June 21, 2023

Episode #88: Maria Murphy – Carmel Christkindlmarkt

Maria Murphy is CEO and Market Master of the award-winning Carmel Christkindlmarkt. Maria has served in this role since the Market’s opening in 2017, and she has been instrumental in bringing the Market to its current success.

After graduating high school a year early, Maria spent a year in Germany as recipient of the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange scholarship supported by Senator Richard Lugar. While there, she stayed near Dresden and Hamburg, learning to speak the language and developing a wide network of contacts that she still keeps in touch with today. Maria considers Germany to be her second home.

Prior to her work at the Market, Maria spent 10 years in the banking industry. After attending a networking event and hearing Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard talk about his desire to bring a Christkindlmarkt to Carmel, Maria joined a special committee charged with bringing his vision to life. As a result of her work there, she was offered the “best job in Carmel” – to serve at the helm of the Christkindlmarkt as the Market Master and CEO.

Under Maria’s direction, the Market has been selected twice as the Best Holiday Market by USA Today’s 10Best competition, winning the title in 2019, 2021 & 2022. In 2022, the Market welcomed more than 400,000 visitors, and total Market sales eclipsed $5.8 million – an almost 25% increase from the previous year. In future years, Maria hopes to increase programming geared at children and families, as well as recruit a steady stream of various German artists to do presentations for guests.

Maria maintains memberships in several networking groups, including the OneZone Chamber of Commerce, the board for the Indiana German Heritage Society, the Indiana-Germany Business Council, and the Hamilton County Tourism BEST (Business of Entertainment, Sport and Tourism) Task Force, as well as a sitting on the BEST Task Force Steering Committee.

She was honored to be a part of the 2022 James T. Morris Global Leadership Series cohort and is grateful for the many connections she made as a result of her participation.

Maria is thrilled to have the opportunity to serve all of central Indiana and the Midwest as CEO and Market Master of the Carmel Christkindlmarkt.


hello this is coach Tim Campsall and I’m your host for the self-made as a myth make a difference together show where we are talking with CEOs and business owners about their stories and journey to building their business and because we know that achieving success in business is not something that we can do on our own we’re taking some time to recognize the folks who helped us to excel I’m excited to have a CEO from Indiana with us today my guest loves swing dancing and has performed a few times in her down time she enjoys hiking and gardening and she also raises monarch butterflies so we’ll want to learn a little bit more about that that’s very interesting and she’s most proud of her ability to connect with others and bring teams together to make things happen that hasn’t happened before and I’m sure we’ll learn a little bit more about that as well it’s my pleasure to welcome Maria to the show today hello Maria hi thanks so much for having me on today Tim absolutely well hey let’s start with having you introduce yourself tell us a little of your personal story like where you were born and live and about your family and and especially about those butterflies yeah so um I grew up or I was born in Claypool Indiana which is up in Northern Indiana and then my family moved to the Yorktown Muncie Area when I was about six or seven and uh grew up there went to Yorktown High School graduated a year early from high school and lived in Germany I won a scholarship to go as an exchange student there and came back and have lived in the Carmel area ever since and uh so I live near kind of the Carmel High School area really nice Monon walking trails which I love to go walking and I love the outdoors hiking and as you mentioned the monarch butterflies actually in March so if you know much about the migration of the monarch butterfly um it’s really fascinating but they overwinter in Mexico and so in March I was like I’m doing it I’m going to see the overwintering site so I flew to Mexico City and then took a car ride three hour into the mountains and then stayed at this little BNB and then took another like two-hour car ride to the sanctuary then a horseback ride up the mountain and then another hike past the horseback ride and found the trees where the monarch butterflies are and it’s literally like Another World Experience because you’re just you’re looking and you’re seeing thousands and thousands of butterflies and when they get to a certain temperature the light hits them and they do they call it a butterfly explosion and so like they’ll be all clustered together and there’s just this it looks almost like a beehive in the tree and it’s just this huge cluster of Monarch butterflies and then they just explode and then you just see all the butterflies flying down so I just cried the whole time you know

