Temple University - B.A. in Magazine Journalism
Sammy Davis (yes, that is her real name!) is one of the most positive and driven individuals you will meet. A curator of everything vintage, Sammy can trace her beginnings back to her sophomore year of high school in Lancaster, Pa., when she wore an Edwardian black lace dress to prom. She attended school for magazine journalism, held multiple internships, co-founded Temple University’s campus Ed2010 organization, and reported for many popular consumer magazines. One month after graduation, Sammy made the move to the Big Apple to further her career.
After a stint in corporate America working for Hearst Corporation as a Web assistant for esquire.com, Sammy struck out on her own with Sammy Davis Vintage. She’s grown from selling vintage duds out of the trunk of her car at Brooklyn flea markets to operating and styling women at a NYC boutique and garnering thousands of views from her 50+ archive of YouTube videos. She's appeared in print and TV, including appearances on the Nate Berkus Show and My Fox NY and most recently as a cast member of a TV pilot for the Oxygen network. Sammy has “carpe diem” tattooed on her wrist as a daily “reminder to conquer my fears today.”
Do small things great. Even the smallest of positive influences on others is greatness.
How did you get into the vintage business?
I moved to New York City armed with a journalism degree and a passion for women's media. I wanted to start my own magazine: One which truly spoke to the issues of a woman's life without sugar coating it or trying to sell her a product.
My first few years working in digital magazine publishing were the foundation of Sammy Davis Vintage and what inspired me to see the business opportunity behind capturing the vintage fashion market online. Except my content's goal would be (and remains) to grow this vintage style "niche" into a mainstream fashion trend.
What does your typical job schedule and day look like? Does that change at any point during the year?
Because I consider Sammy Davis Vintage a startup, my "schedule" is one of 24-7 commitment.
Basic responsibilities remain the same day by day: Prioritizing tasks at hand, producing or planning ahead for website/social media content and most currently, working on my first ebook (actually resembling more of an online magazine!), which will help the contemporary woman know where to shop for the best vintage fashion online.
Was there ever a moment in your career where you’ve thought, “I made it!” What was it?
At the moment, I'm seeing a future of "I made it!" statements coming to fruition with Sammy Davis Vintage. As a partnership, we are making huge strides to sustain us both with revenue generated from Sammy Davis Vintage content and products.
"I've made it!" statements are constantly reinvented based on where you are in your career. I don't believe that we've ever really "made it" as the beauty of being an entrepreneur is that you are constantly pushing yourself to create a better product for the customers who support you.
What challenges keep you awake at night?
The nasty habit of being on my computer until 11 p.m. at night alone keeps me up! I try to wind down as early in the evening as possible to give my brain the R&R it needs to disconnect from the day and enjoy sweet slumber.
But sometimes the thoughts of, "How can I get this done tomorrow a.m." carry on into the night. When you are an entrepreneur, the thoughts about your business never stop. All you can do is put them on pause, and this takes practice.
Is work/life balance ever a problem with you? If so, what is one no-fail tactic you use to create balance?
Almost every single day I exercise. I'm a runner and a swimmer. My no-fail tactic is to run or swim in the morning and return home before 9 a.m. so I can be working at my computer by 9:30.
If I have something earlier in the morning, I plan ahead to exercise in the evening. Exercise helps me to decompress, keeps me healthy, and because of the great flow of endorphins, inspires great ideas while in action! It's my "me" time of rejuvenation and without it, I wouldn't be as focused and motivated as I am today.
What are some of the rules you live by?
Do small things great. Even the smallest of positive influences on others is greatness. If I inspire one woman to start selling vintage on Etsy, while she may not become Etsy's greatest power seller, I have still done something "small great."
Manage people's expectations. I'm constantly reminding myself not to overpromise and under deliver. Managing people's expectations about what you can and cannot do is being honest to yourself as much as it is to them. They will respect the fact that you honor your time and what you can truly offer. I won't offer too much if I know that I just don't have the time or skill set to do so, but because I can keep my realistic commitment both parties are satisfied with the results.
If you can see it, you can be it. All too often we get wrapped up in the fears of "I could never do that" when we see another individual wow us with a speech, product or accomplishment that seems so far removed from our abilities. But the truth is that if we can see ourselves doing something -- even if that doesn't mean we can't do it today -- we can eventually learn how to do it. We were put on this planet with so much power inside, and it is up to us to realize how to tap it by visualizing and continually pursuing all the greatness we are destined to be.
What does it take for someone to be successful as a vintage expert, blogger and online personality?
My love for vintage style and all things across the decades (from 1920's clothing to my favorite era, '60s mod fashion and through the ‘90's) is obviously the most important. It's that passionate knowledge I find joy in sharing which inspires me to never stop learning.
The quality that is perhaps the best to have is one of self-pressure to be better today than yesterday. It's a negative pressure that inspires me to learn more about the history of fashion all while picking up new business skills and practicing how to perform on camera in front of the mirror. And most importantly, it takes focus. Focus to know how to get things done quickly and how to prioritize what truly is the focus of the moment.
What advice do you have for women who aspire to walk in your shoes?
Never compare yourself to others. Perhaps the most valuable lesson I've learned as a businesswoman with an online following is that I am walking my own path and to compare my path to that of others is unhealthy and unfair to both of us.
Competition does not exist. When we choose to see our creations as that of competitive, we cannot see what greatness lies ahead because we are so focused on the present moment and how to "rank" ourselves to that of others.
Where do you see yourself five years from now?
In five years I see myself as CEO of a vintage-angled tech company, building products like iPhone apps for education and service, online games for entertainment and of course a massive video property of hundreds of clips celebrating and spreading vintage love.
Eventually I'd like Sammy Davis Vintage to grow into a bigger media company which helps other people with niche talents to grow their own digital brands. I've already come up with a name for it: Rock Karma Media.
When it comes to any naysayers, how do you silence the critics? What can other women do to be fearless in their career and life?
I am reminded of fearlessness when I remember my limited time on the planet. This is why I have carpe diem tattooed on my left wrist as a reminder to conquer my fears today.
Building Sammy Davis Vintage hasn't always been easy and won't get easier into the future. In fact, I expect it will only get more difficult as pressures rise and the stakes get higher. But knowing that I am in the middle of it all -- no matter what is going on around me -- is power enough. I am living my dream. You are living your dream. Who cares what people have to say about that?
-Interview by Kathleen Garvin