My Small Business: Samantha Tabaldo

I graduated in November 2018 from DCU with a Joint Honours degree in Law and Media. I changed from Spanish and Media to Law and Media in the first week because I thought being ⅛ Spanish would mean I’d fly through it but to much dismay, I did not. So, I swapped over to Law and Media because I knew I wanted to do something in Media and also when you tell people you do Law, they’re like, “Wow, you must be so smart”.

While I was in college, I worked in retail, from Nike, Versace to GUESS, all in Kildare Village. Retail experience is so important as you get to meet people from all walks of life and all the skills you gain, you can later apply to any job in the future. In my final year, I worked as a Social Media Assistant for Dylan Bradshaw where I helped curate and manage their social media platforms. When I graduated, I worked as a Sales Executive for IMAGE Publications (now IMAGE Media), I learned a lot about the media industry in Ireland and met a lot of influential figures in the Irish media space. However, I just felt like I wasn’t ready to settle in a 9-5 in Ireland just yet. My days were the same, I would take the same DART route to Dun Laoghaire, work a 9-5, go to events if I were lucky, go home, go to the gym. It was all so mundane, and I just wanted a change of scenery. I love Ireland, but the gloomy winters made my commute unbearable. The cold made my skin dry and I felt unmotivated and uninspired. A lot of people seemed to pigeonhole others and if you ever stepped out of line, or did anything different to the rest of your peers, they would begrudge, say that you’re “full of notions” .

Samantha worked as a Sales Executive for IMAGE Media.

In January of 2019, I came across an Instagram ad for the US Graduate Visa. I decided to look into it and soon I had my sights set for America. Not to be cliché but doing the J1 Graduate Visa changed my life. I moved to LA in May 2019, all by myself, no job, minimal money. I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and what better way to do it than to leave a comfortable job in Dublin and move 8,300km away.

You get 3 months to find a job that is in your field that your sponsor approves. This can be hard because a requirement of the visa is the job has to be entry-level. Within two weeks, I interviewed for a position, but my sponsor didn’t approve so I had to go on the job hunt again! The apartment I had planned to stay in fell through last minute, (who asks for a $3000 deposit!!) so I had to stay in a hostel for the first two weeks.

Metropolitan LA has a population of over 4 million, nearly as much as the island of Ireland, but it still felt so lonely. I’d facetime my mam in the morning and the minute the call ended, my tears just flowed like a broken dam. That’s the thing about moving away, no one tells you how crushing the homesickness is at first. I eventually landed a job as a Curation Specialist for RAW Artists. I had to search for emerging new talent in over 30 states and invite them to showcase at whatever show was closest to them. This was a great job, it had great benefits, the pay was alright, I was able to pay rent and still eat and do fun activities, and I met some of the most amazing people in this job. The work ethic in LA is so different to here. In Ireland, people’s identity is tied to their occupation and it consumes them, whereas in LA, people had jobs, but they also had passion. It’s so cliché but people come to LA to make their dreams happen. I didn’t have a dream, I felt like Ireland really squeezed that out of me. I felt like I needed to fit a mould of what was acceptable; go to college, get a job, retire, and die. But in LA, I was surrounded by artists, actors, singers, yogis, whatever! People didn’t care if your dream was too big or if it sounded ridiculous, they just believed in themselves and knew it would happen.

The most common thing people ask in LA is, “What do you do?” and people will tell you their day job and whatever it is they do on the side. The way they talked about their side hustle was inspiring. They’re not afraid to say, “…and I’m good at it”, this is something Irish people have such a hard time understanding, they cannot talk themselves up and really indulge themselves in negative self-talk; “I’m not good enough”, “there’s always someone better”, I learned how bad this is and the impact it has on your mind is worrying. I hope more people realise that you shouldn’t talk down on yourself and that hating and filling yourself with doubt is more time consuming than actually going out and doing what it is you want to be doing!

Samantha moved to LA on her US Graduate Visa in 2019.

When Covid hit, LA shut down and the Irish embassy urged its citizens to return home. I was devastated. I had two months left and I had just started a podcast that I was going to feature cool and interesting people that I had met in LA and now I couldn’t even see what was ahead of me. Luckily, I had applied to the IBEC Graduate program and I had a Skype interview when I got back, a great way to spend my 2-week quarantine. Being home really upset me, I felt like I was really evolving as a person and gaining amazing experience in a city where people were hustling and achieving their dreams, now I felt like I was behind and had nothing going for me. I wanted to upskill, so I filled my lockdowns with online courses and LinkedIn Learning. After a few months, IBEC sent an email to say that the company I had applied to wasn’t going ahead with their program due to Covid, so with that, my hope of moving away from Ireland was gone.

I applied to jobs and got rejected. I got interviews only to get to the last round and then ghosted. I was fed up, I was tired of companies asking for 5 years’ experience and a Masters degree only to offer just above minimum wage. I did get back to podcasting and it was hard trying to find guests during a pandemic, but I got there. Doing my podcast led me to produce and host a podcast series for the Shona Project where I got to interview so many amazing and inspiring Irish women! This really helped to fill my creative void.

My boredom got to me and in early October I decided to make candles. I watched a ton of YouTube videos and researched good wax and wicks and got enough to make some for myself and my friends. At the time, there weren’t really many people doing body candles (now there’s at least 20 people, according to all the Instagram ads I get) so I thought I’d sell a few just to help with my income. I was so shocked at the initial response. I had received 50 orders in an hour and people kept sharing and following the page. I realised I needed to create a brand strategy and up my packaging and whatever else. I learned everything from Google and even TikTok! I sourced wax from an actual supplier, tried and tested fragrances, boxes and colour schemes. I eventually decided to set up a website as an easy way for me to track orders and with that started my business.

As a graduate and being in my early twenties, I have felt like I was in some sort of race to get my life on track and work a big corporate job in order to be successful. Since doing the graduate program in LA, I realise we are all on different paths and your twenties are a time to try and to not be scared of failing. Being 23, I realise I have the privilege of messing up and no one will care, I am so young, I have so much to learn. Try and try again, and if it doesn’t work out, so what, you tried! Just do it, don’t wait for it to be perfect, just put it out into the world and it will work itself out. Perfection stops action and that stops so many people from getting what they want.

This pandemic has halted normality and has made us revaluate a lot of things. I’ve learned to let go of the notion that a successful life is getting a good job, getting married and having kids. That is someone’s idea of a good life, but not mine. I want my twenties to be the time I try different paths, right now I’m pursuing owning my own business, who knows where that will lead me? I have so many years ahead of me to settle into a secure job and mortgage a home. Now is the time to dream so big people think you’re crazy. It’s the time to understand yourself and find what makes you happy. I’m not saying to go do an Eat, Pray, Love kinda thing, but to realise that we have one life in this human body, do you not want to see what life has to offer beyond society’s idea of success? Don’t tie your identity to a job you might not even like, because as seen with COVID, when that’s taken away from you, who are you really?

Samantha Tabaldo

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