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SAMANTHA WILLS for OPTUS: #BelieveBig Campaign

Samantha Wills

[2004] No One Starts A Business To Be Small… 
I didn’t go to university. Hell, I didn’t even finish my TAFE visual merchandising course. All I knew is I wanted to create a brand that people wanted to be a part of, I didn’t really know HOW I was going to do it, but I knew I loved being creative, I loved the concept of branding & and I knew whatever I did, I wanted it to be big. 

I left my home town of Port Macquarie & packed everything I could fit into my Corolla hatchback & set off down the highway to the big smoke of Sydney. I was working full-time at SurfDiveNSki at Eastgardens by day, hand making jewellery by night, selling it down at Bondi Markets every Sunday, lining up from 4am to get my regular market stall spot, & every other night, I was hustling friends of friends to host a ‘jewellery party’ for me in their home, similar to Nutri-metics party plan, I would come in & layout my jewellery on strangers dining tables, while they invited their friends over to shop my handmade wares. Every single cent went back into buying beads & components, to restock for the weekend markets. 

A year of juggling all this & a friend from the markets offered me a spot on a showroom wall at Fashion Week. I had a 42 piece sample collection made up entirely of earrings, pinned with thumb tacks to cheap satin covered cork boards. The spot cost me $500, it was all the cash I had, & hoping to make just the cost back, I took the spot, and ended up writing $17,000 worth of orders to boutiques across the country. I threw myself into making this business my career. I had absolutely NO idea what I was getting myself into, but it was the break I had been waiting for. 

This is me 12 years ago, making orders from that fashion week trade show on a green cutting board. The little purple pile on the corner of the desk is the start of production for an order of earrings – each pair took an hour to make, I had one order alone that was for 60 pairs of them. I had a fax machine, a triplicate copy order book, $20,000 of credit card debt & a calculator. This picture was taken in 2004… It took me 12 years to become an overnight success.

Me in 2004, in my dining room in Kensington, Sydney. 

Me in 2004, in my dining room in Kensington, Sydney. 

Cont….[2004] No Money, No Eyebrows….
This is a photo of me just before I launched the brand at Fashion Week in 2004, & one of my very first profile articles. This was the height of the Bondi Markets, jewellery parties & the complete hustle of startup mode. I remember cutting those polystyrene letters out in my Visual Merchandising TAFE course (which I dropped out of). The newspaper said they would run an article, but I need to supply a head shot. My best friend (and flatmate) @MelYudi took this pic for me. It was in our dining room that I had taken over as a warehouse/workshop. The mess of my surrounds is very indicative of how everything felt at the time, little did I know a few days after this article was published that I was going to get the big break I had been waiting for, but was no where ready for. I still own those @TigerlillySwimwear cargo pants – they were my uniform back then, & while I haven’t worn them in 10 years, I cannot bring myself to part with them – clearly I didn’t feel the same way about my eyebrows back then.

A news article, published a week before Fashion Week. 

A news article, published a week before Fashion Week. 

[2005] When your world falls apart… 
Media interest in someone so young starting a company + the over sized accessories boom, saw significant media on the brand. Blogs were not a thing yet, nor was social media. A placement in a magazine meant instant orders & new retailers. I would make it very easy for media to place the brand, investing in relationships with the Jnr fashion assistants. They would call, I would quickly make the pieces they wanted, whizz down to their office & deliver it to the courier dock myself. I didn’t want to give them a reason to call accessories in from anyone else, so I ensured them I would have their selection there within a few hours, if not sooner. 

I thought people would take me more seriously if I had an actual office space, & I also thought my flatmates would appreciate having a dining room back to its intended purpose, not as a warehouse, workshop & office. I took a lease on a office space. Things were overwhelming, but I was so romanced by having my own business, I didn’t care. My friends were finishing uni & about to embark on European adventures living abroad. I decided to not join them, & instead focus on my business with the hope that I would travel later in my career, the business was growing, I had met a boy & fallen madly in love – life was good... Towards the end of 2005, my credit card statement told me I owed $50K, I was sitting in an office I couldn’t afford, my hands bled from making so much jewellery, my friends were off having the time of their lives, & as is often the case with young love, it feel apart…So did my world. 