raise them yourself is that right I’ve been doing that doing that for years I was on a walk and I um sauce the sun pot something in the weeds and I saw it and I walked over and it was this little jade green um like oval kind of shape with these gold dots on it and I thought oh my gosh there’s like jewelry what is this started researching it it was the Chrysalis of a monarch butterfly I’ve never seen anything more beautiful in my life and um I was just fascinated so then I was like I have to learn everything about this and wow I plant milkweed and I was gonna ask that I grew up in the country and that’s that was the thing we collected them right in a jar and had to pick the milkweed for them so yeah you grow milkweed all right and now I like there’s a there’s an organization called Monarch watch where you can order tags and so you can record the num the number on the tag and then put the tag on the butterfly before you release it and then they go to these sanctuaries in Mexico and then the ones after they make they want some of them die and then the next Generation flies out so um though people will gather them to try to track where the tags were put on and see where the butterflies came from I’ve not had one of my tagged butterflies found yet that I know of but I I I’m waiting for that day yes very cool wow that is awesome well hey Maria is there a funny story that your family likes to tell about you that you’d be willing to share with us today yes um so I was trying to think again I love nature and animals I always have and so I remember the story of we were by the lake and someone had like a gallon bucket and they were putting like fish and different things in it and someone got a snapping turtle and had put it in the bucket and I don’t I must have been five or so and I the story I don’t remember it but the story is that I went over to the bucket and I saw the turtle and I picked the turtle up and I kissed it and the Snapping Turtle bit my lips that’s that’s the story that I could think of yeah yeah you you probably don’t remember it because it was so traumatic that you just walked it out of your mind yeah I’m like I should look and see if I have a scar I never happened

so tell us how the business came about and at what point did you have the confidence that you could run a business

so the caramel crisp Kindle Mart was the brainchild actually of Mayor Jim Brainerd and he had been over to Germany in 2016 and in the winter and saw these Chris Kendall Marts in the different cities he visited so he came back from that experience and was like we’re bringing this to Carmel and I was uh in thinking at the time and went to a networking event and um at that networking event heard him speak about this vision and having lived in Germany celebrated my first Christmas in Germany with my host family there because my family of origin here in the United States didn’t celebrate Christmas um I had a very special place in my heart uh for Christmas celebrated in the German Way and so I was like oh I need to get involved with this after that meeting I went up to Mary Brainerd and shared with him about how I speak German and love German Christmas and would love to help in any way and um so I started volunteering just on a committee to bring the caramel Chris can a mark to caramel and uh after about three or four months I got a call from him where he asked me to meet with him and he shared with me that he wanted to hire me as the CEO and he called he he coined the other title I have which is Market Master which I think is really the title so CEO and Market master um so yeah he offered me the opportunity to launch this event for the city and honestly I had zero confidence at that time because I was like I’ve never done anything like this in my life um but it really a lot of his seeing something in me that I couldn’t see quite yet was really what sparked that initial confidence that I could maybe do this especially with that kind of support from someone who believes in you and so I really do credit a lot of that initial confidence to him and just his being able to pursue me in this role and say you really can do this and I see it I see your passion for this and um yeah so I I you’ve shared this with me offline with just tell folks a little bit of the back story of you mentioned already that you you went on Exchange to Germany but um just give a little bit more insight on the your discovery of of Christmas in Germany and how that has has kind of driven you um to to create this event in Carmel

[Music] exchange student in 2005 to 2006 States me a little bit but um I lived there with a host family and they are I as I said we didn’t I have my family of origin here in the US didn’t celebrate holidays and so when I was there my host family was very respectful of that and said you don’t have to celebrate with us but if you’d like to we welcome we welcome that and I said yeah while I’m here I really want to experience every part of the culture including the holidays and it was really fascinating and I didn’t know any of this until I lived there but many of are what you would think of American Christmas traditions actually uh were originally German and so uh like the Christmas tree the first Christmas trees were popularized in Germany Christmas ornaments and laosha Germany it’s where the mouth blown hand-painted glass ornament started and uh it’s interesting because if you go really nerdy in the history Queen Victoria who um married Prince Albert in England so Prince Albert was German women and he brought the Christmas tree to the palace in England and there is a really famous uh drawing of Prince Albert and Queen Victoria in front of a Christmas tree with the candles on it and that was one of the things that popularized the Christmas tree um it wasn’t until that German Heritage was brought into England so it’s just there’s lots of fun yeah that’s awesome so tell us more about for those who aren’t familiar with the organization tell us again the name what you guys do how you make a difference

