The Sweet Meadow

my story

Why we all need to be lazy

living the sweet life, travelAishe Besim
The habit of doing nothing at all is incredibly important to our individual and cultural well-being. Far from laziness, proper idleness is the soul’s home base. Before we plan or love or act or story tell we are idle. Before we learn, we watch. Before we do, we dream. Before we play, we imagine.
— Nikaela Marie Peters, The Kinfolk Home

Recently somebody asked me what I do for fun and I drew a blank. Seriously.

Not that long ago I could have answered that question pretty easily - hiking, photo taking, gardening, reading, taking a bath, road tripping, cooking. But running a business is all-consuming and I've found myself stuck on a cycle of eat (sometimes), sleep (not enough), work (like a dog), and repeat.


But that is all about to change! I was reading an article in Fete magazine about the benefits of lazy days. Much like sleep, downtime allows the brain to process the huge amount of data that is poured into it every day. Prolonged relaxation is what our mind needs to consolidate and problem-solve, to rejuvenate and to restore creativity, balance and productivity. 

Relaxation activities have also been proven to trigger the production of feel good hormones including serotonin and oxytocin, which enhance mood, create better sleep and even offer naturally occurring pain relief. 

But we've known that all along, haven't we? As the classic nursery rhyme sings, "Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream. Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream."

Just the other day I was watching an Instagram story from women's mentor Tara Bliss, who was on holidays at the time. She was talking about how taking time out, while beneficial for you as an individual, is also sometimes exactly what your business needs. In other words, it works both ways - your business needs a holiday from you too. 

So that's exactly what I'm doing. At the end of August this year the cafe will close for 10 days and I will be going on my first proper holiday in over three years, to Bali! 

I have promised myself I won't feel guilty about scheduling in days to do nothing, knowing that their ultimate function is to help me bounce back and perform at my peak. 

I have held on to a quote I read years ago about fashion designer duo Viktor and Rolf, who grew up in the depths of suburban Holland. When asked how their upbringing influenced them in becoming the amazing designers that they now are, they put their finger on the creative tendencies of suburbanites: "Because it was so boring. We had too much time to dream."

Looking forward to boring days spent amongst the rice fields of Indonesia. 


Photo of  Lauren Bullen  in Ubud, Bali

Photo of Lauren Bullen in Ubud, Bali

I’m lazy. But it’s the lazy people who invented the wheel and the bicycle because they didn’t like walking or carrying things.
— Lech Walesa

Chapter One

brandAishe Besim
Starting a business is hard. You’ll work like a crazy thing and have to sustain that over a long period of time. Poor pay. Terrible hours. Tons of stress. Any normal, rational person would quit. And that’s what happens. When things get tough, and there will be a point when they do, sane people quit.

But purpose-driven entrepreneurs are different. They fall in love with the change they are making, so have to find a way to make it work. Their love stops them quitting. Love makes them persevere. Love blinkers them to all the worry and stress. And it’s their purpose that fuels that love.
— David Hieatt

A long time ago I was given the book “Starting A Restaurant For Dummies” (I’m sure there was no pun intended). One of the opening lines in the book is this: “This isn’t a venture for the faint of heart. If you want to own a restaurant to have a place to hang out with your friends and get free drinks, we say pay the bar bill and avoid the hassles.”

But honestly, that’s exactly why I had the idea to build The Sweet Meadow in the first place! I wanted to create a space I felt was lacking in regional Victoria – a health-conscious, vegan café where people would want to spend their time, not just their money.  I love how cafes become a central hub for communities and I don't believe we should have to travel to the city to experience conscious, sustainable alternatives. I wanted to make a change in my life and create a space where I could grow and start something afresh, where I could be creative and where I hoped to inspire others to be creative too. 

A year ago today, on Thursday, 20th October 2016, we opened The Sweet Meadow at 7.30am. I had left the café at about 2.30am that morning, prepping burger patties with my mum (I accidentally added non-gluten free breadcrumbs into the mix, so mum ended up driving home and making them from scratch herself).

I was back onsite at around 6am after barely sleeping, because I was so paranoid that nobody would come. I had rostered on five other staff members that day, with most of them working eight hours or more (!). As it turned out, we had over 150 people visit us on our first day, most of whom continue to visit us regularly.

One of the only photos I took on our opening day. I was cooked. 

One of the only photos I took on our opening day. I was cooked. 

Interestingly enough, the best selling menu items on our first day are still some of the favourites twelve months on - Creamy Avocado, Roasted Veg & Chickpea Burger, Vanilla Waffles, Acai Smoothie Bowl, OJ Simpson, Chocolate Mylkshake, and our Caramel Slice.  

Both our menu and our team have grown since then, but making the move from having an “employee” mindset to a “business owner” mindset has been the steepest learning curve for me personally. I have learnt so many lessons this past year, lessons that I think are crucial to creating a sustainable, successful business.

Our busiest day ever, Easter Sunday 2017. 

Our busiest day ever, Easter Sunday 2017. 


“You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world and there’s still going to be somebody who hates peaches.”

Dita Von Teese

It’s a bruise to the ego realising that not everyone is going to like you (or your food, or your milk selections, or the names of your juices), but I’m learning to let go of perfectionism. Running my own business has taught me a lot about that. It’s messy and humbling, and I am learning to show my mess.


“You have to break, take breaks, or both.”

Yrsa Daley-Ward

I always used to say that you only have to take time off if you have a boring job. Then I became a small business owner. Yung Pueblo said “While in the midst of serious internal growth, respect your need to rest.” It took my car blowing up on a Sunday morning in High Street to wake me the fuck up to that lesson. It really was just a reflection of what was going on internally (inflammation). Now I make it a point to take time out every week – my brain needs some rest.  I love turning everything off, staying away from social media and being with nature. It helps bring me to that other part of my brain, where creativity lives and innovative ideas are formed.

