I received an email from Sammy recently, asking me if I would be interested in being featured in a documentary she was producing, showcasing what makes Australian Entrepreneurs tick - If you are on this website, you will know that I am all about digging behind the success stories & glamour of owning a business, so I couldn't be more excited to be involved. Sammy's story is below, and if you would like to be a backer in 'Australian Entrepreneurs', simply head on over to their KickStarter page, and check out some of the rewards on offer!
NAME: Sammy Fletcher
COMPANY: Studio 18a + Australian Entrepreneurs
TITLE(S): Mummy + Producer
How would you describe yourself in 5 words? Friendly, Loyal, Kind, Happy, Warm.
What is the long version of how you got to where you are today? Okay here we go…. I moved from the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney to a country town called Goomboorian in QLD when I was a teenager. I think this had a massive impact on the person I am today, moving from theharbourside beaches to the country was a big change and I really had to learn to adapt and fit in, I think this is one of my qualities. Not knowing what I wanted to do with my life after completing Grade 12, I moved back to Sydney and needing to pay the rent I got a job at the canteen at Channel Nine making sandwiches and serving food to all the staff. I didn’t realise that taking this job at a canteen would shape my entire future. After a short stint in the canteen a job came up on the main reception, I applied and got it.
It was the most eye opening experience, I will never forget – we were a buzzing hub – front and centre in the firing line of anyone who walked in the front doors and for every call that came through the switch board… We had a “Hotline” which was a special phone that was dedicated for Kerry Packer only and when that phone rang no matter what you dropped everything and hoped for dear god you knew the extension he was after or the answer he needed. It was very repetitive work “Channel Nine can I help you” repeated over and over again. It was fun, and the ladies I worked with were like a little family. It still makes my palms sweat the thought of the hotline ringing.
A job opening came up on the Today Show on reception, and assistant to the hosts (at the time was Steve Liebmann and Liz Hayes) and the Executive Producer who became like a father to me over the years I worked for him. The Today Show really became like my family… I was still the front and centre person, the gate keeper/security for the team. I soon realized that I had my eyes set on being a production manager. I did anything I could to help/assist the production manager and learnt the ropes by offering my help in any thankless task that needed to be done. I also realized that the person in that job was not going to be moving on anytime soon, and desperately wanting to move off reception I took a side step to being executive assistant to the executive producer of Midday with Kerri-Anne. My EP took me under her wing, and groomed me knowing I wanted to be a production manager. After a short year the show was axed. My two best friends were living in London, so I decided it was time to go and do some travelling and see what London would bring.
I landed a job quickly at the BBC as an executive assistant, and without going in to detail I only stayed in that job for a very long few months whilst I desperately looked for other work. I got a part time job in the news library at NBC. I spent two very happy years at NBC, working with an amazing bunch of people from all over the world. My visa was up and it was time to come home.
Luckily upon my return to Australia Channel Nine were filming Survivor and we all packed up and moved to Adelaide for a few months. This is where I met, and feel in love with my husband Lachy. When we returned to Sydney I did a summer as the Unit Manager for A Current Affair and then my dream job came up, as a maternity leave position and I was production manager at Today Show for a year.
The end of my contract was looming, and a friend sent me an ad for a job at Foxtel for Production Manager as Channel [V], MusicMAX and Country Music Channel. I got the job, and it was fabulous… I went from being one of the younger staff members at Channel Nine to one of the senior staff members at Foxtel, that still amuses me today. This was a crazy pinch yourself role to be honest… we went on tour with bands, and we would film at the Sydney Opera House with the likes of Coldplay and Jack Johnson and my favourite, John Mayer.
We wanted to start a family, and I was doing crazy hours and high pressure and something had to give. At the same time we were getting married and I saw a great gap in the market for high end beautifully produced wedding films.
We started a wedding film business the year our first son was born, and we emerged ourselves into the world of weddings. Organically, a corporate storytelling arm of the business started to grow, so we felt we had to separate the two brands, and Studio 18a was born. We named the business after the address of the first apartment Lachy and I shared in Sydney.
Having three children now at school, and with weddings being on weekends, we made the decision to film our last wedding in November 2015 and focus on 18a. Last year Lachy turned 50, and I turned 40, and we talked about what work we would really like to do and we both agreed we would like to do more documentaries.
We are both fascinated by entrepreneurs and travel. I don’t feel entrepreneurs have a place to share their knowledge and story with fellow entrepreneurs on video. We have 10 amazing entrepreneurs to share their story with us who have a footprint in NYC. We are embarking on a crowd funding journey to raise the funds for the production budget at the moment.
I think it is really important people can explain their main message in a concise paragraph – if the above is the full version - What is you elevator pitch on what you do? I’m a mum to three fabulous, busy children and one fur baby, Benji. My husband and I have a video production company specialising in corporate story telling, and we are embarking on an exciting adventure of making a documentary series about Australian Entrepreneurs.
Are you doing what you thought you would be doing 10 years ago? (If not, what did you think you would be doing?). I don’t think I knew what my career future would look as we had just started our business.
What does ‘success’ mean to you, and do you consider yourself ‘successful’? I think success is doing what you want to do – giving things a go and being proud of what you have achieved. I consider myself to be successful! Having a family and chasing my dreams and enjoying life.
What do you still want to achieve (personally & / or professionally)? Personally I would like to be more present in my day to day life. I’ve had learn to meditate on my to do list for over a year now, and it annoys me I can’t even do 10 minutes a day.
Did you study anything specific for the career you are in? I didn’t go to university, I was so lucky to have all on the job training to be where I am today. I’ve been thinking about part time uni lately, just not sure what I want to study.