There I was, 24 years old, $50K in debt, & alone. I would cry myself to sleep, and then drive back out to the office before sunrise, make jewellery while sobbing hysterically. I felt claustrophobic, alone, a failure, overwhelmed. It was some of the darkest days I have experienced, but when you are a sole trader in a very inexperienced startup, you can’t call in sick, the orders still have to be made & shipped. 

After a few weeks, there were no more tears left to cry, so I dusted myself off, and started to plan my next move. The show had to go on.

Some of my original designs from 2004 & 2005, in my first collection 'Under the Tahitian Waterfall'

Some of my original designs from 2004 & 2005, in my first collection 'Under the Tahitian Waterfall'

[2005] ….When you’re in $50,000 debt, this is what dinner looks like. Every. Single. Night.

[2006] Fake It Til You Make It… 

The profile of the brand far outweighed my capabilities in all senses, I was doing everything I could to make the brand appear global, when really it was being run from my dining table. I made up a fake employee (Let’s call her ‘Jane’), so that I could use her to pitch about myself to media to try to secure profiling to raise the awareness of the brand, I would also utilize ‘Jane’ to chase up overdue accounts, so I could maintain a good relationship with buyers when I would have to go & sell the collection to them, Jane was the bad cop to my good cop. Jane worked as hard as I did (!) and she stayed with me until I was in a position to employ real life people, (she went on extended maternity leave, in case you were wondering!) Still putting my life back together from the end of the previous year, I decided I was going to do my own show for Fashion Week. I committed to make 15 couture style outfits out of jewellery. I look back now & can see I was just pursuing what I knew; branding. I had no money to do a show, but my mentality at the time was that it would get attention from a big retailer & that would be the next big break I needed. So I burnt the midnight oil, crafting these costumes, calling in favors left right & centre from friends & family. I was exhausted, I lost about 15kgs from stress – but it got the attention of one of Australia’s biggest department stores – the only problem now was I had to fund (and make!) the production to fill my biggest order yet. I got more credit cards, I made more jewellery. I got it done. But I was drowning. 

By the middle of the year, I was working 20 hours a day, I was exhausted. My hair was falling out in patches. I was a red hot mess. $80,000 in debt & on the verge of a nervous breakdown, I found someone who was prepared to pay off the $80K… in exchange for 51% of my name. I was searching madly for a life line, and this was it. I had the pen in my hand. I was only a signature away from being saved, I was about to sign over majority control of my name & company to a stranger…. 

In Sydney in 2006, at my very first stand alone show. 

In Sydney in 2006, at my very first stand alone show. 

[2007] New Horizons… 

As fate would have it, the Retail Director from my days at SDS was working at a new company, and they needed a women’s jewellery range designed. He heard I had started my own business, & reached out to see if I was interested in meeting his boss, Geoff Bainbridge, to present a collection to (It’s a small world, invest in relationships & never burn bridges! Trust me!). I agreed to meet Geoff the week before I was to sign the contract I spoke about in my previous post.

I told him how I was drowning & couldn’t see a way out of my $80K debt, and I was exhausted & knew that the brand could be something more, but I just couldn’t see that anymore through the debt & pressures of running it all myself. He looked me square in the eyes & said: 
‘Signing over 51% of your business would be the biggest fucking mistake of your life. Don’t do it.’
‘Well if I don’t do it, would you come on board. I want no money from you, I just want you to advise & help me set up the back end of the business. I will give you 30% equity.’ I said. 

Geoff was the busiest person I ever met. He was involved in more business than I could count, and was so damn smart across numbers & business structure, but also with a real integrity for brand & people.

‘Absolutely no fucking way, I’m too busy.’ He replied. 

I asked him again a month later, and then another month after that, his answer was always the same, & always involved profanity. After about the fifth time I asked him, he finally agreed. So I signed the promised equity over to him that day, and essentially gave him the gift of owning 30% of a hobby I started on a market table, that had a big dream with no structure, oh yeah & also comes with a side of $80K debt. 

