When Chloe Steuart was just 10 years old her mum and dad took her to the Richmond Primary School where she held her first stall, 25km north east of Hobart. A special place because it was built by convicts two years before South Australia was proclaimed in 1836, and remains the oldest continuously used public education facility in Australia.
Not surprisingly Chloe became mesmerised by the quaintness of the market; the excitement in the brisk early morn. Next day she saw a little sewing machine sitting on a shelf in Woolworths so she dipped into her own savings and bought it for $20 – and it came with a dream.
The sewing machine gave Chloe the idea of making cushions – the first was round featuring Humpty Dumpty. She sold it and countless more at Richmond Primary as a means of one day paying for university studies to fulfil an ambition of becoming a vet.
Incredibly, at just 10, it led to establishing her own business – Twins Peaks Cushions & Bags – and now six years later creating the McLaren Vale Youth Market at the Piazza della Valle in the main street.
From wanting to sew as part of a semester phasing set by her dad, who home-schooled her, Chloe has not only encouraged other young creators to have stalls at the market limited to those aged 10-25 years, but offered them free of charge.
Entrepreneurial skills at their finest by this basically self-taught sewer, we suggest, but the beautiful part of this story is that she has never forgotten where she has come from, the encouragement of her parents Damian and Sharon, support from school friend Matilda, 15, who shared the vision of a market, and daring to dream of her future from as young as 10.
Then there is twin brother Samuel, who has helped set up and pack-up her market stall (of course, brothers never forget to charge their sister).
This innovative market for the young has enhanced Chloe’s business – the name derived from being a twin – to also making and setting up a cake stall which she wants to soon include a coffee machine.
According to Damian, Chloe puts in at least 12 hours a week organising the market. “Other people may not realise what is involved… she might spend an hour and a half at night on the phone to the very supportive Onkaparinga Council saying I’ve done this, I’ve done that,” he said.
“There is a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff. This is also about Matilda who has helped her most.”
Chloe, originally from Rotorua, New Zealand where her parents had a five-acre lifestyle block with sheep and pigs, said that she has loved the atmosphere of the country markets and fairs since the family moved to Orford on the east coast of Tasmania. After touring Australia for a year they settled in McLaren Vale almost three years ago.
“I have run my own stall at a market for six years now, and I have enjoyed creating my own things and having the space to sell them,” Chloe said.
“It hasn’t always been easy. When I first started at the markets people would see mum and say, ‘oh, mum makes all this’ and are then quite taken back when they realise it was me.
“Like at the Tasmanian Craft Fair; I was there alone while mum and dad wandered around, and there was this one guy, one of the stallholders, who was quite annoyed with mum and dad telling them ‘you can’t leave your daughter there, that’s not running your stall’. He didn’t realise it was my stall. Yeah, people have got a bit funny.
“At some markets interstate older people gave me the impression that I was taking something away from them. ‘She’s a kid, this is an older generation thing’ I’d hear them say. A lot didn’t talk to me because they saw me as competition.
“I guess I struggled to find a market that’s regular for young people and supports this age group (10-25). I thought, why not start my own.”
Unbeknown to Chloe, Matilda, who is in a year below her at Willunga Waldorf School, was also looking for somewhere to sell her crocheted beanies and bikinis.
“Someone said that I should talk to Chloe because she had done markets before,” Matilda said. “We realised that there weren’t any markets aiming at what we wanted to sell so I thought it would be really awesome to create this market. I just wanted to make money from something that I enjoyed doing.
“Chloe did most of the planning, and I helped a tiny little bit.” It works out that Matilda helped a lot, actually.
Chloe successfully applied for a $500 grant from the McLaren Vale Hall & Piazza della Valle management committee which was used for advertising and venue hire for the first two markets, and for marketing the project and offering free sites for other young stall holders.
Before long posters were around the town and, as young ones do these days sent tweeters into action.
Jenni Mitton, chair of the Piazza committee and also manager of the nationally-acclaimed Willunga Farmer’s Market, said she greatly admired Chloe.
“We are really excited to have the space activated, and to have a young person wanting to give other young people an opportunity to show their creativity is amazing,” Jenni said. “It is beneficial to the whole main street and will bring people to McLaren Vale.
“Chloe has booked the market through to January next year so she is committed to getting it happening, which is really great.
“These days you don’t get many young people coming forward with ideas and volunteering. Some think ‘what’s in it for me’ and ‘what am I going to get out of it, but not Chloe and Matilda. They are really doing good things for the community.”
In between making cushions and carry bags Chloe works part-time in a McLaren Flat bakery.
There is also the responsibility of making this market work, not just because she self-funds it.
“I have to juggle everything, but that’s okay,” she says. “More than anything I want the youth market to be a successful event, and hopefully I can make a profit as well.
“I don’t think I could have done this without the support of my dad, who cuts a lot of the patterns out for me, and my mum – both have been great, as has Matilda.
“I started out at the Tasmanian Craft Fair with this dream of being a vet and needing the money for university, but now I am not really sure what I would like to do.
“I enjoy baking and maybe I would like to have my own cafe or shop hopefully with some of my cushions and bags and other people’s crafts. It would be nice.”
Actually, it would nice if we all had a cushy job. Well done Chloe and Matilda.
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