Meet Samantha Thomas a social entrepreneur, love researcher, and speaker on the love ethic. In 2015, she founded the #JustChooseLove movement and the Love Summit, a business and leadership conference that brings awareness to the love ethic as a solution to global challenges. Previously, she worked as executive director of Dream Change, a 501c3 nonprofit founded by New York Times bestselling author and economist, John Perkins, to change the way modern societies dream (envision) the world.
Samantha speaks to a range of audiences both virtually and in-person, including businesses, NGOs, universities, government institutions, and nonprofit and cause-based organizations. Her work has been featured in media and publications such as FOX19, Real Leaders, The Huffington Post, Spirituality & Health, The Oregonian, and Yes! Magazine.
Samantha was chosen as a Global Shaper of the World Economic Forum (WEF), a network of 4,500 young people worldwide selected for their exceptional potential, achievement, and drive to make a contribution to their communities. She received a MSc in Global Prosperity at University College London, where she conducted research on the love ethic as a force for social justice. She also has a BSc in Sustainable Living with a minor in Business Management from Maharishi International University.
What does your work entail?
My work at #JustChooseLove entails researching, writing, and speaking about how love—as an ethic—can be used to overcome personal and global challenges. In my research, writing, and speaking, I draw on the work of African American cultural critic and feminist theorist Bell Hooks, who attests that in order to eliminate systems of oppression, patriarchy, and inequality, we must go against the prevailing value of our culture—domination—and embrace and ethic of love. This starts with shifting our perception of love from merely a feeling/emotion to a practice/action, and in our personal and professional lives, employing the 10 principles of the love ethic: affection, care, commitment, responsibility, respect, knowledge, accountability, integrity, the will to cooperate, and trust.
What is Love Summit about? Who’s it for?
The Love Summit (LS) is a business and leadership conference designed to bring awareness to the love ethic as a solution to global challenges. LSI was held in 2015 in Portland, OR at W+K headquarters—one of the largest independently owned advertising agencies in the world best known for creating Nike’s tagline “Just Do It”. LSII was held in 2017 in Cincinnati, OH at LPK headquarters—the world’s largest employee-owned brand design agency. Attendees have ranged from corporate and government leaders to entrepreneurs, investors, and academics. Together the events have attracted 450+ people from 35 industries across the U.S., Latin America, Europe, and the Middle East.
I originally founded the LS under NYT bestselling author John Perkins’ nonprofit organization, Dream Change. When I resigned from my position as executive director in 2018, the LS was passed onto me to continue envisioning and growing the event. It was designed in a format similar to a TED-style conference (talks and workshops), but my vision for future events is much more centered around music and the cultural arts. I put the planning of LSIII on hold as I took a break from business to expand my knowledge and research on love through my graduate studies at University College London. I completed my research and degree this year and am currently in the initial planning and conceptualization phases for LSIII.
How can companies bring more love into business?
Bringing love into business begins with the leaders of the business recognizing the importance of love in the workplace. First, they should recognize that a love-based business begins with each individual in the walls of that business and their capacity to choose love for themselves and others. Second, business leaders need to invest time, energy, and resources in the growth and self-development of herself as a leader, as well as in her employees. Third, she must educate herself about the impact of love in business (e.g. higher employee engagement, performance, productivity, etc.), commit to operating from the principles of the love ethic herself, and then introduce and implement love-centered initiatives and programs for her employees. Initiatives can range from administering employee surveys that examine where employees are struggling in their work environment and making adjustments based on these findings, to creating employee wellbeing programs, and implementing procedures that measure how employees feel at work.
When it comes to addressing how loving a company is as a whole, a good place to start is with becoming a Certified B Corp since B Corps are committed to meeting high standards of performance, transparency, and accountability. A business can become a Certified B Corp by passing the B Impact Assessment, which measures a company’s impact on its workers, community, and environment. A business may also consider becoming a Benefit Corporation (different from a B Corp). This is a legal structure that provides protection to companies that prioritize social and environmental values over shareholder returns, and balances financial and non-financial interest when directors and officers are making business decisions.
