Fuck the Norm: How Hunter Markets’ Founder Sarah Kokkinos Redefined Success

Words by: Hannah Cohen
Art by: Adrienne Aw

Hunter Markets is the second-hand thrift market based in Mentone, Melbourne that has spread like wildfire on social media. On brisk Sunday mornings, you’ll find a long line of coffee-clutching zoomers snaking around the market’s fairy-floss-pink brick walls, all waiting to get their thrift on.

Chances are, you’ve already heard of — or attended — Hunter Markets, the must-shop spot “where on-trend fashion comes to escape landfill”. Its biggest drawpoint, the wildly popular influencer stallholders and endorsements, brings environmentally conscious style-seekers together from far and wide. 

So, who is the head-honcho behind this ingenious concept, you may ask? The ever-bubbly, fashion-savvy Sarah Kokkinos.

She’s a self-confessed Instagram junkie, an influencer-addicted, Kardashian-worshipping, Leo rising bad-bitch with an incessant need to stand out in a crowd. By combining her love for all things social media with her long-term relationship with op-shopping, she found a gaping, Hunter Markets-sized hole in the op-shop sphere, and filled it with second-hand essentials from Melbourne’s most fire wardrobes for all of us to enjoy. 

Growing up as one of three sisters, Sarah’s been wearing hand-me-downs since she was a tiny tot, leading her onto a lifelong path of digging for treasure in someone else’s trash. 

As a teenager, she’d spend weekends becoming a seasoned veteran in the art of thrifting, sifting through second-hand stalls and her local Savers for kooky, one-of-a-kind pieces. 

With this wealth of experience in the op-shopping scene under her (thrifted) belt and a finger on the social media pulse, Sarah had a lightbulb moment and struck gold. That’s when Hunter Markets, a new-age fusion between a community market and a consignment store, was born.

“Often you’d go home after searching through the grandma tee section and come home [with] nothing,” she tells me.

“[I had] an idea… there needed to be a spot where there’s less sorting through shit, just a place where it’s like: “oh my god, guaranteed if you go there, you’re going to find something cool.””

Sarah’s journey after finishing secondary school in 2015 was seemingly unconventional when compared to her peers’. Upon reflection, she said she had no interest in studying at uni, and certainly didn’t have any clear plans outlined for her career.

The norm didn’t suit her, so she followed what made her happy. 

“I had no plans. I had no goals,” she admits. 

“I knew I really didn’t want to go to uni, because I’m terrible in the classroom. I’m more creative. Instagram may have launched or just taken off when I was in year 12 and I was just obsessed with following girls and everything about it.

“I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew what I liked and what sparked joy.”

That’s not to say chasing after her love for all things Insta and fashion was easy. 

Sarah tells me that getting influencers on board to sell their pre-loved clothes at Hunter Markets was a hustle and a half. It involved a bunch of research into the industry and a networking grind that required brave amounts of “YASSSS QUEEN”, “GO OFF SIS”, and fire emojis heavily sprinkled into the comment sections of influencers’ posts

In terms of conceptualising her business baby, she says that considering the existing market space and taking note of her competitors’ strengths and weaknesses was a crucial step in bringing Hunter Markets to life. 

“I researched Camberwell market — I researched everything from where it was to why it’s so popular, and even things that they could do better,” she says.  

However, Sarah admits that Hunter Markets didn’t come out of the gates with a running start like she’d hoped. She experienced a few unexpected setbacks (read: online trolling) by starting with opening stalls strictly to influencers only.

“I was seeing a lot of hateful comments. I was getting trolled a lot with all types of things. People [were] angry that influencers were profiting off things that brands sent them for free,” she reveals.

“I always wanted to open it up to the public as well, because I myself at the market was having a lot of issues with diversity and sizing.”

Despite these shaky beginnings, Sarah refused to be rattled. She attributes her success to her resilience and unrelenting ability to back herself.

“It took a lot of motivation to keep going.”

Once Hunter Markets had properly taken off digital ground and gained a larger following, Sarah opened up applications for stall spots to everyday style icons, to account for better size inclusion and a whole lot more range. 

“It’s been really successful. We have had some really trendy girls, and maybe they don’t give a fuck about socials but they just have really good wardrobes.”

In refusing to accept that success only exists at the end of a tertiary education, Sarah’s found her sweet spot: doing things differently, with confidence. 

By recruiting influencer pop-ups alongside the general public and activating the user-friendly strengths of her thriving social media account, she’s setting her business apart from the rest.

“I think that… community-run markets around Victoria [aren’t] doing that. They’re not posting photos of the best finds that you’re going to get there,” she tells me.

“We also have, at each market, someone with a large following to separate ourselves from any other market; there’s no other place in Melbourne where you can sell your clothes alongside an Instagram influencer.”

Her advice to other budding entrepreneurs? Don’t fall into the comparison trap and remember that every little move you make on your journey to launching your chosen career is a valuable step towards your greater goal.

“I love this quote: no matter how slow you’re going, you’re still lapping everyone on the couch.”

“If you’re just doing one thing a day for your career, one thing that helps you get towards your goal, you’re still lapping everyone who’s sitting down. So don’t worry about it, queen!” 

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