caramel crisp Kindle Mart and I always say I’ll say like Chris the name of a guy and then uh Kendall like the reader so Chris Kendall and then um uh with a t sorry Chris with a t Chris and then T and then Kendall like the reader and then Mark it without the e so Mark Kindle Mark and these are German holiday festivals that have been around since a very very long time in Germany they originated there and it they kind of started like winter farmers markets in the Town Square where people could come and exchange meat for different wood crafts that people had carved out for the holidays you know the butchers trading with the the wood carver and you know this type of thing then eventually little stands were built and then it’s become this huge thing phenomena all over Europe and now in the United States and Canada as well and even in Asia I have a friend that went to Japan and she came out of a train station and there was a very traditional German Chris Kendall Mart oh wow in Japan with the the Lederhosen and turtles and everything pictures she’s like my mind is blowing right now um but anyway so they they’re they’re all over the world now and it really when you come to a Chris a traditional Chris Kindle Mart you have this feeling there’s a word in German called gamut which means just like comfy cozy and it kind of makes you feel like the old world like things have slowed down there’s the smell of the sausages there’s a spice mulled wine called Glu Vine that you drink um roasted nuts um just handmade artisan high quality products that you can one-of-a-kind things you can get as gifts it’s really just we have ice skating um it really just feels a lot of people will say like a Hallmark movie [Laughter] um as a modern reference so that’s kind of that’s what we do and it’s it it’s about six weeks long in the heart of Carmel the one that I run and and um and um we work I I work all year round going to Germany finding Artisans to come and do demonstrations wood carving making product on site uh we have bands on the stage alporns coming um like if you’ve seen the Ricola commercial the uh you know those are Alcorn so we have Alpine place um all kinds of different um entertainment dancers uh we have an area for crafting for the kids it’s just on and on and on puppet shows but I have to say having um gone to it this past season that I think we tried every single sausage that they offer um and uh if it wasn’t for the fact that our stomachs were blowing up we would have went back again because the the food is delicious oh I’m so glad you had a good experience did you try the curry first the one with the sauce on it yes yes yeah isn’t it good it is good yes and we did the nuts as well oh yeah there’s just so many options it’s wonderful hey Maria share a story where someone pushed you or inspired you that you could do it even though maybe you didn’t think you could and the impact that that person had on you

I think um I’ll I think the first person that really had that impact on me would be there would be two people well there would be two people around the scholarship time honestly one was my German teacher Frau Kelly um who told me about the Congress bundestag exchange scholarship and the other one was a lady named Lisa is a lady named Lisa Ferguson and Lisa ran a small Bible study in her home and through a invitation of someone at school I ended up going to that and um she was she is to this day a mother like figure for me my mom has passed so she’s someone that has stepped in to to really be there in that role for me and when I was looking at um applying for this scholarship and I didn’t really know where to start and she was there by my side she helped edit this you know this the um the essays that I had to write and I had to do in-person interviews so she sat down with me and we went mocked interviewed um when I came back from Germany and I was applying for jobs again with my resume she was one that was right there by my side working with me on those things another a good good friend of mine who’s a little older than me and at that time at that age that that age Gap was a lot more made a lot more difference but Alyssa Smith is her name and she let me borrow a suit to wear to My First Bank interview because I didn’t own my own suit you know and just though those three people FAL Kelly Lisa her husband Dave and Alyssa all are people that really said Marie you can do this you can you can launch out into the world and explore things Beyond just what you’ve known in New York down Indiana and so very grateful for all of them oh wonderful now what an amazing group of people who who have all been part of now you running uh this Market in in Carmel so it’s it’s interesting how something so many years ago has led to where you are today so tell us um what’s your biggest learning as a CEO oh there are so many learning Curves in this role and I think um there’s a lot of talk about like that imposter syndrome these days and and I think that has been something I’ve really struggled with is like yeah just really owning that I am in the right role and I I don’t I’m not um I’m not faking anything it’s just authentic and it is what it is and just allowing myself to accept um the things that I don’t know the things I’m still learning and the things that I need to grow into and then the and also except that I do know a lot of things and I do have a lot of skill sets that I’m bringing to the table and not to minimize those uh so that those are some of the things that I have to work on and continue to grow in another big one is delegation because it is so hard as a CEO to do everything is impossible so really learning to trust my team to lean on my team to um to to trust them to set boundaries where like I’m always afraid like I’m putting too much on my team and so I’m like no they will tell me and we can work it out a bit but I’ve got to trust to delegate um that’s available I hear that a lot in terms of um two different sides of that coin is one folks are like well nobody can do the job as well as me right or be as efficient as me or as detailed as me so it’s just easier for me to do it myself now the problem with that is right there’s only 24 hours in a day and we’re gonna hit capacity and we can’t you know we just then can’t do as many things if we don’t learn to delegate the other you mentioned too is the fear of what if I overload them well I liked what you said the way we get beyond that is we just asked people in a weekly a weekly check-in of hey how how are you doing all right right are you at capacity or not and and more times than not we actually hear that they’re not at capacity right and they want to take up because they want to prove themselves or they want to make more of a difference it’s like oh my goodness if I had have asked that up six months ago I could have got more off my place okay I’m glad to hear that you’re doing that yeah exactly yeah so hard I think also taking the time to articulate clearly the expectations it feels easier just to do it yourself yes than to say sit down and take the time to really think through well how do I want this done you know and there’s a really cool tool it’s called Loom but it’s basically it it’s a video right whatever you’re doing on your computer so what I I share with clients is you know you you have to do it anyway so just record yourself doing it now you’ve got a training video right just talk through the steps as you’re recording it and now you’ve got something to be able to hand off and and have someone else do it for you A friend of mine actually Alyssa Smith that I just mentioned a minute ago she and I were chatting and she started using loom recently and her business and she said it’s been a game changer for her so that’s two times so I better check it out