What are the most enjoyable parts of your work?
The most enjoyable part of my work is inspiring people towards more loving ways of being. Reminding people of the love that resides within each and every one of us—despite outer appearances that may make it seem otherwise—is an incredibly rewarding experience. I get to witness how love transforms people; how when people are reminded of their and others’ ability to choose love, the challenges we face as individuals and as a society feel that much more easily surmountable. I also find joy in reminding people that in order to create a more loving world, we must first look at ourselves. Looking at ourselves allows us to see and address our inner pain so that it’s not acted out in the world. This is a humbling experience as it reminds us of our own shortcomings, which helps us to forgive others for theirs. Forgiveness of ourselves and others frees us to move forward into more loving ways of being and doing. I find great joy in opening people up to love’s power to transform us; that our and society’s wellbeing is simply the sum of the choices we make, and that, at any moment, we have the opportunity to choose love.
How much time off do you get or take?
I don’t really take any official time off. My work is my passion and very much a part of every aspect of my life and who I am. I do, however, try to be diligent about taking time for myself and for socializing. And I’m sure that when I have a family I’ll need to be even more structured and diligent in this area. I suppose the downside to being such a deeply passionate person is that it can translate into me pouring so much of myself into my work that I can tend towards workaholism. That being said, I do think we need to reframe our idea of work/life balance, and shift towards creating a world where people have the freedom to choose work that feels like an extension of their values and who they are. One-third of our lives are spent at work, so it really is ideal that we find joy and satisfaction in what we do and how we spend so many hours of the day.
What is a common misconception people have about what you do?
That I research romantic love, or that when I talk about bringing love into business and society that I’m talking about something soft, flowery, or emotional. Let’s remember that love is, more than anything, an action—an action we take for the growth of ourselves and others. Growth requires change, and change is incredibly difficult for humans. Love is not merely an emotion, a feeling, or something soft and flowery. It takes a great deal of courage and strength to choose love.
Something personal about you people may be surprised to know?
I started my career out in the eco-fashion industry in New York City as an event facilitator and model. About a year in, I started to become disenchanted with the world of fashion, and so I decided to take a hiatus from it. In the interim, I took a business leadership workshop by NYT bestselling author, John Perkins, which was where I learned about his nonprofit organization, Dream Change. I then went on to work for the organization for six years as its executive director. That’s where I first created the Love Summit.
What is the one message you would like to convey to business owners?
Your business is a reflection of you and your leadership. If you lead from love, you will create life-giving products and services. If you lead from love, your employees will feel valued, purposeful, and connected to what they do. They will enjoy coming to work, be as loyal to your business as they would their own, and work relentlessly to produce outstanding results. If you lead from love, your customers will get behind you, support you, and stick with you for the long-haul. Your impact on your employees, customers, and the world at large matters and should always be considered. As a leader, your job is to serve and empower others so that they themselves can lead. Your role should never be taken lightly, it is an enormous responsibility—the equivalent to the responsibility of a parent.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
There are no shortcuts to success. Be willing to work hard and be patient. Stay humble and curious. Ask for advice and guidance from those who stood in your shoes before you. Be open to feedback, but find the balance between feedback and your own inner-knowing and standing strong in your convictions. Take care of yourself and those around you. Remember that entrepreneurship is about leadership and leadership is about service. Always ask yourself: “how can I be of the greatest service to others?” Don’t seek to create followers. Seek to create leaders. Be kind. Choose love, and don’t be afraid of fear. Your fears offer profound insight into who you are and what your purpose in life is.
Any advice for entrepreneurs on moving beyond a failure?
Entrepreneurship is an iterative process. Some days you’ll take one step forward and others you’ll need to take two steps back. Have no shame in taking steps backwards. See mistakes as great learning experiences and then continue to persevere. Don’t be afraid to fail and fail again; failure is where your growth lies. Pay attention to your fears. Fear is a compass.