28 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY FEBRUARY 22-28, 2024 www.montereycountyweekly.com FACE TO FACE A lot of people—a lot of businesses, for that matter—have Carolyn Sames to thank for their employment. Just over three decades ago, Sames launched Universal Staffing in a downtown Carmel office. Since then, Sames and her team have filled over 80,000 jobs around the Central Coast, ranging from local government positions to professional careers, hospitality and temporary help for events—even spots with Clint Eastwood’s Malpaso Productions. “It sounds like a lot,” Sames says with a laugh. “But that’s 31 years.” Since opening Universal Staffing in 1993, when she was in her 40s, Sames has added a second location, this time in Las Vegas. She once called the Nevada playground city home before moving to Carmel. The Texas native—a graduate of Texas Tech—has found success in television and pharmaceutical sales, but she began professional life with Southwest Airlines, not long after the low-cost carrier began operations (“there were three planes,” she says). Sames says she still has part of her early 1970s airline costume, which involved orange hot pants and go-go boots. She points out with a grin evident even over the phone that those point-in-time shorts still fit. “I don’t have them anymore,” she says of the vinyl boots, again with a chuckle. “But they were sexy, I’m telling you.” Over the years, Sames has traveled the world, though not during her time at Southwest. For six years she lived in Austria—a relationship was involved in the decision—meanwhile traveling back and forth to run the Carmel office. It’s not like she slows down. Sames has also been a comedy writer, a bowling show host, even a Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders alternate. “I got to see a lot,” she observes. “I’m thankful for that.” Weekly: Two locations? You’ve clearly done well. Sames: Yes, I was doing very well. It was a great, lucrative business for me. Since the pandemic it’s been tough. We stayed alive. That’s why I’m saying “was” [laughs]. I’m still alive and well. It’s not an easy industry. Why get into staffing? I had moved to Monterey County from Vegas. Nothing I had done would work here. So I went to an employment agency [Kelly Girl]. They liked me so much they hired me. All my clients kept telling me to start my own agency. I was scared to death. I started with a card table and two folding chairs. My phone started ringing like crazy. One girl was applying for jobs. She felt sorry for me—the phone kept ringing. She picked it up and answered. She did it so well that I hired her. The business has survived two Carmel floods, 9/11, an economic downturn, Covid—I could go on. The good thing is that if the economy is good, clients are hiring. If the economy is bad, applicants are always looking for work. You’re always busy. I love it—the satisfaction of finding someone their perfect job or finding a client the perfect person, getting to know them and know their business. Dealing with different personalities, you either have a knack for it or you don’t. I always did. You want to get to know them. I like to bond with them. It can be crazy. We still get people who ask for shorthand, who take dictation. It’s never boring. It’s so never boring I started writing a sitcom about my business. I was sitting next to Larry David at a boxing match and I told him about it and he said “That’s a terrific idea. Hold onto it.” I’m still working on it. I will finish it. What’s the hardest part? I’m assuming some positions are easier to fill than others. The most challenging is government jobs. You have to deal with the government [laughs]. Hospitality can be a challenge, because there’s a lot of turnover. Why open a second office—and in Las Vegas? I had been successful for a number of years. In 2000 I bought a house in Vegas as an investment. I thought “I could open an office in Vegas.” I started once again from scratch, no clients. I picked up a couple of good hotels— Harrah’s was one. But I never went out for the big names. Mom and pops are the core. Treat them like family—customer service. So how did you first end up in Carmel? I went there mistakenly [laughs]—I said “mistakenly.” I visited Carmel on vacation and it happened to be one of the non-foggy days. I loved it. There’s nothing like the beach on a perfect day. I kept coming back. Staff Report Carolyn Sames turned to a staffing firm to find a job and ended up owning a local staffing powerhouse. By Dave Faries “We do a bit of everything,” says Carolyn Sames, seated, about Universal Staffing. “By not specializing, anybody is a potential client.” COURTESY UNIVERSAL STAFFING IVY Beautiful Ivy is a friendly, confident tuxedo with striking green eyes. This 11-year-old longhaired sweetheart is a snuggler who doesn’t mind being picked up. She’s not shy about showing her affection either; her foster dad says she’s a real “people cat” who purrs softly and gives him lots of leg rubs and head butts of love. Check out this friendly girl at www.gocatrescue.org, and while there fill out an adoption application to make this beauty yours. If you would like to sponsor our next ad, please call us at 831-200-9700 or email goldenoldiescats@gmail.com. 831.200.9700 www.gocatrescue.org Scarlett Want to meet Scarlett? Please fill out our online adoption questionnaire. Things to love: approx. 6 years old 65 pounds - female - Boxer Pit Bull mix Scarlett is full of happy energy and is bursting with love for all humans, including kids, especially if they snuggle and pet her. She is fond of some dogs, of others, not as much. Once she has recovered from her knee surgery, she’d love to live a very active life. Ad Sponsored by C & C Repair Inc. German Car Specialist www.CCRepairMonterey.com In Memory of Hawk If you’d like sponsor our next ad, give us a call. 831-718-9122 | www.PeaceOfMindDogRescue.org P.O. Box 51554, Pacific Grove, CA 93950