Samantha Kozuch photo by James Patrick

Samantha Kozuch photo by James Patrick

I’ve had the opportunity to know and work with Samantha Kozuch for the better part of a decade. During that time I’ve witnessed her transform and reignite her brand in multiple avenues. What follows is our recent interview together.

James Patrick: You’ve been on camera almost as long as I’ve been behind the camera. Over the nearly 10 years we have worked together your brand has evolved several times over. How have you managed your brand and growth over time?
Samantha Kozuch: Yes, wow! Time does fly when you’re having fun doesn’t it?! Basically, at the beginning of each year I reevaluate where I’m at in my career, what are my goals for each month and the year and then I realign my day-to-day activities to achieve those goals. I make a vision board and check back with it monthly to gage where I’m at as well. Over the years my goals have changed drastically, I’ve gone from glamour bikini model to fitness and commercial talent and yes as you mentioned, have changed my brand over multiple times, and that’s the beauty of this business. I finally feel like I’m at a place in my career where I feel happy, proud and successful! I’m checking off goals that I’ve had on my list for a very long time! It gets really exciting when you keep pushing yourself and don’t give up – you can accomplish so much!

JP: When did you find yourself gravitating towards the fitness industry?
SK: I’ve been an athlete since I could remember! My parents had me in sports since I could walk, but actually becoming a health & fitness advocate didn’t start until after I graduated college. When I was in college I had gravitated towards glamour modeling, then when I started noticing the girls in the fitness industry I realized that I could too bring my two passions together – health & fitness and modeling & acting. I had then realized that I was really dieting and excising the wrong way, and damaging my body to look thin more then I was nurturing it and after lots of reading and research I came to find healthy ways to achieve a fit body and wanted to share my experiences with other women. This led me to start my first fitness blog and then from there I grew a following on my social media channels. I enjoy being able to share my passion and educate others, it’s the most rewarding thing about my career! Getting emails and messages saying how I’ve inspired someone, or because of my tips a person has lost 10lbs is the greatest feeling! Having great looking images and being published is fantastic, but if all that work doesn’t help to inspire anyone then it doesn’t really fulfill me. I want to look back at my career and say I helped make a difference in a world with a high running obesity rate.

JP: You’ve developed multiple income streams as a model from doing freelance commercial and editorial work, to having a commercial agent, to promotions. What led to each of these avenues and how have each continued to build your brand?
SK: It all started my freshman year in college, growing up I heard over and over, ‘you’re so tall, you should be a model’, but I was an athlete my whole pre-college life playing basketball and running track year round so I was focused on sports and school. When I got to college I decided to leave my sports teams behind and turned down athletic scholarships in order to have a “normal” college experience without having the obligations of being an athlete. I was worn out from that lifestyle! When first semester of college hit, there was a HUGE void in my life that I had not prepared for, what the heck could I do outside of the classroom? In high school it was always training or games to go to and now I had absolutely nothing but homework! It was depressing, I never knew I would feel this way! I needed a hobby, so I decided to get into modeling. I had seen some ads in The Daily Wildcat for models and I started there. James, you and I, had actually worked on my first published piece of work, the Tucson 12 swimsuit calendar and that really kicked off my modeling career because it gave me that boost of confidence knowing that I could do this! I had gone to a casting, booked the job and got published – viola! So from that I had my own month in that calendar, and I was also in an ad for a local bar within that calendar. The bar I had been advertised for then had asked me to bartend at their place, which I took up instantly because it was so hard to find a good paying job around the university! It was there that I saw promotional girls come into the bar and from there I was just constantly asking questions, how did you get into this, how can I apply? and so on!

This industry is ALL networking and putting your self out there and most importantly, being professional. So that’s how I got started in promotional modeling, then I got into working as a spokes-model for tradeshows, and from there everything just started coming together. I got booked for more work, more events, more photoshoots, etc. whether it was through an agency, or someone had referred me or a repeat client it just kept happening over and over and once I graduated college I did this full time for 5 years. It’s almost a blur now, but basically I hustled! Ha ha! There is no simple answer to explain how I got to each of these. One opportunity led to another and it all just started steam rolling together. My moto is, if it makes sense, makes me money and is aligned with my brand and goals then I’ll probably do it!

JP: Eventually you had an idea for a company you wanted to launch. Talk about the need you saw in the market and how you positioned yourself and your new company.
SK: Well it was two things that got me going with my video production business, was initially created because I needed a long term plan for my financial needs – who knows how long I’ll be able to model, act, travel, etc. I’ll eventually have a family and there’s no way I’d be happy going into the corporate world after being an entrepreneur my whole life. In the past, and still today, I’ve been the hired talent for many production companies, where I’d go into their studios and read lines while they filmed me. It was after some brainstorming with a friend that I should set up a production company and do it all myself, instead of just being paid a minimum as an actress. I also saw that many video production companies charge thousands and thousands of dollars, many startups can’t afford such costs; especially if they need multiple videos, so I created a turn-key solution that is more affordable. That’s when White Screen Videos was born, we create professional marketing videos for you! Every business should have videos on their website! They help build rapport, get you more traffic, increase conversion rates, clarify your products and boost your sales! For most businesses, the process of creating a video is overwhelming or impossible, so we do all the hard work for them and create a professional marketing video that they can share on their website with potential clients and turn them into customers, all over the world!