A shot from my first holiday in 18 months this August - four days in Queensland. 

A shot from my first holiday in 18 months this August - four days in Queensland. 


“Chase the vision, not the money.”

Tony Hsieh

While I have an extremely strong support network, never losing sight of why I started this business is ultimately the reason why I overcome the obstacles that get thrown my way daily.  The authenticity of my “why” is what resonates with the people visiting. Lots of people travel hours to visit our café specifically, so I want them to have the same experience they have read or been told about. I’m sure my team roll their eyes whenever I change the music selection because I don’t think it’s “The Sweet Meadow’s vibe”, but it's the music, scent, furniture, entrance, toilets, even the cutlery, that all work to set our guest’s expectations and set us apart from other eateries. I will always stay true to The Sweet Meadow’s vision, and choose menu items, products, decorations and team members who align with that vision.




"Traveller, there is no path, the path must be forged as you walk."

Antonio Machado

A Chinese philosopher once said a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. The truth is, if you are clear enough with your intention, you will always get to your destination – it’s how you enjoy the ride that counts. You can choose to be distracted, absent, stressed, overwhelmed. I spent most of my first year at The Sweet Meadow feeling this way.

Instead, I’m heading into The Sweet Meadow’s second year with a focus on making mindful decisions and living in the moment. Making space for the good people, good things and good times. It’s the same life, the same journey, the same road…the difference is how you choose to travel it.

What a ride it’s been so far.

I chose this. Thank you.


P.S. Thank you to the hundreds of you who have shared a photo, video or status about your time at The Meadow. We love seeing your creative shots at the end of a busy day. Much love X


Beauty & The Vegan - Part II

beautyAishe Besim

It's finally here - a follow up to the Beauty & The Vegan makeup post. These are my go-to products to encourage healthy skin, hair and body. A quick disclaimer though - beauty really is an inside job.

As Dr. Libby Weaver says, the health of our skin is impacted by everything from the food we eat, the nutrients present or missing from our blood, and the hormones and messages our bodies make based on whether our thoughts are fearful or loving (yes, really).

So, optimising your inner health has the power to affect your outer beauty by improving the health of your skin, transforming the shape and movement of your body, and allowing you to express a radiance that will inspire those around you.

These products will only enhance what you already have, so look after your largest organ - your skin!

Aesop Skincare - This Melbourne-based company makes waves on a global scale for its quality and philosophy. They use a mix of plant-based and laboratory made products, don't test on animals or use any animal-derived ingredients. I use their cleanser, toner, facial oil, eye serum and body scrubs. 
Bentonite Clay - I'm a huge fan of this product. I mix a large handful of powder with water to create a paste, then use this as a face and body mask. Leave on the skin for about 10 minutes and then rinse off in the shower. You can also drink a tablespoon of the clay with water (the clay attracts toxins in the body and then expels them), although I grew tired of that fairly quickly.
Toothpaste - Lush's toothy tabs are my go-to. Whenever I forget them and have to use conventional toothpaste the consistency makes me sick! Oral Pleasure is my favourite flavour (pardon the pun).
Lip Balm - A vegan lip balm proved to be hard to find, but this vanilla-based balm from Courtney + The Babes delivered. It is incredibly nourishing with a subtle scent. I loved it so much that we now stock it at The Sweet Meadow.
Fragrance - Santal 33 from Le Labo has to be the most amazing smelling perfume I have ever used. I love this brand - they are completely vegan and have recently opened a boutique in Fitzroy where they mix the fragrances for you when you purchase. Worth every cent!
Coconut Oil - If I only had access to one product for skin, hair and body health, coconut oil would be it. I use this in so many ways - oil pulling first thing in the morning (I explain more about that here), as a carrier oil to mix with pure essential oils, on the ends of my hair after a shower, and as a body moisturiser. I don't have a preferred brand, organic & cold-pressed are what I generally look for.
Shampoo - The best shampoo for you depends on your hair type, but for flat, slightly oily hair like mine, Lush's Big shampoo is my holy grail. 
Bath Salts - I'm a big fan of epsom salts in the bath, but when I feel like something a little more special, the bath salts from Herbivore Botanicals are my favourite. I would happily own every single product this brand makes. I love how they infuse essential oils with their beauty products - a true mind & body experience. The face masks are also amazing. 
Room Mists - Courtney strikes again. These mists are infused with crystals to aid in creating a calming environment. I like to spray Cleanse in the morning as I leave home and Love Like before bed. 
Essential Oils - I could probably write I whole blog post about how I use essential oils for mind & body health (actually, come to think of it, I will), although pictured here are my absolute go-to's in terms of beauty. Geranium is amazing for skin irritations and healthy, shiny hair. I use clove oil when oil pulling with coconut oil as it aids in oral health. Manuka helps me manage my eczema and is a great oil to ground and centre for deep meditation. I drop a few drops of tee tree oil in my face cleanser and use ylang ylang everyday in so many ways - it's amazing for all kinds of women's health issues. The king of oils is Frankincense though, derived from a tree native to Northern Africa. I place a drop or two under my tongue every day - it's the closest thing I take to a multivitamin. It's amazing for building and maintaining a healthy immune system and also promotes cellular health. I also add this to my facial moisturiser. Oh how I love Frankie!

Of course, daily practices like drinking enough good-quality water, dry body brushing, affirmations, meditation, exercise and eating a whole food, plant-based diet full of healthy fats (hello, avocados and almonds) will do wonders in creating clear, glowing skin. 

Nourishing your body from the inside out will do more for the health of your skin than any quick fix product ever will. #word