Geoff saw something in my vision that was greater than $80K debt, and while the process of he & I (pictured) sorting through the cc statements & shoebox accounting I had been running for the past two years was about as enjoyable as a tooth extraction, I knew that the brand I had been putting everything into for the past two years, was about to be given an opportunity to grow into its real potential, and so was I.

With my business partner, and Friend Geoff Bainbridge. 

With my business partner, and Friend Geoff Bainbridge. 

[2008] Full Steam Ahead… 

With Geoff advising across the back end of the business & setting up on a strict budget & cashflow plan, it allowed me to focus on what I was good at; Branding & Design. 

A brand/business is only as good as its people. And when the right people are in the right roles, magic is bound to happen. Not having to focus on the accounting & cash flow allowed me to get my hands very dirty in the production side of things, I was able to create more, fulfilling more orders & little by little, we started to move elements of the production offshore. This was done bit by bit, we would get elements compiled offshore, then I would add locally sourced elements to complete the piece. This allowed us to produce more stock, and soon the debt position had turned around into profits. 

2008 was pivotal, not just for the structure of the business (we hired 3 people to join the business) or its financial positioning, (we turned over $780K that year, a huge jump from the $70K I was turning over as a sole trader). We introduced our signature hand carved wooden boxes as packaging late that year, that saw the orders triple from the previous season, this was also the year that P!NK put us on the map by wearing @samanthawillsofficial for every media interview on her sell out Australian Tour, and to top all that off, then Eva Mendes wore our ‘Bohemian Bardot’ Ring to a film premiere; we sold out of the ring within 5 days of her wearing it, and it has been our best selling item (and produced in over 150 colour combinations) ever since. It was the start of what was about to be a celebrity boom throwing the brand into a very high profile spotlight, taking the brand from dining table manufacture to Hollywood in the space of 12 months. 

This year also saw the launch of our own ecommerce store, and the launch of the brand into social media with our own company Facebook page. 

The growth was significant and fast. Things were on a trajectory, and while the pressures were different to what they were 12 months ago, we were navigating business & branding in a new digital world, any errors we were about to make would be played out in a public forum.

Eva Mendes, making our Bohemian Bardot ring, a signature.

Eva Mendes, making our Bohemian Bardot ring, a signature.

[2009]The Only Way Was Up…(Including my hair) 

We were growing fast. We had moved offices twice in two years, and as fate would have it, the office we moved into (which is still our head office today) is only one block away from my very first little office that I would sit in sobbing, filled with anxiety over the debt & pressure that I had created around myself. Also, as time has a way of doing things, the young love that had broken my heart in 2005 was now one of my biggest supporters, we got back together in 2007, both different people. 

We went from a team of 4, to a team of 18 in a year. By this point, I couldn’t make the production anymore as the demand was so high, so I would design all of the collections & have them made off-shore. This sounds like it would remove a lot of stress, but it was the opposite. It felt like handing your baby over to someone else. We had a huge amount of teething problems, our minimums per style not yet enough to work with the production houses I wanted to, so we experienced some significant quality issues as I tried to find out feet as a brand that dealt with off shore production. I was on a plane to China or Hong Kong every other week. The team of 18 was a young team, but very passionate. Everyone involved believed in me & the vision of the brand. It's very surreal to have a team of people working towards a dream you have set. I thought it then & I still think now how gracious it is for anyone to work in a company where the founder and namesake actively work in the business. Our warehouse was still in our office, so come Christmas or sale time, it was all hands on deck.We would tell everyone to wear comfy clothes, & for days on end, we would all be in there packing & shipping orders out. 

I couldn’t see it at the time, but Geoff kept telling me I was holding on too tight to everything, & he was right. I was still thinking like a sole trader, not a Founder & Creative Director. It was me that was going to hinder my own dreams of being a global brand. I needed to empower others to not just work IN the business, but ON the business. 

I started to change the way I was approaching things. That year we turned over our first $1M.

On my first business cover, Dynamic Business. 

On my first business cover, Dynamic Business. 

[2010] All the way to the USA… 

The profile of the business was peaking. I remember in a board meeting one day Geoff said, ‘You could do a steaming sh*t in an SW box right now, & it would sell’. (That’s a nice visual, isn’t it?!)… This was followed by a less visual wisdom, that brands have their time in the sun. Right now was ours. We had to capitalize on it, but more importantly, we needed a brand plan for when the inevitable happens, & we have some time not in the sun. This news scared the optimist in me, and at the time I lacked the maturity to wrap my head around what that actually meant. 

