Monday, December 7, 2009

She's a LLady: Samantha Edwards

How long have you been a Ladies Lotto member and what sort of experience has it been for you?

I've been a member of Ladies Lotto for about a year and a half now. My first event was Camella Ehlke talking at I Heart. It was brilliant! I'd been to networking type groups before and they were always either really yawn-worthy and stuffy or really cliquey. It was nice to be in a room full of cool, creative young women. Not a bitch in sight.

You got your start when you offered your services to a company whose work, in your opinion, was "badly designed". You were only 18 years old! Did you really have that confidence or were you doing what you felt was needed to get your foot in the door?

At the time I was a cocky 18-year-old design student with nothing to lose, so I had that confidence to call them out on their design. In all honesty, I didn't really think my tactics would work; but when they offered me a job that was when it stuck me - wow - now it's REALLY on. My boss at the time (Anthony Stevens) taught me a lot about business BUT gave me hell for the first few months. I guess it was the old "break 'em down, build 'em up" method.

When did you first realize that marketing and branding was the profession for you?

When I was at KW Marketing, Anthony asked me and another junior designer to do "more than just design fliers and posters." He owned a nightclub and wanted something new, so asked us to brand Friday and Saturday nights and carry them all the way through: getting liquor sponsors, booking DJs, finding talent in addition to marketing the events (street team alert!) and designing the artwork. We put on some of the most successful events in Manchester. Right there and then, I knew that this was exactly what I wanted to do. Ahhhh, misty-eyed memories!

Making a move to a foreign country is tough in itself. How did you get yourself started once you'd moved to New York?

My only other option was London and I definitely didn't want to start my career there...something about the old North/South divide in Britain. It was right after 9/11 and pretty much nobody was hiring, but I was determined. I drew up a list of twenty companies I wanted to work for, prepared my portfolio and then flew out here (a 21st birthday gift from my mum - thanks mum! ha). My plan was to cold call them all and that's what I did. I got the same response over and over: "We're not hiring, it's a recession, there are no positions available, etc. etc?" I got to SKAGGS (lucky 13?) and they asked me what I was selling! I was like "NOTHING! I just really like your work and would love to work for you." Of course, they gave me the ol' "We're not hiring" speech. So I offered to prove to them that I was worthy of hiring by working for free for the summer. I dropped off my portfolio and within and hour they called me back to make me an offer. The rest, as they say, is history... I'm now Senior Associate and Creative Director at SKAGGS in addition to running my own company. It's tough but I wouldn't have it any other way.

Is your industry difficult for women (especially women of color) to make their mark? What odds have you come up against since you started your company GIFTD?

I've never really had any problems in terms of my color. I guess sometimes people are surprised when they first walk into a meeting and see me. I'd been speaking with a client for over six months on the phone and via email and when we finally met in person the look on his face was priceless! He had assumed I was white because of my British accent. But for me, it's never been negative. If anything, it's been a positive. Working with corporate, gray-haired old-school clients it's been mentioned on several occasions that having a young (black) woman's perspective is a breath of fresh air.

The majority of my clients are men but I've always managed to my hold my own among the "boys." Anyone in the ad/creative/design industry will tell you that men still outnumber women. That was the case even in my college days and I learned pretty early on how to deal/handle my own business. Side note: I recently read Nina Di Sesa's book, Seducing The Boys's a little old school, but she has does have some great takeaway points, seduction and manipulation being one of them.

What separates you from the rest of the pack? What does a client get from GIFTD that they won't get anywhere else?

Having worked with larger corporate brands for several years, GIFTD is able to bring the large scale level of professionalism, strategy, and creative insight to smaller brands and companies. It also works the other way around, in terms of helping the bigger companies understand and appreciate the value of "thinking small." We're really good at helping smaller-sized companies to establish themselves in the market and helping them to develop a strong position from a visual and strategic standpoint.

You've done so much in the years since you first began your career. What are you most proud of?

Wow... god, that's a tough one. I've honestly loved all of the projects I've worked on. At SKAGGS my proudest moment was the strategic work and naming for Totology and creative direction on the TOTO Water Bottle ad campaign. At GIFTD it was the ATC Miami Store branding and retail store design I teamed up with Wes at Confid3ntial to bring it all to life and the ATC crew (Mark, Daailo and DT) were just absolutely brilliant to work with. They gave so much creative freedom. Yes, we bumped heads a few times but it was totally worth it! Seeing and hearing people's reaction to the store design still gives me goosebumps.

GIFTD has handled a wide range of projects from e-marketing for luxury brands, the branding and retail design for ATC Miami, creative direction and design for the latest Devin the Dude album, to most recently the Mountain Dew Green Label Art Gallery space at 29 Greene St.

Yes, definitely varied but I wouldn't change it for all the tea in China.

Well, after all of that, what's up next for GIFTD?

Ooooooooh I don't know if I can say. I'm working with brand guru Matty Ho at Subculture Conglomerate on something totally different and also a few other things that I can't really talk about, although I'm DYING to. That aside, I'm concentrating on world wide domination and keeping the hustle alive! Can I also point out that although it may seem like I'm a one woman force to be reckoned with there's noway on Earth it would be possible, without the support of my loved ones and NYC network of ridiculously talented people Rachel, Matty, Mark, Wes, Catherine and of course Natalie Blacker (Ladies Lotto Founder), who I think really does inspire everyone she meets to get their shit together (in a holistic way of course) ;)

Find out more about Samantha and GIFTD at Linkedin and on her blog at

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