One of Australia's most interesting business personalities is coming to Mudgee to speak at Council's Young Entrepreneurs Summit on Thursday, July 25.
Samantha Wills started her own jewellery brand at just 21 in 2004. Celebrities like Beyonce and Rihanna wore her products - so why did she decide to close it all down after 15 years?
When Samantha started her own jewellery company you'd have found Samantha selling her hand-made wares at Bondi Markets in the early days.
Fast forward 15 years and you'd find Samantha Wills jewellery in films and on celebrities like Beyonce, Rihanna and Taylor Swift. Samantha herself has been the face of brands like Optus and Mount Franklin and earned an Australian of the Year nomination in 2016.
In January this year, Samantha made a move that no one saw coming. She decided to shut down the Samantha Wills Jewellery empire. Saying that hand-on-heart, it was what felt right.
Samantha Wills has since pivoted her career towards public speaking, mentorship, author and the support of female entrepreneurs with the Samantha Wills Foundation.
From NY to MG
Speaking with the Mudgee Guardian from New York, Samantha said she's excited to be coming to Mudgee for the Young Entrepreneurs Summit and has a special place in her heart for regional towns, hailing from Port Macquarie herself.
"I think the thing that we underestimate that is in our blood being from regional areas is community. I think we're brought up to know only community first and foremost," Samantha said.
"As we moved into the digital age we're in now, digital communities have become the backbone of brands. I talk a lot about the 'what' being the business and the 'why' being the brand,"
"Community isn't something you can teach, you can expose someone to it but it has to be in your blood and it's a real advantage to know the value of that."
Samantha was an early adopter of social platforms like Facebook and Instagram to promote her brand.
It's like 'here's what gives me anxiety, here's what keeps me up at night. I want there to be a transparency and vulnerability around the hurdles and the realities of running a small business.Samantha Wills
"When Facebook came out I had a MySpace page and I didn't really know what Facebook was about but I signed up - but you couldn't have brand pages then so my personal page organically became one," Samantha said.
Samantha said she hopes that coming to Mudgee she can share with others what she wished she knew in the early days when she was making jewellery at her dining room table.
"I was working 20 hours a day making jewellery until my fingers bled. If I'd have known that at 3 o'clock in the morning that someone else was up, experiencing a similar thing it would have made me feel much less isolated in that journey," Samantha said.
"Starting the Samantha Wills Foundation for me was about providing a platform that now can be 24/7 that people can log into because entrepreneurs don't work 9-5 typically, it let's them read stories that aren't the polished ones in magazines,"
"It's like 'here's what gives me anxiety, here's what keeps me up at night. I want there to be a transparency and vulnerability around the hurdles and the realities of running a small business."
A limited number of tickets are still available for the inaugural Central West Young Entrepreneurs Summit in Mudgee next Thursday, 25 July.
Tickets are available at youngentrepreneurssummit.com.au
About the summit
Attendees will learn from speakers about leadership, resilience, growth and marketing strategies that lead to their success.
Mid-Western Regional Council Mayor, Des Kennedy said the summit will mentor, encourage and inspire young business owners (under 40 years) who wish to build or expand their business, or take over a family business.
"This is a rare opportunity to hear the techniques of some of Australia's most successful entrepreneurs right here in the Central West," Cr Kennedy said.
"It's not often speakers travel outside of metropolitan areas, and I'd encourage all current and potential business owners to take advantage of this opportunity and bring along their employees."
The Central West Young Entrepreneurs Summit will be held at the Mudgee Town Hall Theatre.
Tickets are available for the Summit ($60), the after-hours Networking Event ($30) or both the Summit and Networking Event ($80) at youngentrepreneurssummit.com.au
The event was made possible after Council secured funding through the Australian Government's Buildings Better Regions Fund.