Our celebrity placements were coming in daily. Drew Barrymore wore @samanthawillsofficial 10 days in a row, Rihanna was wearing it at the Chateau Marmont, Kate Bosworth on the Red Carpet, JLO on stage. With this exposure came instant sales & lots of retailer enquiries from the USA. Opportunistically, we were sending product to fulfill the USA retail orders, but as an Australian based team, we didn’t know where the product was going, or how it was affecting our brand image in the USA. I was on a plane more than I was on the ground, to China, to America, I was now designing 6 collections a year as we added two more to meet growing demand for more newness, I was hustling like the early days, but on a grander scale. The team were working over time & everyone was running on adrenaline. 

We received a card in the mail one day, with illustrations of each of the characters from Sex and the City, it was a note from cult stylist Patricia Field saying ‘One hand in the air for the big city, thanks for making us look so pretty’ – Patricia. Our designs were about to feature in the SEX AND THE CITY film. 

My boyfriend was working on the start up phase of his own venture, so while my business got the best of my time, his business got the best of his time… And for the second & final time, we split up. With a heavy heart, I packed a suitcase & made the move to New York City with a new goal. Going Global. 

Our celebrity following, featured in OK! Magazine in 2010.

Our celebrity following, featured in OK! Magazine in 2010.

[2011] Desperately Seeking Samantha…

‘Hey New York! I’m here! And I have this really successful Australian brand, how many stores would you like to stock it in!?!’
Cue hundreds of closed doors. Cue the rejection letters.

You know what New York doesn’t care about? It doesn’t care that you are a successful Australian brand. It doesn’t care that you have dressed every big celebrity name. It doesn’t care that you have your product in Sex and the City. It doesn’t care that back home in Australia, people know your name. New York doesn’t give two shits about any of that. New York is the cruelest of mistresses & she revels in showing you who is boss. 

And just like that, it was back to 2005; My friends were now back from their stints living overseas, and were now venturing back to Australia to start the next phase of life,having weekend BBQ’s together celebrating engagements, weddings & babies. I was in a new country, with no team or office to relate with on a daily interaction, I was investing so much in work I didn’t take the time to make friends over here, so I effectively isolated myself. The brand was not getting the traction I had envisaged, and I thought I had to make drastic changes to the design language & brand to make it fit everyone person I was showing it to’s opinion, so I worked with a design advisor to try to develop this. This was a big mistake, & coupled with Geoff’s foresight of once a brand has its time in the sun it naturally has to spend time in the shade. Not only was our sun going behind a cloud,there was a dark storm rolling in. I changed the design language to everything the brand wasn’t at the time, minimal when our customer wanted layering,strange colour palettes that was not our customer at all, small pieces when everyone was screaming out for statement. I wanted the US market to work so badly, I applied everything the design advisor suggested, not only did it not resonate in the USA, it was detrimental to our main market & consumer base in Australia. It was our worst ever received collection, it didn’t sell through & retailers were left with most of the stock at the end of the season. I fucked up badly.

Professionally, the brand was so much an extension of who I was, & if I couldn’t translate it in the brand & collections, it was a true reflection of where I was personally. And I was lost. I remember being in my apartment in NYC, & there was one time I didn’t leave the apartment for four days. I was crippled by anxiety. I just couldn’t function. I would sit on the couch for what must have been hours, staring at the wall, seeing the world pass by outside. If the phone rang I would screen it. I felt like such a failure. It was so publicized that I had moved to NYC to continue the success of the brand, I had a team I had just let down with not only a shitty collection that no one could sell, but due to my headspace, I was providing no direction on where the brand needed to go, what it needed to look like – And you know what is detrimental to a brand? A Creative Director that was unable to provide direction. 

Geoff knew I was lost, I don’t think he knew how bad it was relating to me personally, but blind freddy could see it professionally. The sales were poor, I had lost the retailer's confidence, and the team were getting anxious about what our next step was. 

