Today we’d like to introduce you to Samantha Levin.
Samantha, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I grew up in a family of entrepreneurs, so starting my own business one day actually seemed more feasible and normal to me than a 9-5. I was always making things and obsessing over strange concepts that I might be able to turn into a business. One of my first crazy ideas was a portable shower product that required no water – essentially a soap or wiped that you could clean your entire body with on the go. I called it Shower(less) because it was showerless and helped you shower less. I thought it would be great for the environment, commuters, people who didn’t have access to clean water, etc. Sadly, Shower(less) didn’t lead to any kind of shower at all, just a stinky, soapy mess in my parent’s kitchen.
In college, I started my first business that actually saw the light of day – a small social media marketing business I ran from my college dorm room. I remember having this fear that as an English major and Visual Arts minor, I’d never make a living. I liked how with social media I could write and create original content and actually charge for it. I thought I would never get clients, but my uncle needed social media for his landscaping business, so I asked if he would be my first. He was into it, but I had to convince his CFO that I was worth their money, so I gave my first pitch over the phone from my dorm room. He liked my work and started referring me to more people. The next thing I knew I was creating content for fashion icon Linda Rodin and her cult skincare line RODIN olio lusso. This work led to content for other fun clients like The Cooking Channel’s The Fabulous Beekman Boys. However, as much as I enjoyed the clients and their brands, I dreamed of creating my own.
After college, I moved to NYC where I had a short stint as a (terrible) freelance commercial producer. While I ran around the city trying to fix production nightmares, I not only barely solved them but also forgot to eat. To avoid starvation, I started drinking smoothies as a quick way to get sustenance on the go. There was only one problem, juices don’t have all the macronutrients of a meal, so I’d get a terrible headache at the end of the day. I was awful at solving production problems, but I was ready to solve this one. Juice was also in my blood. When I was two, my family started the first fresh smoothie business on the East Coast and called it Fresh Samantha after me. I decided to follow in their footsteps with my own line but one that would have all the macronutrients of a meal. As the former “Fresh Samantha” girl, I called the product Sam Lives! and came up with the tagline, “I’m all grown up and fresher than ever!”. I sold the line in Whole Foods and independent retailers in the Northeast. From driving (and breaking down in) my uncle’s landscaping van with over 300,000 miles on it all over the Northeast to demo the product to pulling so many all-nighters in a juice facility that the night-shift workers thought I was a new employee – I realized manufacturing a perishable product was not exactly my cup of tea. Sales were good on the outside, but I was dying on the inside. I came up with my escape plan in the middle of the night. I would start a branding agency dedicated to premium food and beverage brands and use the network I’d already built in this industry from my juices to find my first clients. I decided on “For the Gut” for the name and the tagline “Branding from the Gut, for the gut”, and now I get to make brands look great without having to worry about distributor trucks breaking down, getting stuck in freezers, or product exploding 🙂
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
It definitely hasn’t been a smooth or linear road. It’s been more like a jagged, winding trail on the edge of a cliff… one that you almost fall off of several times. From something as small as a potential customer spitting out my product on my face, saying it was the worst juice he’d ever tasted, to spending months designing work that never saw the light of day – every struggle, big or small, felt like the end of the world in the beginning. It took me a long time to not take it all so seriously. Now, if a potential client rejects me or a job falls through, it feels more like losing a card game, instead of my life… though I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t affect me at all. Your business is your baby, so it always feels a bit personal, and the ups and downs never end.
Please tell us about For the Gut.
I run a branding agency called For the Gut that specializes in premium food & beverage brands. We offer everything from branding & design (i.e., identity creation, packaging, website, copy, etc.) to branded content (i.e., photos & videos). Our goal is to help the highest quality food and beverage products be seen. Some of our clients have included Winc Wine, Little Spoon, Forager Project, GEM vitamins, Epic Seed, Charley St, and Be Mixed. We trust our guts to brand these businesses because we’ve had our own. We not only empathize with our clients, but we also have the know-how and resources they need to stand out virtually on cluttered Instagram feeds and physically on packed store shelves.
If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
I wouldn’t want to start over. Looking back now, I can see how everything I did, good and bad, led me to this business. The mistakes and failures were what taught me the most.
- Website: FortheGut.com
- Phone: (860) 912-4594
- Email: Sam@FortheGut.com
Jackson Hallberg, Gabriel Sweet, Kirra Cheers, Brian Bins