Saturday, February 13, 2010

Private Interview with Samantha Wills......

The more I look into the lives of some of the worlds most successful women the more I find that success is not about luck, not about a handout and certainly isn't something that happens to "special" people.....Tori Spelling was born into wealth and spent her childhood with the great Aaron Spelling but her achievements have been her own after she discovered her love for acting and was only successful when she was living her truth. Ivanka Trump followed in her fathers footsteps and found her calling from a young age when she put Barbie away and played with leggo building skyscrapers instead. DJ Havana Brown found her calling in her love of music and sharing her passion has given her the greatest success at a young age....

So whether you sing, dance, create, paint, design or DJ each of us is born with a gift and it is our path to find it and give it to the world. There is only one Picasso, one Gianni Versace and one Jimmy Choo..... there is no need to be someone else, no need to copy what somebody else does but to dedicate your life to finding out who you are and what gift you bring to this world and success will truly follow. And as I continue to find women who inspire me and those that I can learn from I feel relieved to know that success can come to all of us if only we dare to try....

Samantha Wills, our very own home grown aussie girl, model and award winning designer dared to try and just happened to create an empire along the way....

Her jewellery line SAMANTHA WILLS is worn by some of the world's most recognisable women, including Nicky Hilton, Eva Mendes, Nicole Ritchie, Jennifer Hawkins and Delta....

What started in Bondi markets just six years ago is now on the brink of becoming a huge international brand and here I'm given a rare insight and interview which I share with you into the private world of Samantha Wills and what it takes to build an empire.....let's take a look....

Where were you born?
I was born in Newcastle (NSW) but my family moved to Port Macquarie (NSW) when I was 2, so Port Macquarie is where I call ‘Home’

Current city?
I am currently in NYC, but I split my time between NYC & Sydney, spending time in London & LA in between!

Favourite fashion brand - why?
My favourite brand, for brand purposes is Stella McCartney. I do not know of another brand that is so emcompassing & true to their brand messages & beliefs. I really admire the way Stella has built her brand.

Favourite designer - why?
I am a little obsessed with Sass + Bide – I love that you can find something for every occasion in Sass + Bide.

How do these fashion brands/designers empower you as a woman?
Stella because of how true she is to what she believes in. She doesn’t say ‘oh I don’t like cruelty to animals’, she lives & breaths this message thru her brand & takes action on it, not using fur & even leather in her collection, a life time vegetarian & active supporter of cruelty free charities. I think in this day & age, it is very ‘fashionable’ to jump on the latest ‘campaign’ so it is really empowering to see women like Stella to not just speak , but act.

Favourite charity?
I work with REDKITE charity. It is an Australian charity that works with children + their families who are dealing with cancer. The organization is full of people who work tirelessly for such a great cause.

Favourite model and -why?
I like Erin Wasson! I love her style & like how she has expanded out from Modelling to work with brands like Alexander Wang & RVCA

Favourite holiday spot – why?
In Australia I would have to say Noosa or Byron Bay – these places are great because they are not to far away, so you go for a mini weekend break & as soon as you get there, life just seems more paced & relaxed!
I have never been, but I am dying to go to Bora Bora…. Staying in a hut over the water! How luxurious!

Favourite resort/place to stay?
In Bali, I stay at Kanishka in Seminyak. They are private villas & they have no back wall, so literally the living room & kitchen join straight into the pool with your own private waterfall – so beautiful!

Things you love and cant live without?
As much as I am ashamed to admit it – My Blackberry! it seriously is connected to me, but is it so convenient & allows me to run my business from anywhere in the world!
Music! My ipod also comes everywhere with me, I could not live without music. I love that is has the power to literally transport you to another world, it can bring back memories or can inspire.
My notebook & pen. I NEVER go anywhere without them as I never know where inspiration will hit. My mind has the retention of a goldfish, si if I think of something I need to write it down pronto otherwise it could be lost forever!

How did you start out?
I started making jewellery just a hobby. I started selling to stores & it literally took off!i started the company when I was 21 & have not looked back since!

What do you love most about what you do?
I love that being creative & design is my hobby & I am lucky enough to earn a living from it. Even if it wasn’t my career, I would be doing it anyway so it is a blessing to be able to do what I love everyday!

What do you feel is your calling and how do you achieve it through your art and work as a designer?
As the company grows, I feel that my calling is to show other women that if you have a dream of doing something in your career, you should not let anything hold you back. I did not study design or business, what I did do is continue to push doors & not let the hard times get on top of me & I hope that what we achieve with the brand encourages other women to follow their dreams also.

What other professions have you tried and when and how did you know that this was your calling?
When I first moved to Sydney from Port Macquarie, I was just working as a retail assistant when I was selling my jewellery of a weekend. Even when I was suppose to be selling clothes, I was re-merchandising the store or thinking how if I worked at one of the brands of the clothes I was selling, what I would do differently if the brand was mine! So I think I was always destined to have my own brand!