I was due to head home in December to celebrate my 30th birthday, I was ready to let go of the global dream, move back home & be content with a successful Australian business. My friends & family were there, my team was there, I was comfortable there. 

Then in November of 2011, the New York Times saw some of my earlier creations & ran a half page story in their Sunday Edition, naming me as Break Out Star of the year. 

And the phone started ringing from the same retailers who had kindly declined the brand previously. I had stars (spangled banner) back in my eyes. All of a sudden, now didn’t seem like the time to quit.

THE NEW YORK TIME, November 11th 2011

THE NEW YORK TIME, November 11th 2011

[2012] Get Your Sh*t Together

It was time to get my shit back together, and if NYC was forcing me to go back to my roots, then that’s exactly what I was going to do. That year @FashionPalette were putting together an Australian runway showcase in NYC for fashion week, featuring Australian iconic designers Toni Maticevski & Akira Isogawa. They invited me to also participate, and I jumped at the chance. And in a very similar way to the commitment for my 2006 show, I once again started hand crafting couture wearable's that would adorn models down the runway. It wasn’t lost on me that 6 years prior I was constructing pieces, sitting in an office in Alexandria, Sydney that not only could I not couldn’t afford, I could barely afford to feed myself. Now here I was sitting in my NYC loft, financially in a much better position, but back to grass roots; my hands again bleeding – long hours & late nights with my own thoughts. It was in this time that I knew what I had to do to get the brand back on track. I had to go back to why I started it, go back to the truth of who I was & not try & make it something else to fit other people's opinions. 

The show was a success & we picked up more retailers. We were growing, but I had high expectations, and I wanted more, and I wanted it faster then it was happening. 

As to nurture the brand & the team that had stood by me, I was splitting my time between Sydney & NYC like a crazy person. 4 weeks NYC, 10 days Sydney consistently. 

I didn’t want to isolate myself like I had the previous year, so wherever I was I actively investing in friendships. Sometimes it felt I had two lives, but I tried to fuse them together as closely as I could so they both felt like home. But as I was spending more & more time in NYC, it was fast becoming ‘home’. And then, as is the way with the universe, just when you get your shit back together & everything is back on track... I met a boy.

Back stage at Fashion Palette for NYFW, Image by George Elder.

Back stage at Fashion Palette for NYFW, Image by George Elder.

Presenting our bespoke couture pieces, in New York City, for Fashion Week 2012.

[2013] One For The Books… 

2013 was a year for the books. I got the design language & brand direction back on track. We were back in our stride as a company & I had a million ideas on category expansions & grand plans. 

We moved our General Manager, Sarah Moore over to the USA to have someone focused solely on the wholesale side of the US business. For the record, as an Australian business, doing business in America is logistically challenging. Getting your foot in the often closed door aside, the logistics, warehousing & general back of house admin is hard to a manage. Sarah did an incredible job, and within a few months had the brand stocked in Bloomingdales, Shopbop, Revolve Clothing amongst other major accounts. It was the break we were looking for & we were on our way! 

It was like being a swan on a lake, polished & refined on the top (our brand & presentation) but kicking & moving fast under the water (the hustle happening every day!). My personal profile in Australia was growing, and I started to have offers come across my desk from other brands for creative & spokesperson roles. That year I worked with SK-II & American Express, and secured a deal with Australia’s most famous house of sparkling @Yellowglen to create an exclusive product for them, and while the deal did not make me a winemaker, it did allow me to create my own wine brand; ‘Peacock Lane By Samantha Wills’. The team at #Yellowglen wanted me to infuse the essence of the #SamanthaWills brand into the Peacock Lane brand & the product launched to market with great success. 

As a creative person, who had worked on one brand for nearly 10 years, it was so exhilarating to work with my own creative voice, but on a whole new brand & category. It ignited a trigger in me to pursue my career with two tiers, one that was Samantha Wills the brand (@SamanthaWillsOfficial) and one that was Samantha Wills the person, the Creative Director. 

I was travelling more than ever, and couldn’t find a way to reduce it, so I just embraced it. I was living my dream. Living in NYC, with a new great group of friends, travelling the world, business was booming and I was madly in love. Life was good! 

