We had the good fortune of connecting with Andrea Blake and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Andrea, how do you think about risk?
Growing up in Mesa, Arizona I was consumed by the thought of graduating, getting married and starting a family all by the age of 24. I am now 27 years old and I couldn’t be happier with how my life has taken a turn for the best.

Upon meeting Anthony Swann (Co-Owner / Director of Thrill Wave Creative Agency) at the age of 22, my world changed immensely. I was able to expand my mind and outlook on how limitless life can be, simply by following the one piece of advice he had given me. This advice was, “If it scares you, do it!”.
Since meeting him I have experienced life in a way that I never though existed, all by taking risks.

I started my business, Southwest Sampler, at the age of 22 and had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I had no additional schooling outside of High School and I was told repeatedly that if I wanted to make it in this life I had to go to College. This option, however, was not something I was willing to take on.

In turn, I took risks. I reached out to numerous individuals within the Arizona community and asked for guidance on where to start, how they got where they are now, took countless notes and watched hours of informative videos. I would wake up at 4am to start my day and ended my day at 10pm, only to do it all over again the following morning all while maintaining a full-time job. I honestly felt hopeless at moments, I wanted to give up so many times while asking myself, “Is this worth it?”.
It scared me to know that I could be putting in countless hours of work only to see no return. That feeling of being scared had actually pushed me to become who I am today all by taking risks.

Today I run a creative agency by the name of Southwest Sampler. I help to showcase resorts, restaurants, outdoor recreation and other activities all throughout the southwest region.
By taking risks I have taught myself how to film and edit video on Final Cut Pro, use both Photoshop and Lightroom, code on my own website, send out weekly Newsletters, create content for clients, direct photoshoots, pitch Campaign Partnerships, send out invoices and most importantly do my part in help bringing community to Arizona.

There’s no rule book to life, which allows you the opportunity to create a life you dream of.

Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Southwest Sampler is a Creative Agency focusing on all things in the southwest; resorts, restaurants, outdoor recreation and more. Though, it did not start this way!

Southwest Sampler had originally started as a blog called Andreablake.online
As mentioned, I had no idea what I was trying to achieve or rather where to even start. So, I started with what I saw others doing. The blog lasted for about two years while telling stories of my travels as if it were a diary. As I was doing this I never felt a spark of happiness and quite honestly, I didn’t even care about the post. So I asked myself, “What would I read?”. As soon as I came to this realization I rebranded myself and created a website dedicated to southwest travel: https://www.thesouthwestsampler.com

In this website I include informative posts such as Weekend Getaway Guides, Day Trips, Hotel and Resort stays, Hiking Destinations, Experiences and more throughout the southwest. I have found that my audience loves to be informed rather than told, as do I!

Southwest Sampler has been a 5+ year journey and is continuously changing nearly ever day. I am constantly leaning new skills to help increase my work and still meeting with other local bloggers and business owners to learn what they are willing to share with me.

What I have learned through this 5+ year process is that if I were to have given up at the beginning when I was in tears and felt like an emotional roller coater, I would not be where I am today – now getting paid to do exactly what I had set out to do from the beginning.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Visiting Arizona for the first time and you have a week to spare? Let’s get into it!

Day 1: Phoenix to Jerome. Stop in Jerome for one of Arizona’s top haunted experiences. Learn the history of Jerome, walk the town, grab lunch and maybe a glass of wine at the many wineries surrounding the scenic walk. Did you know that the lead singer of Tool has a winery here? Book a ghost tour or visit the haunted Asylum which is now a hotel/restaurant

Afterwards, head to Sedona for an afternoon full of hiking, red rock sunset views and a lovely dinner at one of the many restaurants in town. Stay at a resort or camp out near Oak Creek.

Day 2: Sedona to Williams. Located nearly an hour from one of the seven wonders of the world, Williams is known as the ‘Gateway to the Grand Canyon’ while featuring must-do activities such as Bearizona, Route 66 and more. Stay at the haunted Red Garter Inn and experience the locally owned restaurants, brewery and winery just steps away from this historic hotel.

Day 3: Williams to Page. Page, Arizona is home to the ever popular hike to Horseshoe Bend, the mesmerizing slots of Antelope Canyon and glistening waters of Lake Powell. Camp out at Lone Rock Beach or grab a hotel for the night at one of the many locations overlooking Lake Powell.
Page is a Southwest Sampler favorite in Arizona!

Day 4: Page to Flagstaff. Flagstaff is an outdoor lovers dream! Those who visit get to explore local shops and artists’ studios, check out its well known beer scene, and hike their way to the tallest peak in Arizona. Book an Airbnb in the heart of downtown Flagstaff! A Southwest Sampler favorite is the Craft Beer Getaway Above Historic Brewing Company, located right above the Historic Brewing Company. Cheers!

Day 5: Make your way back to Phoenix and stay at one of the many beautiful resorts scattered throughout Scottsdale, AZ. Two Southwest Sampler favorites are Mountain Shadows Resort (for more of a modern, classic vibe) and Hotel Valley Ho (for a retro, Hawaiian pool party vibe). Use code SWS on either website when booking for 20% off your stay + perks *never expires*

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I have many people to thank for helping me to get where I am today. One being Cynthia Sassi of Fabulous Arizona. She had taken me under her wing and introduced me to countless opportunities.

If there is one piece of advice I can give anyone looking to start their own business, this is to reach out to an individual that you look up to and ask if they would be willing to help you on your journey. Take it seriously and show to them what this passion means to you.

Website: https://www.thesouthwestsampler.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/southwestsampler/

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCrKwblfIm5l7gtzRdg9M8OQ

Other: Sign Up for the Southwest Sampler Newsletter featuring discounts, giveaways and more: https://www.thesouthwestsampler.com/newsletter Work With Me: https://www.thesouthwestsampler.com/contact Southwest Sampler TikTok: https://www.tiktok.com/@southwestsampler?lang=en

Image Credits
Leila Lomu Anthony Swann Kat Prtenjak Jaime Denise

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutArizona is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.