Welcome to Tako People--a mini series giving you a closer look at the individuals that make Tako tick.
Editor's Note: Tako Agency is and always will be a 100% remote agency. For us, it’s a no brainer and the future of e-commerce related businesses. COVID-19 has thrown the importance of remote work into even sharper relief.
The benefits we enjoy are plentiful: healthy work-life balance, flexible schedule, geographic freedom, minimal pants. But, like anything in life, there are downsides too--one of the biggest being that we can’t invite clients to our offices to hang out! As a result, we miss out on some of the elements of getting to know each other. (If I had my way and we had a “real” office, my title would be Creative Director + Chief Cocktail Party Planner.)
So, we’ve decided to do the next best thing: pull back the curtain and put a face (and backstory) to the name you see on all our emails. The imbibing of cocktails is optional but highly recommended.
Grace, CEO + Creative Director
Alright, Samantha. Introduce yourself to the peeps hanging out at the Stand. Who is Samantha Phillips?
Oh, wow…I didn't realize we were going like…straight into it. I feel like this is a heavy question and I don’t know myself at all. [laughs]
I’m just asking you to introduce yourself, not trying to send you into an existential tailspin. [laughs]
OK, OK. I'm Samantha Phillips. I'm a project manager by trade. I love dealing with systems and optimizations and generally bringing a project from just an idea to full life. That aspect of my work kind of trickles into my personal life, too. I’m very adventurous and I take on lots of projects. They call it multi-passionate, but I hate that term. I just love life.
I travel a lot. I ride horses, I shoot, I do archery…um, gosh…so much stuff.
How long have you been riding?
Since I was little! I was born in the States, moved to England when I was five, and that’s where I was raised there until I was in my teens. When I was about six or seven, my mom started a Western equine shop in England, which grew into this huge franchise.
From there, she started breeding horses. So she taught me how to ride and I would barrel race and travel around with her, showing horses and stuff.
That's how I got my entrepreneurial spirit too, seeing her start something from nothing, in a completely new country. My family there ran their own company as well, so that gave me a unique view of business – that it doesn’t have to be, like, this corporate chain; it can be impactful and fun.
Yeah, for sure! Was it just you and your mom, or did you have more immediate family?
My mom married my dad and that's how we moved over to England. Then we had my uncle and grandparents over there, too.
Ah, so is your dad English?
Oh, okay. I didn't know that. Cool! Question two: Can we have a quick rundown of your professional history?
Well, I started a bit later than most. Like, I didn't have a job as a teenager because my mom was just like…uh, no. [laughs] But when I turned 18, I kind of went off on my own and started a business before I ever got a job anywhere else.
I’m sorry… what.
[laughs] Yeah, I bought a Merle Norman franchise in Georgia and I had a brick and mortar store. I started college when I was 18, too, but ultimately decided to pursue the business. I had a partner and we ran that for about two and a half years. At that point, I felt like I was just so young and I needed to know more about business before I could keep running one, so I ended up selling my share to her and went back to college.
Throughout those college years, I would work for other Merle Norman stores doing management and consulting on the side to make my bucks to pay for my books. At night, I was a nanny…you know, just hustling, so I could pay for college.
When I graduated about a year later, I got a job here in Alabama with a government contracting firm.
That was my first “big girl” job. And all of a sudden, the whole company was in my hands because the CEO went to India.
I had to manage these huge, multi-million dollar government contracts – all the vendors, the teams…and I just started hating the corporate world so much because I was only working…nothing else was going on.
At that point, I realized I wanted to start a business again. I started marketing online and it took off really quickly.
Hold up – what does that mean, you started marketing online? Like, marketing yourself? Or providing marketing services?
Basically, I started taking advantage of social media – primarily Instagram – and started advertising OBM / PM services through posting and sharing trainings on Stories. From there, I grew to diversifying on multiple platforms, like Upwork & Fivver (back in the day lol) and even my own website.
I called that business Samphillco, and at the beginning I was taking care of 20 businesses in the online space. All different service-based agencies or coaches. I honestly ended up making way more money than I was making in my government contract position.
Eventually, I was just like, you know what, I would love to stay with this government contract (I was juggling that and Samphillco at the time), but I need to go. That's how I kind of transitioned into full freelance work…did that for a few years and then was fortunate to come across Tako!
Yay. We love a happy ending. So what were you doing right before you found us?
Just the freelance project management stuff and I had three clients who run businesses in the online space and I was their COO, managing all their internal operations and backend systems. Then, if they had projects that needed managing, I’d hop in to bring those to life with their teams as well.
Ultimately, I wanted to move away from that and be with a more stable company that I could grow in and really focus on the project management side. And Tako appeared!
What attracts you to the project management stuff? I know you talked about there being a vision and then you have to lasso all the pieces together. Is there anything else that really strikes your fancy about project management?