Media reviews of the launch of, YELLOWGLEN Peacock Lane By Samantha Wills

Media reviews of the launch of, YELLOWGLEN Peacock Lane By Samantha Wills

[2014] Calm Before The Storm...

This year saw us release the @SamanthaWillsOfficial eyewear division, + a relaunch of @SamanthaWillsBridal (pictured at the launch event) as the bridal market was a winner for us, and the stand alone division it was quietly creeping up to rival the success of our mainline. We were locking down a new website interface, which is not small job, responsible for nearly 50% of our company's revenue, and taking nearly a full year to build it was a big job. 

I was on a plane every 6 weeks between NYC & Sydney, working with @Yellowglen & fronting their spring racing campaigns, I also found myself doing a lot of public speaking about business & the journey of the brand. There was a real community of young entrepreneurs who were embracing the age of digital & working on their own brands (product or personal) respectively. It was inspiring to be around, and it felt good to share my own experiences & lessons. 

Business was good, life was good. While it felt calm (because it was), I think anyone with any amount of entrepreneurial blood in their veins, does not sit well with calm for too long. I wanted more, I wanted the next challenge – I just didn’t know what that was just yet, and while I was actively knocking on doors for what that was. I had now been working in the same job for 10 years – For anyone else that time would usually see 2-3 major job changes. I wasn’t bored, but I wanted to progress my career personally, as much as I wanted to grow the SAMANTHA WILLS brand professionally. 

I questioned whether I was too publicly engrained in the SAMANTHA WILLS brand to be able to pursue any other personal endeavors, but the years to follow would soon put an end to my concerns.

At the launch of our SAMANTHA WILLS BRIDAL collection, in Sydney Australia.  Image by Scott Ehler. 

At the launch of our SAMANTHA WILLS BRIDAL collection, in Sydney Australia. Image by Scott Ehler. 

[2015] You Can’t Have it All...

2015 will go down in my history as a career high. The business was going great, we had a new management team in place doing great things, specialists in their departments & we were working great as a team, continually elevating the brand. 

I started working on a dream collaboration with @ClubMed, starting the year off in an absolute dream experience of showcasing their new Maldives property. The work I was doing with #Yellowglen solidified this year as they named me Creative Director across their entire portfolio. I was awarded runner-up for the @AdvanceGlobalAustralians ‘Commercial Creative’ award, an award that honors Australians abroad. Cosmopolitan Magazine named me ‘Fashion Designer of the Year’, & to top that all off, I received notification that I had been nominated for Australian of The Year for the 2016 awards for me work in inspiring women. It is what you would label as dream year, and then 10 years on from when my world fell apart from a broken heart, it happened again & in a single second, the dream year quickly turned very dark & very isolated. 

When you go through dark times, the world doesn’t stop, so you have to find a way to get through. My work commitments became more public, so I would show up ready to work, smile when I needed to, do the interviews I needed to do, and then when the last task for the day was done, and the cameras were turned off, I would fall apart & cry, til the next morning, when it was time to do it all over again. 

I was given the incredible opportunity to appear on two national magazine covers (@CollectiveHub & @Facon_AU) a rare honor for a designer, my Yellowglen billboards were in every bus shelter across the country & suspended 30ft high in every Westfield shopping center, smiling and sparkling (pictured). Business was booming. To anyone looking on, 2015 was the epitome of happiness & success, but personally I was heartbroken & empty & some days I struggled to leave the house. It was time to once again rebuild.

She Leaves A Trail Of Glitter Wherever She Goes; The campaign for the relaunch of the YELLOWGLEN campaign.  Image By Scott Ehler

She Leaves A Trail Of Glitter Wherever She Goes; The campaign for the relaunch of the YELLOWGLEN campaign. Image By Scott Ehler

[2015] The World Owes You Nothing…
The world doesn’t give two shits if you are having a bad day, month or year. Everyone has them. And they will pass. It's hard to believe at the time, when it feels like there is no way out of the situation you find yourself in.

But there is.

It will take some time, and unfortunately, that is the one thing you can’t change or speed up. Sometimes you have to sit in the shit. Immerse yourself in the shittiness & pain of a situation, and when you immerse yourself so deeply into the lowest part of the shit, that is when you can start to rebuild. The world doesn’t owe you anything, it's not going to help you out of it. That’s your responsibility. So once you reach rock bottom. Get a plan. 

