As a small business, we are always looking to collaborate and support other small businesses. This month, we had the honor of speaking with Samuel James from Samuel James Watches.
Now if you haven’t heard of Samuel James watches, you’ve got to check them out! Samuel James is a self-described “small-town watch company with some unusual watches”. They are right up our alley with unique and sleek designs that match perfectly with our modern-chic aesthetic. But that isn’t the only reason why we love Samuel James; in honor of pride month we thought as one LGBT run business to another, we could get the low-down of not only his business, but how being a member of the LGBT community has affected his life and his work.
Could you just tell me a little bit about yourself and your business?
“I started the watch company about a year and a half ago. It started with me just drawing and designing watches by myself as a hobby. I’m very into drawing and it’s been kind of an outlet for me when I’m stressed and I kinda got back into it.
I guess what really pushed me from a hobby to creating a business was that I also really love wearing watches and collecting them. The watches available for the price range that the average person would pay, which is probably between $50-$300, just wasn’t giving me the quality that I wanted, and I thought that it was a little ridiculous that we’re buying these $150 watches that are being made for $5 over in China.
So, I started digging into some of the big brands and disassembling their watches to see what kind of parts they were using. A lot of them were really cheap parts where even the metal wasn’t scratch resistant at all and the watch would look really bad after just a few months of wearing it. I wanted to see if I could make something of good quality for the same price range, and something more artistic to set it apart from trying to make watches based on current trends in fashion. Which I feel like is what most big brands tend to do in order to sell the most watches. I wanted to do something that was really different.
The third thing that I wanted to do was to continuously give to different charities and nonprofits that I think are making a really big difference in the world. I’m sure you’ve already seen our website, but we switch up the charities on a monthly basis and donate a portion of each watch sale to them.”
Getting more into the pride focused questions, what is your gender and sexual identity and expression?
“I’m a trans-male and I guess my sexuality would be straight since I like girls.”
How does your identity affect your day to day life?
“I guess it just makes me more aware of both sides: living as a male for a period of time and also a female. I can see the struggles of being one gender over the other. It’s a really unique perspective that I don’t think a lot of other people get to have because I’ve experienced how other people interact with me based on the gender that they see me as. It’s definitely made me more understanding to where people are in our culture in America and how we perceive genders and their roles.
I didn’t really see how much of a difference we still treat men over women until I was a male because when I was a female, certain interactions with men were just normal, but now that I’m a male I see how much more respected I am by other males in certain situations like that.
I guess day-to-day I feel like I’m more aware of stereotypical things going on in our world and in our culture and it makes me want to help out more. Especially, after going through what I went through while transitioning. It’s not really an easy experience, especially with family members.Seeing as the suicide rate of transgenders in general is almost 50%, I guess I would just like to try to give back more because I could see why they would feel like doing something like that [to themselves].”
Now, it’s alright if you can’t think of one off the top of your head, but you mentioned instances where you’re seeing both sides of the coin. Did you have one in mind that you could reference?
“Yeah, I’m trying to think of where I was. I think I was at a hardware store and I was buying some tools or wood for a project I was working on. One of the male employees, or it might have just been another customer came up to me and asked me what I was doing. He was really friendly and interested in what I was doing, being all buddy-buddy with me and I didn’t think too much of it at the time, but afterwards I was kind of taken back that this probably wouldn’t have happened if I was a female in the store.
Before [my transition], I used to go to Menard’s just as much as I do now and I don’t think that men really take it seriously when women are working on something, or buying tools for a project. They just assume that they are there for their husband. Just small instances like that is where I noticed that a situation probably wouldn’t have happened if I wasn’t a guy.”
How does your identity influence your work and how you run your business?
“For selling watches, watch businesses will separate their watches based on gender, which is something I struggled with because while it seems a lot easier to navigate a website based on gender, at the same time I don’t want to create standards of “you have to be male to look at these watches.” You know, it doesn’t say that, but that’s the impression that it gives off.
I try to be aware that when I’m drawing up advertisements; the watches are listed as gentleman’s or ladies watches but they’re described as “this is our more feminine collection” or “this is our more masculine collection.” I have ladies wearing the men’s watches in a couple of my photos and vice versa. I’m trying to make it available to everyone without creating gender stigmas I guess.”
What do you think are some of the bigger issues facing the LGBT community and how can the business community support and assist these issues?
“I think that there are a lot of businesses right now that are using their advertising to make a difference. They’re not just using the traditional families but they’re mixing it up. Like, there was a Gillette Fusion commercial where there was a dad showing his trans son how to shave. So just little things like that I think are a great way to say “hey, this might not be what you’re used to looking at, but it’s still just as normal as if it were someone else.” I think it’s definitely helping the LGBT community when businesses do little things like that to promote equality.”
Why is it important for the business community to engage with the LGBT community?
“Because they’re just humans like everyone else. There are so many people in the LGBT community as well. It’s not something that’s going to go away or it’s just some trending group of people. There are lots of consumers that are LGBT and almost everyone knows someone or is related to someone in that community. So I think it’s a hard thing not to be aware of.”