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SW's JOURNAL

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THE FOOTNOTES INTERVIEW - SAMANTHA WILLS: THE COMMERCIAL CREATIVE

Samantha Wills

I LOVE DOING GOOD INTERVIEWS... I have come to hate answering 'What inspires your design?' or 'What is the color of the season?'.... I know this is part of my job as a designer & Creative Director, and I will keep making things up when I continue to get asked these questions, but I really love gritty interviews; new questions, questions that people want hear about, relevant questions, questions that are hard to answer. I recently had one of those interviews with THE FOOTNOTES. Here is the start of the interview, but read the rest on their site. Link at bottom of article. - SWx


Me, trying not to flash my undies on a windy day, at the Sydney Opera House, in a very high split skirt. 

Me, trying not to flash my undies on a windy day, at the Sydney Opera House, in a very high split skirt. 


THE FOOTNOTES INTERVIEWING ME....

.....The creation of the ‘Samantha Wills’ label in 2003 was not some sort of shy but persistent thought that she should start up her own jewellery design company. Sure, she could design, self manufacture – to perfection – and was already making sales at her local markets. But the Wills empire was born after an unexpected launch at the Mercedes Australian Fashion Week; after renting a $500 space on the showroom wall and hoping to make enough to pay back the rent, she walked away with a reported $17,000 worth of orders.

Samantha quit her job the next day.

Today there is no shortage of discussions about how you can become successful. Let’s face it, if you were to offer me 99c for each overnight success scheme I found, I’d only have to scroll through my social or LinkedIn feed and I would be buying my beach side apartment this side of Christmas. By coincidence or ‘luck’, while I was working on this interview I overheard people talking about how a certain person’s success was simply luck, and that luck is the route to achievement in life. And as luckwould have it, this conversation became the perfect hook for the point of this feature, (Thank you girls). Success rarely happens by accident and it certainly takes time. The old saying, “it took me years to be an overnight success” applies to most people, and Samantha Wills is a perfect example. Which in turn, makes her the perfect inspiration for any young creative.

FN: Can you tell us little bit about all the hard work behind the scenes, how did you learn about branding, stock orders & distribution elements of the business? Did you have a mentor help you through your establishment, or are you a born business woman?
SW: The brand building has been embedded in me for as long as I can remember. I remember when I was about 6 years old, I used to pull a heap of stuff out of Mum’s Pantry, set it up on the kitchen servery, with a hand made ‘Sammy’s Café’ menu, and try to sell it back to my parents!

SAMANTHA WILLS is not my first jewellery brand…. When I was 11, my Mum put me in beading classes at the local craft store in the school holidays which I credit as where I learnt the basics of jewellery-making. My parents had a small clothing store in Port Macquarie (where I grew up), and when they would go to Sydney to do the buys, Mum would always bring me back a box of beads from the fancy bead stores in Sydney. I would create designs, and Mum would let me have a spot on the counter near the register to sell them. I called the brand SAM-ART, and I would make about $60 a week from it! My parents always had a 'small business’, so I definitely learnt the wholesale side from them. With the SAMANTHA WILLS brand, I hand made everything myself for the first three years, as well as all the sales, marketing, shipping, PR – all of it! When the business started to grow, I didn’t know how to expand it. I learnt what I could along the way, but at 22 years old, I was just treading water to keep up with it all.

I met my business partner a few years in, and his background was in the more ‘business’ side of a brand. He was the one who took my crazy, creative brand ideas & allowed them to become a commercially successful business.

Often times, people thing of a creative business as being majority creative, but that's really not the case. The creative element is the glamorous side and sadly, it is such a small part of the business. It is all the behind the scenes elements that make a successful business. We have about 30 people in our company, the majority of whom are in warehouse, production, customer service, accounting or sales roles. This shows the demand on what it takes to run any business, because it is predominantly about logistics.

Even though he hates the term, my business partner, Geoff Bainbridge was a mentor to me from early on. I also looked to people in business whose brands I admired, but who I may not have known personally at the time. What Amanda Brisken was doing with MIMCO was pioneering for an accessories brand, and what Jodhi Meares did with TIGERLILY? Jodhi was my ultimate girl boss, and I have great admiration for her.
I don’t think I am a natural born business woman, I think I am a natural born entrepreneur. There is a difference. People often say to me ‘You are very good at business,’ and I always say, ‘I’m not, but what I am very good at is surrounding myself with people who are very good at business.’

READ THE FULL INTERVIEW: The Footnotes - SAMANTHA WILLS: THE COMMERCIAL CREATIVE