How do you go from a side hobby to a business? Performer Samantha Duenas has turned her passions into her career.
Samantha Duenas, recently named Artist to Watch in 2019 by Red Bull Music. goes through the name, SOSUPERSAM, on the international music circuit. She’s been a DJ for 10 years, performing in a variety of venues, from celebrity and fashion events to music festivals to underground clubs. She is also the co-founder of “143”, a monthly R&B night, drawing 2,000 attendees each month in Los Angeles and appearing in cities around the world including New York, San Francisco, Honolulu, Seattle, Miami, Boston, Vancouver, Berlin, Amsterdam, Jakarta and Manila.
I have always been passionate about performing, but torn between a creative life and the conventions of âreal workâ as a âresponsible postgraduate adultâ.
Duenas initially thought of playing purely as a hobby. She majored in economics at university and did an internship in a bank. How did she go from being an amateur artist to creating two active entertainment brands? In short, she started off side while working 9 to 5, followed her interests and âran withâ.
If you are considering pursuing your passion, changing careers, or starting a business in a competitive field like entertainment, here are the main takeaways from my interview with Samantha Duenas:
Don’t be afraid to make a change
Samantha Duenas: I’ve always been active in the performing arts, but I only saw it as a fun hobby, never saw it as a real professional possibility. So I studied economics and planned to go into finance or real estate after graduation. It wasn’t until my last term in college that I decided to give professional dance a quick try before launching into my career.
Start small and experiment
Duenas: I was doing a pretty unsatisfying job from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and in my free time I was surfing the internet and blogging at work to pass the time and stimulate my imagination. It was a fun way to showcase the food I ate, the concerts I went to, the clothes I wore, the art I admired. When I first started DJing, I took my blog name as my stage name and sort of ran with it. SOSUPERSAM is today still built on the same basic DNA as my blog. My “brand” is largely the culmination of my take on music, clothing, food, travel, and my lifestyle as a whole.
Overcome the skeptics with results
Duenas: Getting into any industry, it was hard to be Filipino, a petite woman of color and of Asian descent. People assume that you don’t know what you are doing and that you are weak. I think it continually challenges me to focus on mastering my craft.
I never wanted to be just “good enough for a girl” or use a gadget as a crutch. Sometimes I get a reservation to be a female, but I will make sure I get re-let because of my abilities.
Take advantage of unexpected opportunities
Duenas: 143 means “I love you” in the ’90s pager code, and it’s basically a tribute to my childhood that grew up with love songs, mix-tapes, and pagers. We just wanted to play really loud slow jams and get free drinks, never thinking about longevity or opening a formal business. No one back then was doing something like this, so we had no plan or any expectation of success. But 143 took off immediately and unexpectedly, and the next thing we knew we were starting to enlist our friends to help us out the door or DJ with us. Our bar transactions became more important, we realized that we might have to pay taxes and do accounts receivable and payable. So we rushed over and found a business name, registered it and opened a bank account. I chose 143 WORLDWIDE from the Will Ferrell movie “Stepbrothers”. We had maybe only done a handful of parties in LA by then, had no idea we would end up having this party all over the world. It was all completely unintentional and completely fulfilling. We still love him. I think this approach suits us best.
Master the basics of the business
Although Duenas has created two very creative brands, when I asked her for business advice, she shared some common sense advice:
- Find a good accountant and pay your taxes.
- Thanks the ratings go a long way.
- Create a solid operating agreement before you go into business with someone.
You don’t have to do everything yourself to be a credible businessman. In fact, knowing how to spot talented individuals and lead them to a singular result is the best way to run a business.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions and ask for help.
You can see more of Samantha Duenas on her new single, “Extra Credit” or 143 Worldwide’s pre-Thanksgiving block party on November 27. She will also be featured in an upcoming episode of Intersections on TFC.
You don’t have to say yes to every opportunity. Learn to say no to things that don’t make you feel good. Always stay authentic to yourself and to who you are, especially when it challenges conventional thinking.