JP: How has what you’ve learned and the growth of your brand helped you in this new venture?
SK: Well I’ve been very driven to succeed since day one, that’s just my personality type, and not only does my lively hood rely on the income from the businesses I run, but I really hope that I never ever have to enter the corporate world, unless I’m the CEO of course! I’ve learned I have to be professional, consistent and reliable. I hold myself to the same standards no matter where I’m working. When I tell people that I have my own company and work from home, many think I “have the life”, but it doesn’t mean I can just chill on the couch all day, eating bon bons and expect money to roll in… I have to say the hustle is very real and I work around the clock to build and keep my companies thriving. Heck it’s 11:15pm right now and here I am doing this interview… it never stops and I absolutely LOVE it and that’s how I know that I’m doing the right thing with my life.

JP: What made you decide to not rely solely on modeling work for revenue?
SK: I’ve been very fortunate in the modeling world thus far, but you never know what’s going to happen in life. Early in my entrepreneurship days I was told to never rely on once source of income, and modeling was my one source. You never know when that will be taken away, god forbid; I could break my leg next week and be out of work for a month! And looks fade, things can change in an instant and when you rely on you’re looks you really do need to have another means of income – it’s just the smart thing to do! So whether it’s selling products, offering other services, etc. having an additional source was always the goal. For me it’s great to have a mix, one week I’m working at home with my video business clients and the next I’m travelling for a modeling gig… it keeps it fun and exciting and I think that’s another reason I’m just so passionate about it all!

JP: Talk about the importance of paying professionals for services such as photo shoots versus getting free work.
SK: When you pay for a professional service such as photos, in my experience, you can bet that you’re going to have some outstanding results! Whenever I’ve paid for a photo shoot it’s always been top-notch and an amazing experience because everyone on set is looking to further their business or career so the whole shoot is taken seriously! I’ve always been able to use those shoots to my advantage to get more publishing’s or book higher paying jobs because the images are of great quality!

But I do have to include that it also depends who you are working with when it comes to free work! I’ve been fortunate to work with top photographers and production companies for free and have received incredible work for my portfolio; however, this is not always the case for everyone. Free work is great to learn your skill, such as practice modeling, being in front of the camera, maybe even network with people in the industry – I still do free shoots to this day, but I know what to look for in a photographer prior to shooting and whether they’re worth the time to work with and if I can make those shoots pay off for me in the long run!

JP: Where do you see our personal brand as a talent and your company going from here?
SK: I have so many visions and dreams, many I haven’t even started on yet! I’ve barely scraped the top of the fitness industry of where I want to be and I have big goals for fulfill this year. I’ll finally be getting my healthy lifestyle plans and workout videos out to my fans, they really have been asking me to do this for years! Also with I’m at a point where I do need to expand and hire other professional talent, video editors, and get an actual studio outside of my house – so that’s going to be another big and exciting leap. Basically, I’m going to stick to everything that I am doing and expand my brands to be better!

JP: What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned in your journey and advice you could give to others?
SK: Before starting any modeling, acting or entrepreneurial career I’d write out a plan of what you want your brand to be – and stick to it or just evolve to be better from it! What do you want to be known for? How do you want to be remembered? What brands do you want to possibly work with? Is your current work going to turn them off from working with you?

My goals and vision has changed DRAMATICALLY in the past 10 years – and that’s normal of course! We all change during our twenties so I’m not surprised to look back, because at that point in time it’s what I wanted .

When I first started in this industry, I was young, in college and 18 so my primary goal was for people to recognize me as a sexy glamour model and I didn’t want to be the “jock” that I was growing up. I was in a new city with new people it was the perfect time that I could re-brand myself without even realizing that this is what I was actually doing. It worked out great for a while, but then I grew out of that “sexy picture” stage pretty quickly and I wanted to make a serious living with modeling and acting. So I started attending modeling and business seminars and was able to network with other people in the industry to learn how to brand yourself and make a living doing so. I asked experienced models questions whenever I could… I was just yearning to learn how to become as successful as them. Since then, I’ve been able to completely rebrand myself, now I’m “The Fit Girl”. These days my work ranges from fitness to commercial to semi-glamour, people know me to be humble, easy to work with and professional. I’m constantly getting rebooked by companies and getting referred all the time, I’m really blessed. So by making a plan, educating yourself and aligning yourself with other people who can help push your career in the right direction is my advice to anyone looking to start or accelerate their career.

Special thanks to Samantha Kozuch for being a part of this interview feature!

James Patrick
IG @jpatrickphoto