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Australian Jewellery designer Samantha Wills went from a Byron Bay NSW flea market stall to becoming an international exporter. Here is her story
Australia’s global jewellery tycoon
Samantha Wills grew up in small town NSW and now controls a global empire of jewellery from New York.
Think of women who have risen to the top of Australian entrepreneurship and the list gets thin fast.
Ever rarer is a woman who has succeeded with her own name as the brand, who has become a celebrity herself in the process.
Samantha Wills, who grew up in Port Macquarie and now lives in New York, is a tycoon of her time.
Samantha Wills’ jewellery is now stocked in 80 countries. Photo: James Alcock
Personable, open and yet at also guarded and private, the 34-year-old businesswoman appears to effortlessly blend an air of celebrity with social media fanaticism and a unique product.
But she says success has been a hard slog and she wants the many young women who worship her to know just how difficult it’s been.
“I think millennials are a generation of ‘slashies’. They’re a DJ/entrepreneur/fashion designer. With all those slashes between your job titles, you lose depth and integrity,” she says.
“Narrow down what you want to be good at, then focus on that. It might not work for the first six months or the first 18 months but it took me 12 years to become an overnight success.”
While she doesn’t go into gruesome detail, Wills was clear that growing a business took a hit on her personal life.
“I think the downside of having success was that when my friends were going off and having a good time, my business was in its infancy so I couldn’t have those normal early 20s experiences.”
Wills started her company at the of age 21 after moving to Sydney.
“I was working in retail during the day and making jewellery at night to sell at the market. A friend offered me a spot at Australian Fashion Week which would cost $500. I though I would possibly make enough to cover the cost of the stall, but I ended up writing $18,000 of orders that day. I quit my job the next day.”
Now Wills is turning over $10 million annually and is stocked in eighty countries around the world. She has offices in Japan, Korea, Europe, the US and Australia.
Wills credits much of her success to her business partner Geoff Bainbridge who was able to commercialise back-end production and helped launch her to into foreign markets.’
 Presenting our bespoke couture pieces, in New York City, for Fashion Week 2012. – SWx #BelieveBig – LAUNCHING JUNE 12th, 2016
“Naively, when I first went to the US in 2010, I thought I was going over with a successful Australian brand and that would be enough. You think you can replicate that over there and it’s not the case,” says Wills.
“You need a much more refined offer. You need to know who your business competitors are and your media competitors. We ended up doing 18 months of research about the US before we moved our first order.”
The orders started coming thick and fast once actress Eva Mendes was snapped on a red carpet wearing Wills’ Bohemian Bardot ring. Wills’ jewellery has also been worn by Katy Perry, Miranda Kerr, Lady Gaga, Kate Bosworth, Drew Barrymore and Jennifer Lopez.
“That ring Eva wore continues to be our best seller and we’ve made it now in 150 colours. It kind of became our signature piece.”
Sometimes (and only sometimes…) the @samanthawillsofficial PR Department, let’s me play with upcoming collections…. These are definitely my lust haves; the ‘Spanish Moss Grande’ earrings, in Amethyst + Rose Gold… Just added to the Waiting List at samanthawills.com (Which I’ll too be joining, because they won’t let me keep them). -SWx #SamanthaWills#SamanthaWillsOfficial ? @alimitton | ?? @stojb
Wills has recently signed to be an ambassador for Optus’ Believe Big campaign targeting small businesses.
“We filmed a campaign flashing back to 2004 through to my life now. I really want people to know the struggles and hurdles of funding success.”
While Wills credits her naivety for much of the company’s strengths, she sometimes regrets the decision to get going without any formal business training.
“Every day I wish I’d studied business or management. But, I learn as I go. I might have learned the harder way on the job.”
Asked why a New Yorker is the right person for this campaign, Wills says she still considers herself not just Australian but a “small-town” Australian.
“I still go to Port Macquarie five to six times a year because my family live there. We stock the range at one shop in Port Macquarie and every time I notice the town is really growing and evolving very quickly.”
Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba is about to set up an office in Australia, opening a giant opportunity for sellers.
When US internet giants mention Australia in passing – let alone actually visit the country or establish operations here – they are usually showered with media coverage.
But when China’s most valuable internet company, Alibaba, announced plans to open an office in Australia last week, it barely registered a whimper.
Alibaba, the e-commerce colossus that processed transactions worth $US149 billion in the December quarter alone, said at an event in Hangzhou last week it would open an Australian office “later this year”.
Jack Ma, executive chairman of the Alibaba Group, is now worth an estimated $US23 billion.
And Fairfax Media has learned it has already made one senior hire for that office: James Hudson, the chief executive of the NSW branch of the Australia-China Business Council, will join the business next month. John O’Loghlen, a New Zealand-born entrepreneur, has also joined the company, it said this week.