um imposter syndrome as well and um I I’ve probably spoken with you know at least a thousand business owners and leaders and and everybody has some version of imposter syndrome and and here’s the thing I would share with everyone listening is um is we don’t have it all figured out none of us do right and so we’re just doing the best that we can with the knowledge that we have and continuing to grow and develop so I like what you said right just embrace it understand right that um we’re a work in process and that’s okay because um nobody nobody has it figured out despite what it might appear on social media right oh yes yeah no it’s true no one has it figured out and the more you network and the more you get to know people you realize that like everybody is still growing and learning and yeah it’s I think we are our harshest critics yes the messages that we play around in our head that you know the self-limiting beliefs right be our worst enemy because it keeps talking us out of the things that we’re more than capable of doing there’s a book I I Spotify I

I um I don’t remember the author’s name Gay Hendricks gay Hendricks is the name and it’s all about that I these ideas and um uh like he calls it the upper limit problem um and he refers to basically there are different uh things that we as survival mechanisms when we start to feel too good we put things in place to try to like make sure we’re safe essentially yes and so it’s this whole very interesting concept of like okay so what are my upper limit problems and how can I release those so that I can take myself to the next level and he talks about um he talks about finding your zone of Genius a lot of people have a zone of confidence and then they have a uh I don’t know if I said that word right competence and then the second one he was talking about well there’s incompetence and then competence and then um Excellence like there’s a zone of like where you Excel and you’re really good at it but then there’s the zone of Genius which is where flow is and where you know you’re really like it doesn’t feel like work because it’s just real you know and so yeah he’s he talks a lot about when we hit those upper limit problems and we can break through those then we can get to that that zone of Genius as he calls it I’ve been really really enjoying that book what was the name of it again um the big leap okay wonderful got a picture of a fishbowl with like a little fish jumping into it

hey Maria we know that business success doesn’t um happen in isolation so tell us about what one of your biggest challenges um as a CEO and and maybe a a fellow CEO or a business owner who came alongside you and helped you through that challenge there have been so many examples of this and I have to go back to uh networking and mentors for each of these um also board members and different advisors um one person that I’ve reached out to numerous times would be Dave Ferguson he works at Ball State University and um it’s just someone that I rely on he’s a Dean over there who I’ve relied on many times where

how do I say this there are sticky situations interpersonally that can come up in business as we all know and especially with the caramel Chris Kindle Mart I’m working in a organization that’s a not-for-profit but it’s very tied to the city it’s really tied to the community and there are a lot of very invested people who care about the community and the city and want to see this event successful and so there are a lot of different ways that people want to accomplish that same goal and so navigating that can sometimes be challenging and that’s a very political way to say there are lots of people who have different opinions and and and feel like their opinion is the most important [Laughter]