I’m a natural cheerleader and I love that these projects are something you kind of birth with a team. Everybody has their own piece and, being the project manager, I get to be a part of all of those pieces instead of just like…”Oh, I'm over here in this land, you know, only doing development.”
Seeing the end product is so rewarding, too, because you know what all it took to get there.
Do you consider yourself to be creative?
Yeah, I am pretty creative, but maybe in a different way than a lot of people who'd say they're creative. I’m not a painter or whatever. What I am good at is thinking outside the box. It happens out of nowhere, too. I’m just walking around and it’s like, “Oh, you know what would really solve this problem?” And I can think of a million ways to build a new business off of just that idea. I probably have millions of dollars worth of ideas in my Apple notes.
Nice. When do you feel the most creative?
Um, I’d say I feel most creative when I’m around a collaborative group of people. I’m an empath, so I really feed on that energy if it’s in the room. Also, whenever I’m out in nature – which I guess is also sort of a form of communion. Connecting with everything out there really clears my head.
Being somebody who is so communally driven, how did the isolation sort of necessitated by the (Covid-19) pandemic affect you?
It changed how I interact with people, for sure. It actually made me more confident in my communication because when I did get to be around people, I didn’t really care what either of us said – I was just happy to be around a person. You know?
I’m an introvert and I used to be very anxious to be around people. I know it doesn’t really come across that way on the outside, but if I had a back-to-back, morning-to-night call day like Grace had yesterday, I’d be out for two weeks. Like, no one talk to me…no one look at me, I’m getting a blanket and covering myself for the foreseeable future. [laughs]
So, the pandemic allowed me to lean into my introverted side, but it also showed me just how important collaborative efforts are to me – and how to find community in different ways.
Yeah, totally. That's awesome. It's always so cool to hear people talk about the good that’s come of this damn thing. We’ve all learned so much – for better or worse. I’m happy to hear it wasn’t all darkness for you!
What made you decide to pursue a remote career?
The ability to travel is a big thing for me cause I have family everywhere. I've always traveled. Growing up, my mom and I moved like, 56 times. So I've never been in one place long – which is funny, because – as a Taurus – I do need stability. As an adult, I’m totally happy to have my home base but be constantly on the move from there.
SO, I wanted to pursue a remote opportunity because I love the flexibility. I love being able to work on my terms. That freedom spurs my creativity, which means that I can actually serve in a higher capacity at work.
Hmm, OK so you kind of just answered the next question – What is your favorite part of working remotely? Is there anything else, outside the flexibility to travel?
Well, I don't know if this is a cheap answer, but it's kind of restored my faith in humanity; especially working for a remote company like Tako, because we've been able to build such a familial culture, totally online. We rarely even see each other’s faces!
It’s kind of given me more perspective on the world because it’s allowed me to connect with people that I probably wouldn't have connected with if I wasn’t working remotely. It’s made me look at my job – and business, in general – in a whole different way.
That's awesome. What is the most challenging thing about working remotely?
Hmm, well, outside of the motivation sometimes – cause I'll get tempted to work on my couch with the TV on and I'm just like – This is not working for me. [laughs]
I would say the most challenging aspect is not being able to be physically around people. We do have a great sense of community here, but I think it would be great to get everybody together, even if it was like once a quarter, to be able to just get that energy boost between everyone. And for brainstorming too – like, to have everyone just in a room with a huge whiteboard, hashing crap out. You know?
Yeah, totally. Do you have a favorite project you've worked on – both with Tako, and outside of it, since I know you’ve been involved in a lot of businesses?
I think the most fun I’ve had at Tako so far would be with Stickii because they’re really interactive clients. It’s also the most rewarding because we started with nothing – we’re building something totally from scratch.
For personal projects, I’d say the retreat I just coordinated in Peru. That was an international event for 20 people – kind of a big thing! I had to help my friend from out here in Alabama (she lives in California), and then manage everything and everyone the whole time after we got there. That was really great because I saw my friend’s vision and was able to bring that to life. It was a lot. All the people. I died when I got back. I told Grace [weary half-screaming voice] I’m never doing another event again. [laughs]
You didn't share very much with the team about what this whole event was! Can you tell me more about that? I'm really curious because as far as I knew, it was like, maybe you and your partner just like…went to Peru. [laughs]
[laughs] Yeah, no, I know. I really only told Z because he had a bunch of questions…mostly psychedelic-related. [laughs]
So basically, I have a friend who’s a spiritual guide…type…person. I don't really even know the words, but she's great. She had this vision to invite 20 people to this retreat so she could guide them through different spiritual journeys and then also provide them a great experience of Peru.
It was a very spiritual project. I put all the logistics together – picking the event venue, getting everybody ready for the event…everything. Then, when we were there, we coordinated a lot of daily activities – morning yoga rituals, emotional release ceremonies…stuff like that. And they all did San Pedro. I was the only one who didn't, and that…was interesting. They were all like, birthing dragons and all kinds of stuff. [laughs]
Another part of the experience was hiking Machu Picchu. We all did that as a group. Then, when we came back, we did Kirtan ceremonies, so we had a group of five musicians playing their instruments and singing, and everybody was dancing and singing and stuff.