It is a significant development for the Australian retail sector. Yet as the Prime Minister and a 1000-strong business delegation swept through the world’s second-largest economy last week, far more trivial announcements, such as the Australian Football League’s plan to play a regular season game in the country next year, captured all the attention.
Alibaba, founded by entrepreneur Jack Ma and listed on the New York Stock Exchange with a market value of nearly $US200 billion, has had a senior executive, Maggie Zhou, in charge of the Australia and New Zealand region for at least two years. But she travels between China and Australia and has been based primarily in Hangzhou.
The company signalled that the move to establish an Australian office is designed to help local brands tap into the gigantic Chinese market, where Alibaba has 407 million active buyers on its platforms. However, the decision to establish a fully-fledged office in Australia will fuel speculation it sees an opportunity for Australian consumers to buy products on its sites.
“We see a lot of potential in the Australian market as Alibaba continues its globalisation efforts,” the company said in an emailed statement. It declined to provide any further details on its plans.
“We aim to have dedicated country operations to work closely with Australian merchants and partners, and it is our plan to establish an office in Australia in late 2016 to better help local brands and merchants to access to the Chinese consumer market.”
Australia ranked as the fifth top-selling country into China during the company’s global shopping festival last year, Alibaba said.
A number of Australian retailers, including Woolworths, Bellamy’s, Blackmores and Chemist Warehouse, have signed up to officially sell products on Tmall, Alibaba’s Chinese language platform used by businesses to sell goods to consumers on the mainland. Many well-known Australian products are sold on Alibaba properties by consumers to other consumers.
Last November, the company’s “Singles Day” promotion in China was blamed for creating a severe shortage of Australian baby formula products, including Bellamy’s.
Shadow networks of Chinese students and relatives, known as “daigou”, were said to be buying up organic baby formula at Australian supermarkets and reselling them at higher prices on Alibaba sites, forcing the likes of Woolworths to implement quotas.
The move also signals Alibaba’s intention to expand globally and assuage investor concerns over its international footprint. Alibaba shares are down 15 per cent since the company listed on the New York Stock Exchange in late 2014, underperforming the 5 per cent rise in the broader US market over that period.
Last year the company said it would expand into France, Germany and Italy. It has already established a foothold in the US.
What to do if the Budget cracks down on super tax breaks
It’s looking very possible that the Federal Government may take the axe to superannuation tax breaks in the upcoming Budget, so it’s time to look at your options.
More Australians than ever before intend to work beyond 70, as Generation X-ers and Baby Boomers fear they lack the financial security needed to retire any sooner.
The findings, which come as the Turnbull government weighs superannuation reform in the May budget, have sparked fresh concerns that a comfortable retirement is now “out of reach” for hundreds of thousands of low-income earners.
An analysis of Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows the number of over-45s who say they will not retire before turning 70 has dramatically increased, from 8 per cent to 23 per cent in a decade.
Childcare worker Kerrie Devir has worked for almost 35 years continuously, but has less than $100,000 in superannuation. Photo: Paul Jeffers
Seniors groups say the figures indicate people are ageing in a much healthier way and want to keep working, but also reveal deep “financial uncertainty” among older workers following a series of superannuation and pension changes
Retirement before 70 is “out of the question” for Melbourne woman Kerrie Devir, who has worked in childcare for 33 years.
“When I look into the possibility of retirement, it’s a financial train wreck of massive proportions,” she said.
‘Incredibly cruel and short-sighted’: United Voice – the union representing some of the country’s lowest-paid workforces – said the findings were an indictment on former prime minister Tony Abbott’s decision to freeze an increase to employer super contributions. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
“Because my wages have been so low and continue to be so low, superannuation just doesn’t build … Nine per cent of a very little amount is still a very little amount when you retire.”
Ms Devir said she had accumulated less than $100,000 in superannuation, despite having worked continuously since she was 17.
And with the rising national life expectancy, Ms Devir, a single woman, said she was worried she could be forced into poverty after she is no longer physically able to work.
With Australians living longer, there are concerns about how much money is needed to fund a long retirement. Photo: Glenn Hunt
“On my mother’s side, I have longevity, on my dad’s side I don’t,” she said.
“I’m not sure that I want my mother’s longevity … that’s not going to play out very well for me.”
According to the ABS, the most common factor influencing people’s decisions on when to retire was financial security (40 per cent of men, 35 per cent of women).
This was followed by personal health and physical abilities (23 per cent of men and women) and reaching eligibility age for a pension (13 per cent of men and women).
United Voice – the union representing some of the country’s lowest-paid workforces – said the findings were an indictment on former prime minister Tony Abbott’s decision to freeze an increase to employer super contributions, which had been scheduled to reach 12 per cent by 2019.
