PAIR WITH VILLAGE FLAIR

PAIR WITH VILLAGE FLAIR

AT the helm of the Gold Coast's cultural surge is a dynamic duo that deals with hundreds of creatives on a day-to-day basis.

Overflowing with creative ideas, yet stumped over what their next move would be in 2008, Marissa Bowden and Sarah Schoeller found their conversations continually drifting back to their love for traditional markets around the world.

That led to the creation of The Village Markets, or TVM, the name affectionately adopted by fans who travel from all over to an event which takes place three times a month at both ends of the Gold Coast and that showcases the grassroots of the region's thriving cultural scene.

Launched as a humble nine stalls at Burleigh Heads cState School, The Village Markets also held at Paradise Point - has become a melting pot for more than 700 creative businesses.

The company has grown from a market to an event and brand, establishing a cult following along the way of more than 40,000 Facebook fans and 21,000 Instagram followers.

"We launched The Village Markets with savings from our personal incomes and no financial backers, and every cent of earnings went back into the business for the first two years," says Bowden.

"For a while there, we balanced full-time careers with multiple jobs in the business including planning, event management, logistics, cleaning, marketing, public relations, IT and design."

The communications side of the business came naturally to Bowden and Schoeller, with both having Griffith University business degrees and holding marketing executive roles at various companies, including IMG, Gold Coast Suns and Zarraffa's Coffee.

However, getting the event off the ground running wasn't as simple as pitching a few tents.

With a starting capital of just $2000, funding was initially a challenge, and then there were the drawn-out negotiations with Gold Coast City Council to get approval for running regular large-scale events on public property.

Bowden and Schoeller also agree there was more than likely a couple of side glances exchanged and disbelief in the business potential. After all, The Village Markets was the brainchild of two 20-something women who had a dream to go against the 'glitter strip' grain.

But they felt compelled to create in any case.

"To us, the idea came very naturally we knew there was a gap for a fashion-focused market on the Gold Coast that offered unique, quality wares by talented local creative, and there was also a shortage of regular cultural events for all ages," says Schoeller.

"We were both raised on the Gold Coast and felt compelled to help put our home on the national map as a stylish destination rich in a distinctive culture, which is really just a matter of recognising the region for what it truly is."

For the first five years, the melting pot that is The Village Markets was solely being stirred by its founder-directors Bowden and Schoeller. Now it's a full time gig for the pair, with two employees coming on board last year to share the workload and another currently being recruited. 

The Village Markets has experienced more than 60 per cent growth in the past two years, and is projecting another 60 per cent growth for the year ahead.

So, what's next for the event that is capturing the essence of the north and south of the Gold Coast and all that falls between?

"We regard The Village Markets as Australia's most loved fashion, art, vintage and lifestyle market judging from customer feedback but want to cement our position," says Bowden.

"We are looking to expand the business into other states and are continuing to explore ways to maximise the reach of our brand, particularly through focusing on our online presence and nurturing the event's innovative streak."

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