It was just a very spiritually transformational event. They were all business owners, too, so they were kind of seeking direction from the Universe on what they should do next – that kind of stuff.
Wow. That…sounds like a lot.
I mean, I did get to be a participant, so it wasn't like I was working for them the whole time. But yeah, it was a lot being around that many people and being the person everyone goes to if they need something.
Well, congrats. You did it. You definitely should feel accomplished. That sounds like a crazy undertaking. Who are three professionals, mentors or other people you admire?
First, I’d say my mom and dad. They were huge influences in my life because they formed my perception of what’s possible – and the value of hard work. My dad is 50-something years old and he's still out there, like, getting up at 5 a.m. and driving a truck every day. He and my uncle built their company – a road haulage company that transports grains all over England – basically from nothing.
So I learned the hard work and determination piece from him, and I learned a lot of resourcefulness from my mom. She moved to a whole new country where nobody knew her, and she started a business from scratch. By the time we left – about 10 years later – she had created a huge name for herself. Everybody knew who she was. When they thought about Western riding, they thought about Western Exposure LTD.
Another big influence for me is my old boss. He was an immigrant to the U.S. from India, and he started everything from scratch after arriving here. The way he approached everything was very detailed, but he was always so calm if things went sideways. He somehow always knew, “We’ll figure it out.” So many people have a much more stressful approach, like, “We have to get this done!” He was always just about doing our best and knowing that shit happens. We’ll handle it.
That actually reminds me of Grace's approach, too. When I started at Tako, I had a penchant for thinking everything was the BIGGEST DEAL EVER, and she told me, “Emma, if nobody died, it can be fixed.” I put high value on everything I do because I do want it to be the best it can be, but now, every time I start to take the objectively little things too seriously, I’m like, no one’s going to die if this isn’t flawless or needs to be delayed a week. We good.
Oh, yeah, totally, I feel that.
Um…do I have to give you a third person? I don’t think I have one. [laughs]
[laughs] No, no. We’ll move on. What do you like to do in your spare time?
I’ve gotten really into going to the gym. I love powerlifting. I love walking in nature, hiking, reading books that are far too…interesting for other people's eyes.
Um, excuse. What does that mean?
I probably read a lot of what Grace reads, but like…spicier. I think she reads spicy stuff.
She definitely reads spicy stuff. So much fanfic. I don’t understand it, but…yes, you guys could bond over it, for sure. [laughs]
[laughs] Nice. OK, well I don't read those kinds of books all the time. I've really gotten into more non-fiction recently. Like self-development stuff.
Umm…other interests. [thinking] I love to dance. Usually Latin music because it's the best one for the hips. I generally like just getting out and trying new things, exploring my environment. I used to be pretty crafty – sewing my own clothes and crocheting and stuff – but I haven’t done that in awhile.
What made you stop doing that stuff? Did you just find other interests that took priority?
I think life just got so busy; I haven’t had the mental space for it. It is something I’m getting back into, though. I was actually talking to Edwin* because he’s getting back into drawing, and he was like “We need to make more time for our things.” I was like, yeah, you know what? I’m gonna get back to it.
*Writer’s Note: Edwin is another fabulous Tako project manager. His Tako People interview is coming soon!
Nice. You should! What side projects are you working on right now, outside of Tako?
I have a side thing with a girlfriend of mine, planning events. We have plans to make that more profitable – we’re actually working on three events that’ll happen later this year. So I’m loving that. I’m also working on a product-based company that can be marketed purely through TikTok and Instagram. That’s a super baby project, though.
Personally, I've been taking singing lessons – so that's kind of a project I'm working on – you know, just something I’m dedicating myself to, for me.
OH – another thing I want to play around with is YouTube playlists. People are making far too much money at this for what little work it is. You know, they just make these playlists, put up a cute background for it, and they are making thousands of dollars a month for these freaking playlists that probably took them five minutes to put together! So, I’d like to try my hand at being a little YouTube DJ. It just always seems to tumble to the bottom of my mental to-do list, though – honestly, because I'll probably spend like five hours trying to pick the background. [laughs]
Alright. Last question. Very serious. Very introspective, very difficult. Get ready.
What is your favorite taco filling?
Oh my gosh. OK. Normally, I would say definitely the meat, but I’m meatless until the end of Lent, so we’re not going to think about that. So, I would say…hmmm…corn salsa. That's a good one. Super spicy or mild, it’s good because it’s sweet-spicy. Wow, I'm hungry.
OK, OK, I’ll let you go eat lunch. Thus concludes Samantha’s Tako People interview. I’ll see you in the Slack-o-sphere!