“This was incredibly cruel and short-sighted and will have a devastating impact on workers,” union state secretary Jess Walsh said.
“It is no surprise that more and more people are delaying their retirement.”
Ms Walsh said the pension was clearly “not keeping up” and Australians were finding it harder to accumulate enough superannuation to top up the pension to a reasonable level.
She said the value of the minimum wage had gone backwards nearly 10 per cent in two decades, making it even harder to accumulate enough superannuation.
“Our members work hard, they pay their taxes, and yet they can’t afford to retire with dignity.”
National Seniors chief executive Michael O’Neill said the new statistics revealed the “longevity penny has dropped” for people in their 50s and 60s, who were worried they won’t have enough money to fund a long retirement.
“People are saying, ‘I thought I was going to live until about 75, but now it looks like I could be living a lot longer than that … can I afford it?” Mr O’Neill said.
“Longevity has started to become a real issue.”
Mr O’Neill called on the federal government to provide “much greater clarity” about retirement income, including superannuation and the pension.
“People need certainty about what benefits will flow over time … and all the speculation around superannuation causes people uncertainty because they don’t know where it is going to land,” he said.
“And the government needs to stop talking down older Australians, and instead celebrate the fact that they are significant contributors and want to work longer.”
They’re known as the “Royals” and “the chosen ones” — the select few invited to be in New York on Thursday morning to ring the bells celebrating the opening of the stock exchange and Australian tech darling Atlassian’s massive IPO.
About 40 Atlassian employees — many of whom were hand-picked by co-founders Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar in the company’s early years — celebrated overnight as they became multi-millionaires and Atlassian became a company with a market cap of $US5.74 billion ($7.9 billion).
Atlassian, a leading provider of collaboration software for teams with products, opened for trading on The Nasdaq Stock Market on December 10, 2015. Photo: Christopher Galluzzo
By the end of Thursday’s trading in the US, however, more than just those 40 became millionaires. Former Atlassian employees say more than 100 staff are now either millionaires or multi-millionaires.
It’s also understood the shares of a number of staff who joined in recent years are now worth six figures.
“There are going to be a hundred people who are going to be millionaires today — at least on paper,” a former Atlassian employee, who didn’t wish to be named, told Fairfax Media.
Atlassian co-founders Scott Farquhar (right) and Mike Cannon-Brookes. Photo: Trevor Collens
They added that the Royals had been “going out on lavish dinners and celebrations” while in New York in recent days and were already discussing how they should splurge their cash, and whether it should be on luxury cars.
Many are also considering investing their money in Australian start-ups, or starting their own.
Those likely to make the most from the IPO are those who joined between 2002, when the company started, and 2008. That’s when Atlassian offered employees the chance to buy shares at a much lower price than $US27, the price shares were trading for on Thursday as the market closed. For employees who were offered — and purchased — shares at 50 cents several years ago, their stake is now 5300 per cent more valuable.
While some employees chose to hedge their bets and sell some of their shares last year for $US16 to T. Rowe Price and Dragoneer Investment Capital in a financing round, many are understood to have held on to most of them.
When Atlassian received that financing, which valued the company at $US3.3 billion, Mr Cannon-Brookes declined to specify how many millionaires his company had made at the time, but said it was “not double digit”.
The Super-Rich and Us Season 1 Jacques Peretti investigates why the super-rich were drawn to Britain.
The Super-Rich and Us BBC Documentary 2015 Episode 1 Rich People VS Poor People UK
In a series about the extraordinary stories behind maps, Professor Jerry Brotton uncovers how maps aren’t simply about getting from A to B, but are revealing snapshots of defining moments in history and tools of political power and persuasion.
Visiting the world’s first known map, etched into the rocks of a remote alpine hillside 3,000 years ago, Brotton explores how each culture develops its own unique, often surprising way of mapping. As Henry VIII’s stunning maps of the British coastline from a bird’s-eye view show, they were also used to exert control over the world.
During the Enlightenment, the great French Cassini dynasty pioneered the western quest to map the world with greater scientific accuracy, leading also to the British Ordnance Survey. But these new scientific methods were challenged by cultures with alternative ways of mapping, such as in a Polynesian navigator’s map which has no use for north, south and east.
As scientifically accurate map-making became a powerful tool of European expansion, the British carved the state of Iraq out of the Middle East. When the British drew up Iraq’s boundaries, they had devastating consequences for the nomadic tribes of Mesopotamia.
Learn how easy it is to make fake passports and scam the rich into trusting you with thousands of dollars.
If the fraud industry were its own country, it would have the fifth strongest economy in the world, just ahead of the UK. Come and meet the fraudsters who’re making a killing from the fastest growing crime on Earth.