I believe that to whom much is given, much is required. I have always tried to be transparent in sharing the journey of the brand & it's origins. I do it in the hope that my story, coming from a small town with no formal education or training, to be able to carve out a career like the one I have, inspires others who may be from a similar background to pursue their dreams also. So I threw myself into launching a platform that published all the things I learnt, this things I wished I had of known when I was starting out and essentially brought together a community of like minded, young entrepreneurs, and so I set to work on building the @SamanthaWillsFoundation.

I launched the foundation quietly, but the response was phenomenal & the peak traffic in the first week totaled numbers I thought would take 3 months to hit. I always knew that people, & especially the following the brand had amassed, resonated with transparency, so that’s how I wrote for the foundation. Candid, honest & gritty. Anyone I interviewed to feature, got told that was the only prerequisite. No fluff, no glamour – I want young entrepreneurs to know they are not alone on this journey – Tell me what gives you anxiety? Why do you cry in the shower? What is your breaking point? It’s all in here, profanity & all.

2016: The launch of The Samantha Wills Foundation

2016: The launch of The Samantha Wills Foundation

[2016] You Never Know Who’s Watching….

People are watching. You might not know it, but they are. 

I was approached by @Nespresso to front a campaign for them which showcased my story on how I go about a day full of routines without getting stuck in a rut. My friends at the @McGrathFoundation kindly had me front a campaign raising money for the amazing work their breast care nurses do, the work I am doing with @Yellowglen continues to go from strength to strength, and I have just signed a design deal with an iconic Australian brand that will see a design collab under my design & creative direction, roll out globally this Christmas. It is very surreal, being approached by these brands. I grew up admiring them, & then the feeling became mutual. 

And then one morning I got an email from an old friend who I have worked with over the years. She said that @Optus were interested in my story & would I be interested in working on a small business campaign with them. They said that Mark Wahlberg had already signed on to the same campaign. MARK WAHLBERG…And, ME. 

Being on the Creative Direction side of things my entire career, it is very surreal to receive a deck on yourself. The deck the agency sent over was a research document on me & the last 12 years of my career. My wins, my losses. The hardships I shared, the awards I’d won, the Bondi Market stall I launched at, the key messages I had shared on business, the media I had been profiled in, the move to NYC. All of it. It was like reading an episode of ‘This Is Your life’.

They wanted to recreate my 2004 life with as much detail as possible, & create a television commercial shot in NYC as modern day, with flashbacks to my life 12 years ago. A sound stage was built out in New York’s midtown, and my bedroom, living room & kitchen were all recreated from the days when I was $80K in debt. (The prop dept even had jaffle maker complete with the baked beans I used to live on!). We shot about 20 hours of footage, which was edited into a 60 sec television commercial, you have probably already seen Mark’s commercial, mine aired nationally last night, here it is below. 

Yes Dad, this is one for the Pool Room. - SWx










HERSELF Samantha Wills




STEADICAM OP Matt Fleischmann

1st ASSISTANT CAMERA Cameron Dingwall



GAFFER Brian Wachtel


ELECTRIC Erik Rooney

ELECTRIC Luke Deikis


KEY GRIP Masseo Davis


GRIP Charlie Pearson

GRIP Alexander Koht




SET DECORATOR Monica Mayorga

PROP MASTER Yasmin Reshamwala

SET DRESSER Griffin Clark

SET DRESSER Mark Weinheimer

SET DRESSER Reed Ratynski




ASST WARDROBE Edward Vasques

HAIR Janelle Chaplin

MAKE-UP Stoj Bulic











VEHICLES Courier Car Rental

VTR Jimmy Mulhollan







VTR Drew Cerria



G&E DRIVER Jack Cronin

CHEF / DRIVER Chief Nova


PA - OFFICE Sabine Holmes

PA - TRUCK Tommy Kikos

PA - TRUCK Dwayne Scott


PA - SET Steve Valle

PA - SET Sydney Ballesteros

PA - SET Will Zullo

PA - SET Mike Havoc