well if it’s very well intended yes it’s trying to navigate that and and I think Dave has been someone who has given me a lot of wisdom over how to read people and how to see the heart instead of getting frustrated and getting angry or defensive as I sometimes want to be of my work or my whatever you know and to be able to step back and go okay first of all none of this is really mine right like this is all bigger than me this doesn’t Define who I am my identity so let’s let go of the ego take a deep breath and all day and then you talk through it and you go oh yeah this is not about me is it no this doesn’t really about me this really isn’t about the Chris kendallmark this is about so how do we gracefully uh set step into those things and you know get those goals met and that those needs of that person met um and it’s that Insight of it’s not about me that’s that’s a hard thing for us to to separate right because we put so much time and energy into our you know into our roles into our careers that to be able to say okay yep this isn’t how who I am and how I’m defined can be a very big challenge it really is especially like you said when you put for me six years um of my life into this and I really put my heart into it and build it you know I call it my baby you know and so it feels feels very personal a lot of the time but most of the time it’s not personal it really isn’t and it’s it’s um yeah being able to separate that so I think Dave Rebecca Simon’s another one I always love to share share about she’s someone that I call on when I have a contract review or or like for myself and um just just business negotiating and business sense she’s someone who I have a lot of respect for her her business Acumen and banking contacts over the years friends at the Indy chamber uh Tony Neely is one that I have reached out to on different um things and then chat other challenges that I’ve faced just like getting solutions for different random things it’s been so fun to be able to call my BNI friends from business networking International um Michael salimi is one where I needed some promotional products and I needed like paper bags with the Chris Cornell Mart logo and it was like I just needed someone to handle that for me and just being able to call on him it’s not like it doesn’t sound like a big challenge but just to have trusted people to take care of different aspects of it for sure to not have to worry about you know yeah just to just to be able to hand things off with trust because of the relationships built over time I’m going to put you on the spot here a little bit if I asked you to pick three people in your in your journey uh of of running this business that are that you’re most grateful for them helping you with the growth of the business who are those three people and how they help you

I think uh mayor Brainerd would be one because he’s always been um we haven’t always agreed on everything but he’s always been in my corner and in the end you know helped get things done when there were obstacles in the way so and always I feel like as I always had faith in me um that I could do this job and do it well um and he’s given me a lot of responsibility and Trust which has given me a lot of confidence so mayor Brainerd for sure um Lisa as I mentioned she’s someone who has mentored me through this process and her husband Dave Ferguson um I think I Alyssa Smith as well um and Rebecca on my team there are so many team members um along the way who have stepped in in different areas um at the moment Michael namius is one on our operations side who has really just um

has taken over so many projects in that delegation process it has excelled so well like I really can just sit back and trust him with so much of the work now it’s been really um an honor to work with him um Hannah Kiefer is another uh one on the marketing side who has been such I’ve been so grateful um for her ability to market the market and really get the news out about it and help with the growth that we’ve had and then the the other business owners um I would say the vendors at the market the ones running the booths that have put their trust in me um Joe Burns is a guy who lives in Wisconsin who owns a um he made a uh I want to say in German he’s a guy which is a cheeseery which doesn’t translate but he makes cheese what’s that in English it’s not a dairy it’s a I don’t know I like cheesery actually let’s just Rebrand it as that yes

I can only think of the German word um that’s hilarious well anyway Joe he he runs the rock clap soon if you’ve ever been to the market where you scrape the cheese over the bed and in Year One 2017. I reached out to him because I’d seen his product at other Chris Commandments in Chicago in New York and I asked if he would come visit and he came visited me here in Carmel we went around the carmel’s farmer Farmers Market talked through everything and he really took a leap of faith to come and have a second Booth here our third Booth here in Carmel and um has he’s then built a special grill for the sausages and took over the sausage booth and he’s now doing some other special things that will be coming out this year and he’s just a business owner that also I can reach out to and ask questions and you know just see what he’s experienced other markets across the United States and see what best practices are and you know just to have his advice and counsel has been really helpful throughout the years very cool as you think about the next three to five years what are the biggest challenges that you see that you’re going to face in reaching your goals and who are the types of people you’re going to need to overcome those