What have been the most rewarding things in your career to date? Hands down meeting John Mayer! The thrill of talking to a client after they have watched their wedding film for the first time. Creating the MaxSessions with the executive producer at the Opera House.
Tell us about your workspace (Office / café / couch / aesthetic) what inspires you about your workspace? I don’t work from the 18a office – I work from home. I love my small sun room off our bedroom. Three of the walls are windows, and I love this room as it is bright and I feel like I’m sitting outside when I’m at my desk. My desk has been passed down in my family, and I love that it has paint on it from when my daughter and I painted on it from before it was my desk and it was our dining room table.
What are some frustrations you have experiences on your career journey? Lack of funds to pay the right people to do the best job was really frustrating. When we were a start up, we didn’t have any money and we had to wear all the hats of minister of finance, marketing guru, sales and on top of all of that, actually do our work.
When was the last time you where overwhelmed & cried from something provoked by work / work load? Yesterday… I’m putting together a documentary series with 10 entrepreneurs, and the logistics of working directly with everyone in different time zones and schedules can be overwhelming. I’m incredibly passionate about this project so my emotions are running high. I think when you start something new it is always overwhelming until you find your groove.
Would you say you put pressure on yourself? Has this gotten more or less as you progress in your career? I do put pressure on myself to keep moving forward and growing and learning. We only have one life I think people need to do more of what they enjoy and less what they don’t. I would say I put more pressure on myself now as I want my children to be proud of their Mum.
If you are a business owner – and you often can’t just check out / have a week off when you are dealing with personal things – how do you keep on keeping on with your business when things get tough? I try really hard to switch off on the weekends, and be with my family… When we plan to take time off- we communicate with our clients, so that it’s no problem. We have however, over the years had very stressful deadlines combined with sick children, or when my Nan passed and my husband couldn’t come to the funeral, that was really hard.
Has your career affected your personal life / relationships? If so how? YES! How my husband and I survived the first 10 years of business is beyond me! We talked, slept, and ate our business, it took years before we were able to have regular conversations that didn’t revolve around work. When we were first starting, we had little money to stretch a long way, and that topped with a growing family was tough on everyone.
Has your journey at times felt lonely? How? No, not really as I’ve always had my husband to bounce off, but I do miss working with a large team… To be honest I love working from home, when Lachy heads out the door in the morning and the kids are at school, it’s just Benji (my dog) and I, it’s heaven.
What causes you anxiety / sleepless nights? Five years ago my anxiety was at its worst, we had a growing business with 3 small children, and poor cash flow. I knew we had to make big changes, as we couldn’t continue with the sleepless nights. I quit drinking alcohol and coffee, and we cut back on our luxury items. When I’m embarking on something new, I wake with a fear of failure and I have to talk myself back to sleep.
If you had your time over again, from when you started your career to right now, would you do anything differently? I’m happy with where I’m at today… I would have asked for more money, and I would have asked for promotions sooner, I’m a people pleaser so I try not to rock the boat.
What advice would you give your 21 year old self? Stop worrying about what other people think of you, and do what you want to do. Be kinder on yourself, and it’s not a race – slow down. Don’t sweat the small stuff, and don’t be in such a hurry to grow up.
Who are some women in business you admire & why?
Brene Brown - her honest truth and vulnerability
Emma Isaacs – Business Chicks – runs a global brand while having 4 little humans and moved overseas.
Hilary Rushford – Dean Street Society – she is honest and engaging and I love learning from her.
Marie Forleo – B-School – How she has really created a life she loves and is such an inspiration for freedom.
I admire anyone giving it a go.
What traits do you admire in people you surround yourself with? I like people who can see the bright side of life. People who see the good in people – I can not stand being around naysayers.
Work life balance… Does it exist and how to maintain it, or a sense of it? Yes, I do think it exists… At times (like now) my work consumes me, and I’m running at a higher rate, but that won’t be forever. When we first started our business, we had no balance – it was all work work work. I think when you become comfortable, boredom creeps in and it’s time for a new challenge.
Have you ever thought about giving up / quitting? If so, does that feeling hit from the same triggers? Why haven’t you quit? Yes!!! It goes in cycles… I often daydream of packing up and moving to Bali and living a calm life, however I know its just a sign that I need to unplug and get away from technology ,and hang out with Lachy and the kids, or my girlfriends. Fear is my big trigger, fear of rejection is big for me.
What is the biggest misconception about what you do? It’s Glamorous… long days – early/late – filming is a slow and very time consuming process, and editing is even longer! I also think people think the process is a lot quicker to shoot and to edit.
What advice would you give someone who is starting out in your industry? Volunteer as much as you can… learn something from every situation you are in…. listen and watch and learn over time it will all fall into place. Don’t burn any bridges, like leaving jobs without notice, or showing up late for a shoot, or acting like a know it all.
If you knew what you know now, about how much work was involved to get you to where you are now, would you do it again or do something different, if so, what? I would do it all over again in a heart beat!
I like the quote ‘Don’t just have a job, have a purpose’ - What do you want your legacy to be? That I’m a fun loving Mum, who taught her kids to chase their dreams.
The SAMANTHA WILLS FOUNDATION is about bringing women in business together – why do you think this is important / (why did you want to be involved in this interview)? Oh yes! Very important – we need to support one another. I think it is more important today than ever, as social media can really make people believe it’s easy, and the cold hard truth is; it’s not. Business is both challenging, and satisfying – it’s like a roller coaster.
What are some of your favorite quotes? Mine is a little long but I just love it...
You can become a backer in Sammy's 'Australian Entrepreneurs' Documentary Series (including the opportunity to have a boardroom lunch with me at SW HQ!), by visit their KickStarter Page.