She is the one that makes it all possible, the (sparkling) string that holds it all together, the one that floats the ship and steers it fearlessly through the terrifying terrain of the industry. Meet the boss lady, in the virtual flesh, the one, the only, Samantha Bernhardi! Drum roll.
Laurie: What did you study?
Samanatha: I have a diploma through the Trinity College London as a drama teacher and as a performer.
Laurie: Where did you work before you started SBAM?
Samantha: I used to work at an agency called Sybil Sands. I actually started with her as an actress and one day my life changed because I walked into her office and I said, “I really just want to be in this industry, it doesn’t matter what. I’ll sweep the stage, I don’t mind.” She said, “Oh well, my assistant has just left. Do you want the job?” So I was very lucky. I was trained by one of the best.
Laurie: And you worked as a drama teacher.
Samantha: I used to work at quite a few pre-primary schools to teach little ones up to about age six. But I preferred being more on the management side than the tuition and when Sybil gave me that opportunity I jumped at it and I closed my little drama school.
Laurie: So you worked for Sybil. What was the biggest lesson you learnt there?
Samantha: That at the end of the day you must always remember that you are working with people and their emotions and that positive thinking works marvels!
Laurie: And then you went off on your own and started your own agency. What lessons have you learnt working for yourself?
Samantha: I’ve learnt that your staff are really important and that your business is only as strong as your staff. So I value my staff very much. It’s quite tough to balance family life and the business – it’s hard to close the door. But I believe that that’s one of the services we offer the actors – that we are always on call. That they can always phone, it doesn’t matter what time. Personal touch!
Laurie: What do you like doing in your spare time?
Samantha: I like to cook. I love baking and trying new recipes, walking my dogs, going to the theatre and watching movies. I also enjoy traveling and reading. I try crocheting but I’m not very good at it. I love spending time with my family, both the two-legged members and the four-legged ones. As many of you know, my husband is a vet, so we have our own petting zoo on call!
Laurie: And you have a very big teddy bear collection.
Samantha: Laughs. Yes. I got my first teddy bear, which was a Rupert bear, when I was three. I still remember my mother bringing it home from Harrods for me. She used to work at the Harrods library. I had been waiting the whole day and I was so excited. I had an imaginary friend called Rupert and I used to walk down the road and hold Rupert’s hand. I can still see Rupert next to me. My poor sister used to accidentally sit on Rupert in the car which caused a lot of tears. But at the moment I have about 450 teddy bears. I mainly only do collectors bears now. But I have Rupert bears, Paddington bears, Harrods bears, and Pooh bears. Every year we go to the Teddy Bear Fair and we win MORE teddy bears. And I can tell you a secret. Clare also comes along and she enters her teddy bears too.
Amy: And she gets upset when she doesn’t win prizes.
Laurie: What do you like most about your job?
Samantha: I love that every day is different. I love to work with people on a day to day basis. I also enjoy that it’s something to do with the arts. I was brought up in a very arty family. My dad was one of the architects on the National Theatre and I remember when it was built, sitting in his office being pointed out the likes of Angela Lansbury and Lawrence Olivier walking past. I wanted to be a film director but when I graduated from high school the only place you could study was Pretoria Technicon and I didn’t want to go to Pretoria. So that’s why I studied drama. I wanted to do something in the arts. I’m not someone who could go and sit in a little grey office. I like that we are all very animated in this office, that we all get along very well. I enjoy the girls, I enjoy the actors. I enjoy that I can have my kids here in the afternoons. And my animals!