Don’t mix business with pleasure — I love what I do and don’t see me doing anything else but its important to treat your business like a business. You work for you business and not the other way around.
How does a successful, strong, and powerful woman navigate work, employee relationships, love, and life in a world that still feels uncomfortable with strong women? In this interview series, called “Power Women” we are talking to accomplished women leaders who share their stories and experiences navigating work, love and life as a powerful woman.
As a part of this series I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Samantha Harding
Samantha Harding is a talented business women with her own company that she started 10 years ago and still runs it today. She has worked for all the big fashion names around the world and along that always pushed her business to were it is today, stocked in the most exclusive boutiques around the world.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood “backstory”?
I was born in Dubai and raised in Abu Dhabi, always close to the water ever since I could remember, then in 2000 my parents moved to Brazil, Rio & that’s where it all started. I had always had a passion for fashion ever since I can remember, always designing tops, dresses and bottoms. I started surfing around the age of 15 because of my french neighbor and ever since I fell in love with the sport. I started my company in Uni because I could never find nice swimwear for surfing. I started selling to friends, then friends of friend and still doing this today but now I sell in exclusive boutiques around the world to keep my brand exclusive.
Can you tell us the story about what led you to this particular career path?
I’ve always had a big interest in fashion ever since I can remember, focusing my school, uni and MBA around fashion and then my business. Its like I was born to do this and cant see myself doing anything else.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
In Brazil there are a few top swimwear designers, one day I was in one of my side jobs and one of my colleagues comes up to me and shows me that the kids of one of my idols followed my Instagram, this was back in the but it sure made me feel good because I was doing so well that my idol even knew who I was.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
Being patient is defiantly a trait to my success. Sometimes its better to wait and trust your instincts. Before COVID I was planning to open up a shop in Bali, I was already in the process of the whole expansion, but for some reason I was holding back, which was really lucky because just before I actually started investing, COVID 19 hit. This was really good for my brand because I was able to survive COVID with no problem and now I’m continuing the expansion, but instead of Bali, London.
Organization is the key to my success. I created processes for me and my company to function. This made life a whole lot easier and made everything flow in a stress free environment.
I’m a very social person, you will always catch me out and about on weekends, always promoting my brand in the right places to the right people. Sahar does carry my name so who else better to promote it?
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. The premise of this series assumes that our society still feels uncomfortable with strong women. Why do you think this is so?
Strong women are surely something society tries to bring down, but as myself in being a strong independent entrepreneur, that has never brought me down. I will always say and do what I want nevertheless the opinions of others, they don’t pay my bills! I come from a very conservative family and sometimes even from my own family I get shot down, but honestly that just gives me more fire to continue.
Without saying any names, can you share a story from your own experience that illustrates this idea?
I was verbally abused by someone in my family for being a strong business woman. This person not only tried to bring me down & constantly still does with his unnecessary words which where completely untrue claiming I was never going to be successful and that I was a bad person. To have a stranger in the street, or a colleague say this is less hurtful then somebody you grew up with. It just shows that my handwork & growth just makes even the closest people which you think would support you for becoming a strong independent women, does just the opposite.
What should a powerful woman do in a context where she feels that people are uneasy around her?
Take 10 deep breaths, say and repeat this in your mind, `This is fuel for my success, use this uneasiness to blow their minds even more.` Sometimes to be silent and just observe all is better, a lion doesn’t need to explain themselves to sheep.
What do we need to do as a society to change the unease around powerful women?
In a perfect world, everybody would just help each other and grow together in union, but because this is not our reality there is only one thing we can do, continue to strive and make the world a better place.
In my own experience, I have observed that often women have to endure ridiculous or uncomfortable situations to achieve success that men don’t have to endure. Do you have a story like this from your own experience? Can you share it with us?
I have had a few occasions where men, would not take me seriously as a business women. When I feel this I immediately change the tone and state what I am feeling, Im a very direct person and If I don’t like something I will say it, unless I know I will not see that person again and will leave it be.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women leaders that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
Getting the respect we deserve.
Let’s now shift our discussion to a slightly different direction. This is a question that nearly everyone with a job has to contend with. Was it difficult to fit your personal and family life into your business and career? For the benefit of our readers, can you articulate precisely what the struggle was?
I’m the workaholic type, so work was always first place. After I put processes into my life as I did with my business, I can always find time to be with the ones I love. I have had to make a lot of sacrifices missing out on important events.
What was a tipping point that helped you achieve a greater balance or greater equilibrium between your work life and personal life? What did you do to reach this equilibrium?
As I stated above, I organized my life into processes I found balance & a sense of wholeness. I was improving as a person along with my business.
I work in the beauty tech industry, so I am very interested to hear your philosophy or perspective about beauty. In your role as a powerful woman and leader, how much of an emphasis do you place on your appearance? Do you see beauty as something that is superficial, or is it something that has inherent value for a leader in a public context? Can you explain what you mean?
Our body is our temple, when we look after ourselves we tend to look good, body, skin and hair wise. Appearances are defiantly important, especially because my brand is a sexy Brazilian brand and my clients see me as a role model always being the powerful leader.
How is this similar or different for men?
It goes the same for men. Looking healthy & smart is always a good look.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your opinion and experience, what are the “Five Things You Need To Thrive and Succeed as a Powerful Woman?” (Please share a story or example for each.)
-Organization — You need organization to thrive. The moment I included processes to my life as long with my business, I saw my life & business flow, the moments of stress dissappeared and my life became more whole
-Relax time — Being a powerful business women we sometimes forget to relax and just enjoy life. I take at least ½ days weekly to just look after myself and do things I love.
-Work with people you trust. All the people I work with are people I trust, this is important because when you are not around, you know your business is in good hands.
-Don’t mix business with pleasure — I love what I do and don’t see me doing anything else but its important to treat your business like a business. You work for you business and not the other way around.
– Try not to employ family. I once invited a family member to become a business partner offering a chance for them to thrive, big mistake, he was not ready nor did he have an business mind like I did, he is the kind which has to be lead, who does not know how to lead. A lot of headache would have been avoided if I had just hired some else.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
Would definitely be Anna Wintour, Lady got style & would definately learn a lot from her.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.
Thank you for this opportunity