Small Business Spotlight: Police Officer, Model, And Entrepreneur All In One

May 29, 2018 - 7:01 pm
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NEW YORK (WCBS 880) -- On Long Island, you’ll find Samantha Sepulveda in uniform, fighting crime and especially helping and inspiring others as a police officer.

But you also might also find her anywhere from Las Vegas to Nicaragua showing off the hottest styles before the camera, and you might even find her on the cover of a magazine. And when it comes to modeling, she also has her own business.

Sepulveda told WCBS 880’s Joe Connolly that her interest in law enforcement came first, and she has always been a big tomboy deep down. But she got into modeling while away in Belize with her sister and her friends.

“A friend of mine called and said, ‘Hey listen, do you want to do a runway show?’ And I said: ‘I’ve never done anything like that. I don’t even feel that comfortable in bikinis, and I’m not that tall,’” Sepulveda said. “And she’s like: ‘No, just do it. She’s looking for different types of body types.’ And I was like, ‘All right’ – I mean literally, I kept eating. I was like, ‘I don’t care.’”

When Sepulveda got back to New York City, she came in for a fitting – and soon afterward, she did the runway show.

“I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the movies where the girls are doing the runway shows – they get to the back, they throw clothes at them. They put the clothes on and they go out. It was literally just like that,” she said.

That was only about four years ago. But Sepulveda’s modeling career has taken off. After the runway show, she went for a photo shoot, and she said, “Ever since then, I have to say I’ve been really blessed.”

Sepulveda remains a full-time police officer, and does not have time to go to castings and wait around.

“So I always get really fortunate, because people call me, and say, ‘Hey listen, would you like to do X, Y, Z?’ and I’ve learned to say yes to a lot of things,” she said.

When it comes to breaking into the fashion industry, Sepulveda said she believes it has always been about her personality and her work ethic more than anything – particularly when she travels for photo shoots.

“What I’ve noticed – and not to take away from anyone – is that if you’re going on these trips and you’re going to tropical places, you want to have a good time. I’m all for it. But make sure you get up at 6 in the morning if you want to get that sunrise shoot, right? Or you want to get the right lighting – and a lot of people I’ve noticed don’t do that,” she said. “They kind of get carried away with the partying, and I think I will always be different from the others in that sense is that, no matter what, I understand that it’s a business.”

In addition to being both a police officer and a fashion model, Sepulveda holds an MBA in finance. She said her education has been very important when it comes to being an entrepreneur.

“When I got my MBA in finance, that’s when I learned a lot of marketing, and which is funny, because now, 2018, marketing has changed, right?” she said. “Before, you can put an ad in a newspaper, things like that. Now, things have become more social media-driven, so you have to take that marketing aspect, but understand that it’s now social media, and a lot of it’s visual.”

Sepulveda is now internationally published, and has hundreds of thousands of followers on Instagram. When it comes to developing an Instagram following, she said it is of paramount importance to follow the right users who can boost engagement, keep business and personal accounts separate, and to be very conscious about what is posted on a business account.

“Make sure to post things that are specific to your audience, right? If I post shoes all day long – right – and I love shoes, and these shoes, and this color, and then I throw a picture of a car in there, it makes no sense,” she said. “But some people, they want to have a business page, and then they add a lot of different facets to it, and your following just wants to see what your main reason for having a page is, so I would say keep it very consistent with your page. Interaction is key. Obviously, if you don’t have fans, they don’t have anything.”

Sepulveda also has a website, SammySep.com, where fans can buy photos to have signed or book her for shoots – though she noted that most of her bookings come through Instagram.

“Also, I now have an apparel line, which is kind of like some funky shirts. I’m going to move towards, you know, just more body parts – and not anything outlandish, but some body parts that are cool that you can mix and match with, you know, some nice shoes or a sexy skirt or something like that – but just kind of get more into that, and really, whatever else strikes my fancy. I’m not going to limit myself,” she said.

But when it comes to the police force, Sepulveda said she’s going to stick with it.

“I mean, I remember – last weekend, I went from being on St. Thomas with my girlfriends and having a great time, to the next day working 13 hours, and the day after that, I had a photoshoot at the beach,” she said. “So I like the fact that I don't have, necessarily, a routine, and I like the fact that I have that juxtaposition between being a model and being prim and proper, and then being able to put on a uniform and interact with people on a daily basis on a personal level.”

As a police officer, Sepulveda said one of the most rewarding experiences is the ability to help others – including sometimes just listening to others who want to vent.

“I’ve had cases where women come in – they’re complaining about their husbands, lets’ say – and by the end of it, I realize, no crime occurred. No argument even happened,” she said. “All they wanted to do is just vent, and they don’t have someone to vent to, and I’ve had women sit in who aren’t even from my area – I can’t even take a report if I wanted to – and all they want to do is vent, cry, and you give them a hug.”

Sepulveda is also a longtime participant in the Adopt-A-Cop program at local elementary schools – where an officer visits a class all throughout the school year and the class “adopts” the officer.

“It familiarizes them with the police department; not to be afraid. I see, because I’ve been on for eight years now, so I see children that I’ve had in fourth grade, and now they’re in high school, which is amazing. They say: ‘You’re my Adopt-a-Cop officer! I remember you and I want to be a cop because of you!’” she said.

In one recent effort, the program collected prom apparel and offered a “prom boutique day,” where high school seniors who didn’t have the funds to buy prom clothes themselves got the dresses, suits and shoes they needed for their special night.

“These girls – their face lit up.  I mean, I had pageant girls come and help them pick out dresses, and we were like proud moms, taking pictures and going: ‘That’s the one! Say yes to the dress!” she said.’ “So anytime that I can help with the community and give back, I think all of us should try to do that. I think it’s really important, because if we help them, they’re going to want to help others, and they’re the ones that are growing and shaping our society, so I think that’s really important.”

And when she’s back focusing on her fashion line, Sepulveda said she is still in the process of perfecting her craft. She advises others who want to get into fashion modeling just to get out there and practice.

“I tell girls that want to start in the industry, or men, I say: ‘Just do photo shoots. You’ve got to get out there. You’ve got to perfect your craft.’ I’ve taken those pictures. I put them on a T-shirt. I put them on anything, really,” she said. “And then from there, I’m going to start designing things on my own, but I want to keep it specific too, in my mind.”

Sepulveda also uses her business background to help young people learn how to avoid being taken advantage of early in their careers. She said the key is to get good at modeling – as one should for whatever their field or passion is – and also to “always vet people.”

“Let’s say for me, I have a brand, Sammy Sep, and I get emails all day long: ‘Hey, can you sell my fit tee? Can you sell my teeth whitening?’ And I have an assistant who now helps me vet these people, and I’m like, do I want to water down my brand and take on any single line that’s being launched? No,” she said. “Be specific, and be true. I can’t sell something I’m not using.”

Sepulveda also said someone first starting out in modeling has to be assertive when asking to be paid for the first time, but should realize they will have to start out modestly in the beginning – and sometimes accept free jobs that involve collaborating with photographers.

“Don’t be afraid to, you know, it’s called ‘time for time’ or so to speak, where a photographer says, ‘I’ll take some pictures, I’ll edit them, I’ll give them to you,’” she said.

But over time, she said models need to start asking to be paid what they’re worth.

“Anyone that’s trying to get into the industry, just have an idea of what your time is worth, right? In the beginning, you could charge $200, $300, $400, $100, whatever it is. Just have something set, and you can forward from there,” she said.