What inspired you to become a designer? Did you always know what you wanted to do?
I am inspired by not having limitations on my work. I think that you have that luxury when it is your own brand, rather then working to briefs. Along with a love for product (jewellery) design, I also really enjoy the branding side of the company & creating an emotional connection between our clients that goes beyond product. I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I was at school, I knew I wanted to do something creative, but I didn’t go to university, so I didn’t have a lot of direction leaving school! Even when I started out just selling my jewellery on the weekend, it wa sonly ever a hobby, I never set out to create an empire!

How did you go about achieving such a level of success at such a young age? We want the secrets….
I don’t know if it’s a secret or just persistence! Alot of people who are starting up their own brands ask send me emails like ‘how did you get to where you are? I am going on holidays next week, can I come & see you when I get back as I don’t feel I am getting anywhere with my label?’ & I think to myself – that’s why! You cannot take holidays when you are starting up! You miss nights out with friends to meet deadlines, you work 27 hours straight if you have to. When I realized jewellery design could be more then just a hobby for me, I lived, breathed & lived it some more. If you want to achieve a certain level of success, it unfortunately does not come with out sacrifice. An example I use often was when I was 22, my best friend & I had a trip planned to travel through Europe for a year. 4 months to us leaving, the brand just took off & I, as a 22 year old, had to make the choice to stay in Australia & work with the momentum of the brand or go on the trip of a life time with my best friend! It was a really hard choice at the time, but I chose to stay & work really hard on the brand in the view that if I worked hard enough, the brand would allow me to travel the world – and I am now doing this interview from my apartment in New York, after just spending a week with my best-friend in LA! So I may have missed out on the trip with her at 22, but I know catch up with her at different places around the world!

What do you believe is the reason you are where you are today?
I don’t think there is one sole reason, along with hard work & persistence, I think one of the factors is I believe I am very opportunistic in the sense that if there is a window of opportunity, come hell or high water – I will ensure I am there to take advantage of it. The success of samantha wills pty ltd of where it is today is strongly due to an amazing team that is involved in the day to day & long term building of the brand. My business partner Geoff Bainbridge is a driving force behind the business side of the brand & our General Manager Sarah Moore who makes our visions into realities.

What is success to you?
I have been asked this question throughout my career & what success is to me now is very different to what it would have been to me at 22 & will be very different if you ask me again in another 5 years! Right now, success to me is to being able to travel the world & set up the brand in the US market while the company still continues to run & grow without me there. To me this signifies that we have recruited the right people, have a great placing in the market to be financially available to do so & that our brand & designs are appealing to our consumers.

What has your success enabled you to do? What other goals and dreams has it allowed you to pursue?
Travel I guess is the biggest one that it has allowed me to. The second would be to meet some pretty amazing people!

Was success a choice or something that just happened? What conscious decision did you make to get to where you are today?
I think in life fate gives you opportunities, however fate will only take you so far. The level of success is up to you & I definitely think it has to be a conscious decision.

What do you believe contributed mostly to you achieving success and becoming a leading designer in Australia and having a celebrity following?
I think we we first launched onto the market, statement jewellery was just about to take off, so we were one of the only brands doing it in Australia. We were fortunate enough that this generated a lot of media in the early days, to keep the momentum going, we have continued to bring out new things, expand, change, grow. It is the brands that stay stagnate that get push out of the market, the most important thing to be a market leader is innovation. We are very conscious that we continue to be innovative in every area of the business.

Have you had a mentor along the way and who inspires you most and why?
I am going to say my business partner, but more importantly my very good friend Geoff Bainbridge, he hates the term ‘mentor’! While he continues to inspire me in business & I learn so much from him, but it is the way he takes time to get to know people personally & really spends invested time in people that I really admire.

Who would you most like to meet and why?
I would really really like to meet John Mayer, but that has nothing to do with business! J I would love to have dinner with Tamara Mellon on her work on building Jimmy Choo into what it is today or Tory Burch on her success of herself titled brand.

What are the most important lessons you’ve learned along the way?
Never burn a bridge, it is a small world & you just never know when you will cross paths with that person again!

What difficulties and challenges have you faced to get to where you are and how did you turn them around?
I think being so young when I started the business, a lot of people didn’t really take you seriously. It was a matterof growing up (or acting a lot more grown up) when you are dealing with business – presenting to major department stores, they want to deal with a business woman, not a kid.

If you could say one thing to women out there to inspire them on their journey to success what would it be?
There is never an ‘ideal’ time to do something. You will always find an excuse NOT to do something, so my advice would be if you are looking to make a change either in your career or personal life to get on or continue the journey to success, you have to take risks & while that is mostly scary, remember the bigger the risk, the bigger the reward!
Beauty, Brains and Business.....who said we can't have it all....


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