so I think given where ocean is one of our biggest

um there’s only so much growth when you have that footprint yeah and so then getting strategic and um like do we make smaller Cuts do you know just those types of things so one of my former B and I uh Ali’s um Paul you were from Quantum architecture is one that I’ve reached out to recently and I said hey we need to start doing some three to five year mapping out of this space and looking at where could we put in new electrical what if we closed down you know just all these like brainstorming and looking at what are our options for growth in the next five years so really yeah just reaching out to some of those people um politically I think that’s going to be one of the biggest challenges too because we do have such a partnership with the city we’re getting ready to get a new mayor there’s an election um coming up here in November and Miles Nelson or Sue finkum uh one of those will be the new mayor and so partnering with them to build relationship and build a um plan for the future that works with their vision and the Market’s vision for this event it’s going to be something that I’ll just need to work through with the new oh incoming mayor at that time um and keeping things interesting and keeping it new keeping it fresh like we don’t want the market to be boring and so I’m I have 10 ideas of different things I want to bring over from Germany um there’s something called which is where you have this giant sugar cube like pour rum over it and then you light it on fire and then it like drips into the glue Vine below and then you serve it and it’s like this whole thing and it’s like a show I’ve got other other products that I’m super interested in adding to the market um and other things but it will um you know right now we only have a beer and wine license so how do we get a temporary hard alcohol permit you know and just these different things for growth and that I’ll need lots of advisors um in there people who are experts in their field on those different areas so yeah awesome hey last question here Maria um Jim Rohn an amazing business Guru says that we become the average of the five people that we spend the most time with so as you think about that quote what advice would you have for CEOs or business owners who are trying to do it on their own and and think that they shouldn’t ask for help

yeah given that quote I feel like my mind immediately thought was well then you’ll be stuck because the five people you’re surrounding yourself is the one you and you can’t learn really so well from yourself many times you need that outside input so I feel like there’s a lot of stagnation and lack of growth when you don’t have those people surrounding you to help you grow and so I would I would just say if you don’t want to be stuck and you truly do want to grow and advance and learn then don’t don’t do it don’t do it alone surround yourself there’s there’s no one that can that that can do it well alone and succeed and really get to that like using gay Hendricks um word you know zone of Genius or really breaking through those um those upper limit things where we hit our threshold and breaking through to that next level we need those people around us to encourage us to guide us and to um yeah just give us wisdom along the way what uh some of the things sometimes I hear people say well I don’t want to ask because I don’t want to bother people now it sounds like you’ve had tons of people helping you so what would you say to those people who are concerned about that well folks are too busy to help me

yeah I think in my experience when I’ve been on the other end where there have been people who have reached out to me for help I have someone right now that’s starting trying to start a new festival and a few years ago a lady in Peru Indiana reached out and said oh yeah she wanted to start a festival and just wanted to ask me some advice and help in navigating all the things you navigate with that and I felt honored I felt um like it was a privilege to be able to walk alongside someone else in their journey and to share the tidbits of that might be encouraging or helpful um that I’ve learned over the way and it made me feel like there was more purpose in the struggles sometimes like oh you know there’s I could help someone else there was purpose in me learning that that oh I love that thought it makes it all worth it kind of yeah yeah yeah so I think if you find again not a forced relationship where you’re like trying to make something happen in a mentorship that’s just like not authentic but finding those authentic connections it it just proves to be an honor both ways I feel like where you feel honored that they’re spending time with you and they feel honored to have someone to share their wisdom and their Guidance with and and someone who’s actually going to listen and you know like

I just don’t I think that that’s kind of in our head you know that thought of being a burden um and I think for me many times when that message has popped up it’s tied to my imposter syndrome kind of thing like they’re gonna find out how much I don’t know

I just that’s where you just have to let go of the ego awesome I love that advice um it sounds like you’ve been blessed with some pretty incredible people that have helped you on your journey if they were all on the show here today Maria what would you want to say to them oh my gosh so you’re gonna make me cry

um yeah just thank you for seeing in me what I couldn’t see in myself and encouraging me along the way and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt I wouldn’t be where I am today without each and every one of them wow thank you for sharing it’s been a pleasure speaking with you today thanks so much for being on the show