Shelley Barrett is at the forefront of the beauty industry as the founder of the internationally acclaimed and innovative brand ModelCo. In both envy and awe of you, we hear her story…
Ever the entrepreneur, before launching ModelCo you ran your own modeling agency. Were there lessons you learnt here that paralleled across into your new venture?
I have always had a strong desire to create my own business and loved that drive to see a project through from start to finish, no matter how big or small. The idea for ModelCo evolved from owning my own modelling agency where I experienced first hand the limitations of innovative beauty products on the market and the lack of accessibility professional makeup artists had to premium products.
Are there any lessons that you have been exposed to over the years that only experience has taught? Anything you wish you knew starting out?
Expanding internationally sounds glamorous but be careful not to expand too quickly. It is far more strategic to conquer one market at a time. Also, workout the funds needed to start up your business and double them!
Widely acclaimed for your work ethic in building the company, did you manage the whole business (from generating new business, managing accounts and executing campaigns) or did you have a small team from the start?
I have always been highly involved in all areas of the business. I have an open-door policy and genuinely love the day to day aspects of getting the job done. I always lead by example and find that my genuine passion and enthusiasm for ModelCo rubs off onto my employees and creates a positive and energetic team.
How big is your team today?
As we are a global brand, we have lots of different teams both in Australia and overseas. We have 25 people in our Sydney office and another 60 sale reps out in the field. We also have another 20+ people overseas who contribute to ModelCo’s worldwide success.
For young job applicants, what attributes do you look for in your team members?
A passion for beauty is a must! I also like my team members to have their fingers on the pulse of what’s hot. A desire to learn and a willingness to work hard in all areas of the business is a must.
While today your success is a tribute to this- can you tell us about your early days and how you managed to get your name out there as a reputable brand? What challenges did you face?
I believed there was a gap in the market for quick fix, smart beauty solutions for women. I knew there was high demand because I was close to models and beauty editors so this gave me the confidence to pursue my ideas. However my products sold themselves and the hot pink packaging and genuine appeal of Tan Airbrush in a Can created mass awareness very quickly. Regarding challenges, it was tricky at first to negotiate the manufacturing of the product as this was an area of business I was unfamiliar with to start. I relied heavily on advice and my gut instinct.
You’ve stated before that, “the key to our cult following lies in the strength of our products and our relationships with these influential celebrities”. Can you tell us about the importance of strong collaborations in business development, and how you negotiate these?
ModelCo ambassadors must all genuinely love the brand and our products which I think is integral to creating an organic relationship. While networking has been crucial for ModelCo, when it comes to ambassadors we partner with leading women of influence who truly encompass the values of the brand. My background in managing a modelling agency opened many doors to high profile collaborations but ultimately it is the products and the brand that wins the talent over.
ModelCo is a brand that only continues to innovate year on year. With many new brands and products trying to enter the beauty market each day, what do you attribute your ability to create and market products that are so successfully received to?
I am constantly thinking about our consumer and trying to understand what she wants. I am across her social media channels so that I can best determine which products she wishes she had in her beauty cupboard that I can then deliver! The crux of my business is innovation, so I am always looking for solutions to everyday beauty problems that my staff, models, friends and family all face. For example, I was driven to enter the skincare beauty category when the results from a recent survey we conducted showed more than 89% of the 8000 respondents wanted to see a natural skincare line added to the ModelCo range. ModelCo is all about smart beauty solutions, not just a fad or gimmick but which become an essential part of a woman’s beauty regime.
While we’re sure there are many, what have been the most notable highlights in running ModelCo- all time and day-to-day?
One highlight was when the idea for Tan Airbrush in a Can hit me. I just knew there had to be a smarter and more user friendly way for women to self-tan and had often thought about the idea of marrying self-tan with a spray bottle. I knew that if I could create way to a product that put an end to stained hands and uneven coverage that it would be a success! When TAN Airbrush in Can – the world’s first aerosol ‘tan in a can’ self-tanning product hit the market it truly changed the way that woman self – tanned, delivering professional results with the convenience of an at-home application.
Another definite highlight would have to be signing, hosting and shooting Rosie Huntington–Whiteley for ModelCo in 2013 and then again in 2014. I am a believer in organic partnerships, so it was important and gratifying to know how much Rosie loved and identified with our products.
Finally, you appear in headlines, business reviews and halls of fame, but what does success mean to you?
I am sure that I speak for all women when I say that success is about achieving that perfect balance between a phenomenal working career, family commitments and personal life. I strive to work on this every day and feel proud when all aspects of my life are work together in harmony.
Follow Shelley on Instagram: @shelley_barrett and Twitter: @Shelley_ModelCo