How I Lead This: Behind The Leadership Brand Of Sundays Furniture’s Barbora Samieian

Barbora Samieian had no small business experience when she opened her restaurant. Inspired by salad bars in Manhattan, where she had worked as an associate evaluation officer at the United Nations, Barbora co-founded the first Field & Social in 2016, in her hometown of Vancouver.

Running Field & Social represented a learning curve for Samieian, who suddenly had to come up with seasonal menus, cultivate team culture to improve staff retention, and figure out the ins-and-outs of marketing. Nevertheless, within three years, she had expanded the business to four locations.

After four years of managing day-to-day operations, however, she began looking for a new business venture. Excited by the design opportunities of her restaurants, Barbora and three co-founders dreamt up the idea of a high-end furniture brand with a narrow product offering.

Thus was born Sundays, a furniture line that began online in November 2019. Not a great time to start a business, but—through a combination of pop-ups, digital advertising and partnerships with influencers in Vancouver and Toronto—Sundays began to see a month-over-month increase in sales. Sundays now has showrooms in Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary, and Seattle. Barbora has said that her goal with Sundays is to “make it easy and enjoyable to create a space you love.”

She has done all of this while raising a family (of four children under the age of seven) with her husband, her partner in business as well as life. Among her accolades, Barbora was recognized in 2022 by Business in Vancouver as one of the magazine’s Forty under 40.

Barbora Samieian and her Sundays co-founders.

Samieian and her Sundays co-founders. Photo by Christine Pienaar Photography.

Here’s what Barbora Samieian had to share with The Helm:

Emoji you can’t live without: 😂 (I’m a millennial!)

TED Talk you’d really love to give: I’d give a talk on staying “warm” as a brand and building genuine connections. I really believe this is such an important part of building a business. For me, it’s so important to show that there’s a real person (or people) behind it all. I always try to maintain a human touch through all interactions with our customers and community.

Secret sign from childhood you were destined to be a leader: My parents moved to Canada in their early 40s with three young kids. I was twelve when we moved continents, and I admired how brave they were in carving a new path and opening up opportunities for me and my siblings. I was inspired to take advantage of all they had done for us, which led me to start volunteering in junior high as a peer counselor and to join student council as a way to give back. I felt compelled to do something meaningful with my time and take initiative, and that was my first introduction to leadership.

Stories are everything in business. What’s your go-to story that consistently moves people? While designing the spaces for Field & Social, a salad concept I co-founded and managed, I realized I loved the interior design aspect of it, and eventually this all came full circle when we launched Sundays, a furniture company. We named one of our first collections after the restaurant–the Field is one of our best-selling dining tables, and we have them in Field & Social. I’ve learned to lean into organic growth by building community as an overarching theme within business. You’re constantly learning and trying new things, and this can lead to new opportunities.

As a leader, what keeps you up at night? It depends on the night, but I’m currently laser-focused on delighting our customers. So I’m asking myself questions like, Are we doing everything in our power to deliver on our customer promise? And thinking about how can we create moments of delight through the customer journey—and what tools does our team need to do so?

What three words or phrases define your leadership style? Collaborative, decisive, calm.

My biggest insecurity about how people perceive me as a leader is: I tend to work very quickly, which makes me wonder if I am being too quick and oversimplifying things. I have to remind myself of the amount of time certain things take, as well as keep the nuance and detail top of mind.

Social media as a leader: love it or leave it? I love it. It’s such a great way to connect with your community. We field lots of customer questions, comments and feedback through our social channels that are so valuable to us. And I love discovering new brands and connecting with other entrepreneurs through social.

Your #1 must-follow account on social media: Sarah Blakely, founder of Spanx. I love that she keeps it real about building a successful business while balancing family, as well as sharing her failures and what she’s learned as much as her successes.

The ROI question: what is the biggest benefit you’ve seen from building your leadership brand? I have co-founded three different businesses in three industries (food, fitness, and furniture) and what ties that all together is the power of culture and community. Building a community within a team, but also collaborating with other brands has inspired and infused energy into each of the businesses while also growing brand awareness. It’s also helped me to build an important network of my own through connecting with other founders. Some of my closest friendships today are from my network in the founder space. They have seen my ups and downs—whether business or personal, as it all blends—and provide endless inspiration. It’s been one of the greatest gifts of becoming an entrepreneur.

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