In late 2015, Collective Hub Founder and Editor in Chief Lisa Messenger called me and asked if I would consider being on the cover of their 25th issue as part of 'The New League’ of entrepreneurs. Honoured to even be considered, I jumped at the opportunity and the following week was standing in front of my dear friend Scott Ehler's lens being shot for this cover. This opportunity of being on this cover was incredibly significant to me and my journey for many reasons, but none more so than the personal kick in the arse it gave me to stop talking about wanting to launch a social endeavor, and finally do something about it. The day this cover hit newsstands I sat down and started to build this very platform; THE SAMANTHA WILLS FOUNDATION – this cover was the first uploaded to the site build and remains on here today in the ‘Who Is The Foundation For’ section.
If you are a young entrepreneur or have a start-up business, The Collective Hub magazine needs no introduction, meaning you have probably also seen that this week Lisa made the announcement that this month's release (Issue 52) would be their last issue. Releasing a statement that they are closing the print magazine. It takes a lot of courage to make this decision, I not only have complete admiration for the bravery of the announcement but am also inspired by the perspective shared on what the possibilities are when you are in a position, either forced or by choice (the latter is actually the hardest) to have to diversify or rebuild. As the statements shows on the magazine's final cover ‘sometimes breaking a brand can remake it’.
It's been 14 years since I launched the SAMANTHA WILLS brand on my dining table. From what I can count through the archives I have designed around 138 collections, that’s over 14,000 pieces of jewellery. More than half of those designs failed, didn’t sell or were not even put into production.
In 2010 I nearly sunk the company because my ego went against every authenticity the brand was built on. I tried to bury the story of my humble beginnings and attempted to change the design language on a dime and to such extremes that it wasn’t even identifiable to our brand or consumer. Not only did it not sell, but retailers had purchased huge orders off the back of the success of the previous seasons, so were left with a massive black eye in the form of stagnant stock holdings. Our consumers were not engaged because of my instantly inauthentic storytelling, and my team confidence in me (the one person who was suppose to not only know what was going on, but was meant to lead the brand forward) was left in question; and rightly so. This epic fuck-up that was entirely my doing saw my ego and intuition have to sit down and look each other in the eye. The most vulnerable and stripped bare that you will ever be, is when your ego and your intuition finally make sincere eye contact and are entirely honest with each other.
As the Collective Hub statement says, sometimes breaking a brand can remake it. And that’s what my colossal fuck up forced us to do; it broke the brand to the ground & we had no choice but look at where we were going and start rebuilding.
We did so, and it was a turning point for the brand as we took our next steps with authenticity, doing so saw things align both brand-wise and commercially.
Going in to 2012, the Australian sector of the business was going strong but things weren’t going as planned in our USA expansion. It was closed door after closed door. I had packed my bags and was ready to come home, exhausted and isolated in NYC. I felt like a failure, and my ego kept whispering in my ear continually questioning me as to what people would think, I was so terrified of being seen as a failure.
The ego is a powerful thing, detrimentally so if you let it rule your decision making. When I somehow found a way to turn my ego’s voice down, I took a step back to try to get perspective on the situation. It was only then that I was able to see one of the most powerful lessons I have ever learnt; the different between giving up and surrendering. It was time to stop trying to force an outcome that clearly was not working, surrender to it & re-approach with a new direction & strategy.
I decided to stay in the USA to try again along a different path.
By 2016 the brand was 12 years into its journey, and the business was operating at its most optimum efficiency, and most intelligent. What it took to get it to that point was not underestimated, I felt numb to it. And while the company continued to grow without issue in the market, an ideal outcome for any business owner, this time is was me who broke.
The spectrum of human emotion, happy or sad, makes us feel something and when we feel we know we’re alive. I had not known life without the desire to chase a dream, so it was a very foreign concept to not only feel nothing, but to also have no idea what my next move was. My professional life had led my personal life and the ocean of numbness I was floating in became incredibly overwhelming, with panic quickly setting in. I sat in therapists chairs (yep, plural) and cried with no explanation as to why. I sat in front of expensive brand coaches who were trying to extract information from me to help me find an answer, my deer in headlights exterior only slightly less frozen than the part inside me where my desire to create used to burn.
Leonard Cohen famously wrote; "There is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in." I had forgotten my own advice of surrender and the beauty that often comes with the rebuild after a break, instead I looked everywhere and to everyone for an answer to what was next, an urgency to get validation; a quick fix to fill the cracks, rather than just sit and listen and allow the light in to see what it was shining on next. It took me a while to be OK to sit with the surrender of silence, but I got there, and holy shit, the things you discover when you stop the noise .. (Hey, I never said I was a quick learner!)
So I’ll wrap this article up here, my next steps are now clear to me as is the deadline that is the 139th jewellery collection I have to design! I just wanted to share this article for two reasons, the first is to celebrate & personally say thank you to Lisa & The Collective Hub for the inspiration I needed to start the SW Foundation and for all the support & inspiration The Collective Hub has invested in young entrepreneurs and startups companies over the last 52 Issues, and beyond. Secondly, to anyone that is reading this who is feeling a little lost or broken right now, I hope that instead of try to rapidly patch the cracks (like I tried to), sit in and amongst the rubble for a little bit, let the light in and if you don’t yet know what you want next maybe start a clear list of what you don’t want – because in my experience, that is just as powerful in getting clear clarity on what you do.
You’re not alone. Sometimes it's got to break, to actually rebuild; brands, businesses. Ourselves. - SWx
You can read Lisa's full statement HERE