and then gauge the results in real time with real diners. Plus, we get to eat there everyday and it’s damn delicious! But yes, it has been a very challenging transition and we are lucky to have business partners who are hospitality heavyweights who have helped us make that jump, Mark and Attil Filipelli. As we aren’t open for dinner, the hours aren’t as relentless as some other venues and with only 38 seats it’s more manageable than most. We live locally so it’s not too difficult to keep the culture and vibe going by keeping a regular presence in the venue and letting our wonderful managers do the rest. The location is finicky with traffic in the colder months, but we changed our menu to make it seasonal with lots of Winter Warmers and introduced a dinner series which has been amazing. As long as you stay agile and passionate, it’s such an adventure! And seeing your food grace the pages of publications like the NY times and draw the attention of people like the Hemsworths? There’s nothing quite like it.
What did you wish you knew before you entered your industry?
Moving into business has been absolutely incredible for me, but the one thing I wish I knew was how great annual leave, sick leave and a regular salary really were!!!! Haha, so enjoy them while you have them! The grass is always greener!
How did you find your life’s purpose and what advice would you give us?
Such a toughie! But I think the key for me was not to look too hard for it. If you’re searching too hard for your “purpose” and waiting until everything “feels perfect”, it might not ever arrive for you. It may look sometimes like people go from unhappy in one thing to fulfilled in another, but it’s a very gradual process that happens in baby steps. We have crazy expectations of how fast things should happen today and also of how engaged and fulfilled we should be on a day to day basis, which sets a lot of people up for unhappiness. Sometimes, by just being open-minded to new opportunities and not being too attached to security, routine or comfort, your purpose will find you. For example, I knew I wasn’t going to be in law forever and that it wasn’t my greater mission in life but for the first three years I had no idea what I’d do instead. I had to sit with that knowledge but also deal with the realities of having bills and needs and also no other plan! And then, when the time was right and I was ready, I stumbled across something that made me happy and the business aspect of it came second. And that happened because I was openly looking around for new pathways but not jumping to leave my job or anything too quickly. So venture out of your comfort zone regularly and try new things – the only way you’ll know what you’re meant to do is by finding out what you’re not meant to and experimenting.
Then, once you have a better idea, my next best advice is go for it. Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will. We live in a world where we CAN make changes that end up seeming relatively quick and turning our lives around for the better. It’s not a major recession, depression or GFC and within sensible limits, you can really do anything these days – business and influence have been democratised by the internet and social media. It’s such an exciting time to be around! If you have found what you love, have the courage to pursue it and you’ll be rewarded! I could write for ages on this one but I’ll spare you the essay!
Have no toe nails or no belly button?
Ang, you are the weirdest person in the world.
What does Paul talk about in his sleep?
Alan, you’re not far behind on the weird spectrum.