Samantha WillsFounder & Creative Director of Samantha WillsNew York City, NYPhotography by Lauri LevenfeldStory by Lauri Levenfeld
It’s too cute that our entire New York trip leading up to photographing Samantha, everyone we met had something lovely to say about this lady. And everything they said was true. We were immediately enamored as well when greeted by this beautiful and instantly likeable Aussie, whose style and home interior reflect the poignant, pretty, and powerful designs behind her jewelry. It is Samantha’s authenticity and ability to connect to her exact customer’s needs that has led her company to such incredible success and popularity.
I am Samantha Wills- Founder & Creative Director of Samantha Wills, an accessories brand that was established on the notion of Bohemian Luxury. The brand originated in my home land of Australia and we now have offices in Sydney, New York (where I am based), Seoul, Tokyo and Paris.
I always knew I wanted to do something creative. When I was in high school and everyone else was applying for universities, I felt lost about my future and where I was going.
Growing up in a small town, I was never aware of the creative careers that were available to me. I decided to opt out of university studies and instead moved to Sydney to live with my best friend. I started making jewelry in the evenings and selling it on the weekend at a local market at Bondi Beach – I was 21 years old.
It was from there that a friend who had a wall in a showroom at Australian Fashion Week offered me a space for $500. I took the opportunity hoping to make the money back with at least one order , but that day I ended up writing $17,000 worth of orders. And so the next day, I quit my retail job and decided to create a brand that stood for something and had something to say.
I am very lucky that I have not faced challenges in my career being a woman. I have been my own boss from the time I was 21 years old. But in regards to struggles, it used to be work/life balance – because I thought that existed. The minute I realized it didn’t, I was free! If you work for yourself, you will work around the clock- but the freedom that comes with working for yourself is the bonus. You learn to fuse the two together to get the best of both worlds rather than constantly trying to separate them.
My biggest accomplishment has been putting together a strong and wonderful SW team. I am very lucky to have such incredible people around me – not only people who are good at what they do, but genuine and loving as well. On a product front, the two standouts have been being named as the breakout star in 2011 by the New York Times and having my designs featured in the Sex and The City film – both very surreal moments for a girl from a small town in Australia.
In the very beginning I didn’t have the luxury of having a mentor. But before my business partner became my business partner – he was my mentor (even though he would never refer to himself as that). Mentor, guide, or someone more experienced than you – whatever you call it, I think it is critical to have someone in your career that plays this role. If you don’t have anyone as of yet- don’t worry- simply have more conversations, listen more, and ask more questions when you can as people really do want to help. It is also important to give back to your industry. No matter where you are in your career, there is someone coming up behind you and looking for help. Reaching out can be rewarding and special.
I think my parents thought starting a jewelry business was just another one of my crazy creative ideas. I was always starting little businesses along the way – SAMart was my business when I was 12 where I would sell jewelry on the counter of my Mum’s clothing store, and then, it was FISH KISS Designs where I started hand painting floor, wall mirrors and photo frames in high school. I loved the concept of branding and creating a community through a brand. This is something I strive for continuously with my company today.
My last bit of advice is you can do it all, just not all at the same time. Give yourself time to make it happen and keep believing.