Founder and CEO / Breeze Balm
Who else is obsessed with Sammy Leo? At the start of the year, when The Cool Career team sat down to discuss our 2020 year, Sammy was smack bang in the middle of our vision board. Not only do we love her YouTube channel, but we love how she is apologetically herself, all of the time.
Sammy grew up in the gorgeous New Zealand town of Dunedin, and it was there… working in her family’s pharmacy, that she witnessed a real demand for her grandads special multipurpose ointment. After moving to Australia, and trying all the things (including an amazing dancing career), Sammy knew in her heart that it was time to bring her family’s balm to the masses. In 2016, the recipe was passed down to her and Breeze Balm as we know it today, was born.
What we love about this interview is Sammys evident yest for life and total dedication to anything she pursues. It’s a lesson in giving absolutely everything a go, and trying your hardest because that is the only way that you will find your thing.
Let’s dig in.
Where did you grow up and how did your experience shape the person you are, and the career that you are in today?
I grew up in a small town, Dunedin, New Zealand. From a young age, on school holidays, I worked in our family pharmacy where I got to spend a lot of my time playing with product testers, talking with customers and exploring all the different avenues of retail. Little did I know, this was going to be a huge help later down the line. My grandad created a special multipurpose ointment that was amazing for dry and cracked skin. I would see it fly off the shelves especially when tourists would come into town via cruise ships.
I realised just how special this balm was and when our family pharmacy sold in 2014, I realised I couldn’t live without this ointment and it had to live on! So, I created the brand Breeze Balm and we now ship worldwide and our secret family formula for dry cracked skin and lips is loved by thousands all around the globe.
When you were a young girl what did you want to be when you grew up?
I have danced my entire life and it is a huge passion of mine, I wanted to be a backup dancer for Janet Jackson or Justin Timberlake.
Shit up!!! So did I! HA! So where did you go to High School and how was that experience for you?
I went to Kaikorai Valley College in Dunedin New Zealand. My personal experience at school was enjoyable. I involved myself in sports, stage shows and a lot of outside activities as well as working hard in the classroom. My last year of school I took these subjects, Photography, Drama, Geography, Mathematics, Physical Education.
Did your high school play an important role in helping you choose your further education and future career?
Unfortunately, no, I believe my life experiences helped me to where I am now. Without knowing it, I continued to make choices that eventually would lead me here.
I believe that a lot of my skills I use now, I learnt from when I worked in our family pharmacy and also life experience. That’s not to say school isn’t important. I learnt a lot of social skills, discipline, resilience and was exposed to a variety of different avenues.
Did you complete any internships or work experience placements in high school? Tell us about that experience.
I have never done an internship specifically, however I feel growing up in the family pharmacy and working there was kind of my own internship. I was about 9 when dad asked myself and my sister to unlid and prepare all the lip balm jars for him to fill. This was my first paid job. It was tedious. But it taught me from a young age, some things aren’t fun and you just have to knuckle down and get it done.
I also assisted teaching dancing from around the age of 12. Taking on my own classes at the age of 14.
On top of school holidays at the family pharmacy, and teaching dancing during the week, at 16, I decided on weekends I would work as a housekeeper for extra money.
When I moved to Australia to dance full time, I worked weekends and late night Thursdays as a barista in a fast moving café. Each job taught me different skills and gave me amazing experiences.
Did you go to College, University, Tafe or another equivalent? Take us through the courses that you studied and why you chose them?
No, I was never interested university, but I did complete a certificate 4 in performing arts. I studied at the prestigious performing arts school in Sydney – Brent St Studios.
Tell us about your career journey so far. Who you have worked for, and explain any highlights?
I have had many jobs that are in completely different fields. I guess I was trying to find what I loved. I have worked as a dance teacher, retail assistant, housekeeper, barista, bar tender, hotel front office manager, Stone company sales, administration and data entry, receptionist, Gym & fitness sales manager.
How did you get into the job that you are in now?
I decided that I wanted to give Breeze Balm a good go, while it was a side hustle for a while, I felt that it was at a point where I needed to take a leap of faith and put my full energy into it. It was one of the scariest moments when I quit my job. My income was my full responsibility and I had to make it work. There was no choice. The hustle game was on.
What is the hardest part of owning your very own business?
This is a really hard question to answer. I love what I do. Even the “hard” parts I enjoy as I see it as a challenge. I guess it’s hard to switch off. I am always looking for inspiration, or thinking about what’s next, Its never ending.
What does a typical business day look like for you in your current job?
5am Wake up & have a hot lemon water.
6am Workout – either pilates or gym.
8am – Feed my puppy and have breakfast.
8.30am – Arrive at Office and say hello to all staff members.
8.35 – COFFEE
8.40am – Clear emails & check and respond to my social media pages.
9.30am – Interact with my Lip Gossip Breeze Balm Facebook forum. (This is where our customers can chat with me directly. We also chat about the hottest beauty hacks, products etc.)
10.30am – Quick staff meeting to see how we are tracking for our monthly goals, to see where we are at on current projects and answer any questions to get everyone on track for the day.
12pm – Lunch while I check my socials again and post a few images or stories.
12.30pm – 5pm is usually made up with meetings with my other team members who do not work in-house, product development, manufacturing meetings (we make our balms in-house at our HQ), goal setting, accounting meetings, analysing reports and ticking off my to do list.
5.30pm – HOME.
6.30pm – Dinner
7.30pm – check emails and do any last minute things I might have missed or finish up my meeting with my team members overseas.
10pm – bed and night time routine.
Who has been your hero, or greatest inspiration growing up and why?
I have always admired Janet and Michael Jackson. These two are royalty in the dance world. Of course, their talent is so incredible but for me I watched every behind the scenes documentary I could, and I found it so inspiring how hard they worked. How much effort, time and practice they put into what they did. I saw their creativity while they conducted stage rehearsals and final touches. It taught me the importance of the final product. I also LOVE beyonce for this reason also.
What advice would you give girls who are interested in your career?
Go for it! But be ready to hustle. One of the best quotes I have ever heard is:
If they say no, you are talking to the wrong person. – Kris Jenner.
I literally have tested this theory multiple times and it is true. Anything is possible if you set your mind to it.
List your most valuable resources that you turn to constantly for inspiration in your profession?
- Favourite Websites: Pinterest & Social Media Platforms
- Name an Instagram Account that you can’t go a day without checking: Our business @Breeze.balm for sure. I have a staff member take care of our socials, so I like to keep up to date with feedback from customers in dms, responses and tags.
- Favourite Podcast: Female start up club. This has great stories & suggestions from business owners. They talk about their journey and what helped them succeed.
- Favourite Netflix/Stan/ Series: How to get away with murder, I love the suspense! Friends.
- Who is your mentor? (This can be a person you follow for advice, or an IRL person). My close friend Renee has a huge impact on me, I asked her advice a lot.
- Favourite all time book/s: I’m not a big reader…I usually unwind from a wild day with easy watching tv shows because by the time my day has ended I have no brain space left! If anyone has any must reads please dm me! I’d love to make some time to read.
- Favourite App that you use every day: Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook Messenger.