Most owners of a business with a $3-million annual turnover would sit back and take it easy – particularly if they felt they’d already made their mark in their chosen industry. But we’re not talking ‘most’ people here.
In this interview from our series of chats with inspirational women, TV presenter Chris Bath sat down with Taryn Williams, a pioneering young woman with passion for the modelling industry and empathy for those working in it who she feels are regularly ‘treated unfairly’ and about whom there are a lot of ‘negative connotations’.
After featuring in front of the cameras internationally from the age of 15, Williams started her own Agency in her twenties as a more ethical way of doing business within a supportive community, and in an attempt to change the industry from within. That agency, WINK Models now represents 650 models of all shapes, sizes and ages – and has earned a healthy reputation in the marketplace (not to mention that annual turnover we mentioned earlier).
Listen while she talks exclusively to TheCarousel.com about what drives her and find out why WINK was recently placed as one of Australia’s 100 Coolest Companies (that could be something to do with the staff having “Access to nutritionists, naturopaths, personal trainers, health and wellness experts, because it’s so important”. They also get to hit the gym with her every morning at 5:30am!).
But there’s a twist in this interview. Sensing another shake-up is necessary in the industry, she’s embarked on yet another innovative idea. Taryn’s next venture TheRight.Fit, could make agencies just like WINK defunct. Crazy? Well, she doesn’t think so. In a move to empower models and clients to make more informed decisions for themselves, she says it’s happening in every other industry and she’d rather “be a part of that than sitting there waiting for someone else to do it and being scared of what’s ahead”.
She definitely comes across as someone who embraces what’s ahead – Taryn’s newest venture just launched and already has a healthy number of fans. Clearly this forward-thinking business woman won’t be sitting back any time soon.
To find out more about Taryn’s newest venture check out https://theright.fit/
Hit ‘play’ to see the interview with Chris, or continue reading below for the transcript.
CHRIS: Taryn, why did you start WINK Models?
TARYN: I had worked both the client side as a producer for about five years and talent side as a model since I was 15. I knew the industry really well and I had seen first-hand the inefficiencies and inequalities in the industry. And I was really personally moved by it… I couldn’t understand why models were treated so unfairly. Most importantly, why it took them months to get paid just because it really is unheard of in any other industry. With the blissful naivety of youth I thought I am going to single-handedly change the industry for the better. That was how Wink Models was born and here we are nearly nine years later. I think we have made a solid dent and we’ve built a really beautiful, supportive community and really tried to work hard to change the industry. And we still pay all of our models in seven days. On the back of this, our clients really do win. They get talent that are incredibly committed, incredibly engaging, who want to show up and do a fantastic job because they come from a beautiful and supportive space. And they know they are going to get paid so they have that reinsurance and trust – so they do a fantastic job. We’ve built a really great relationship with all of our clients and reputation and word of mouth has spread and meant we’ve won a lot of clients on the back of that.
CHRIS: So has there been an exodus of models from other agencies to you because they know they are going to get paid, they know they can make a living out of it, they know they are going to be treated well?
TARYN: Definitely. We’ve seen some great models come across to us and it’s really important to us as well that it’s not about taking over the industry or trying to be the biggest and only agency. It’s about building a change in the industry as a whole and trying to encourage other agencies to operate how we do and to show them that you can have a financially viable business model by still taking care of your talent and still paying them in a timely fashion. Clients will still respond really well to that.
CHRIS: Do you get cranky about misconceptions about models? Well there’s the conception that models just don’t eat for starters?
TARYN: Absolutely, it was another reason why I started Wink. There were a lot of negative connotations around our industry, a lot of negative body image talk. One of the reasons I started Wink I think was we’ve seen a big change in advertising in wanting more authentic and real representations of consumers in advertising and beauty has so many different forms so at Wink our youngest model is 13 and our oldest is 79-years-old.
TARYN: Yes – yep!
CHRIS: A man or a woman?
TARYN: A woman, yes, Robin and she is absolutely divine. So we’ve got a real full spread there.
CHRIS: What are some of the challenges you would say you have faced – personally?
TARYN: Oh gosh – there’ve been some big challenges along the way I think as there is with any small business owner. Probably for me, personally, learning how to delegate has been a huge challenge. I think if I could start my business again it is something I would of definitely have tried to learn to do earlier and hire staff earlier. I think at the start you think ‘I have to do it all myself,’ you known – my payroll, answering the phones, every single booking, recruiting every single model… And I think you realise that you are standing in the way of your own success… I knew I was stopping the business from growing and we were at a point where I was having to turn away business because I just couldn’t service any more models or any more clients. So on the back of that we decided to build an online booking platform as well which was my first foray into tech. I knew we needed systems and processes to scale so we built an online booking platform that allows our talent to live update all of their profiles, to receive all their bookings notification and it ties into ‘ZERO’ our payroll program so that was a huge turning point for us in being able to service our clients more efficiently. Also, scale and to grow.
CHRIS: What’s your advice to women out there and particularly your women like you to build a business…I don’t want to sound ageist or patronising but you are incredibly young to part from that and to have a business that’s turning over three million bucks a year! So a lot of young woman would be looking at you going ‘Wow, I want to do that’. What’s your advice to them?
TARYN: Yes, I mean it’s a lot of hard work number one, I am not going to lie to you.
CHRIS: When you say hard work – how many hours a day?
TARYN: Oh gosh – I am in the office probably by 7:30 every day and I leave at about 9:30.
CHRIS: Wow – why do you not look terrible? When do you exercise? When do you do all of that?
TARYN: [Laughs]… I get up at 5:30 and exercise. Yes, it’s a long day and it’s a long haul. And definitely there are periods busier than others and we have a lot of functions and events to attend. We work with a lot of charities so we’ve got gala balls and things like that to go to every week.
CHRIS: [Laughs]… Is that where you have a social life? Cause if you are finishing work at like 9 o’clock…?
TARYN: Yes…. That’s a total lie, there’s no social life. You give that up for a few years as you slug it out and build a business but I think it’s all worth it in the end. My advice would be just get started, so many people come to me in exactly that situation saying ‘I’ve seen what you’ve done and I’ve got this idea. I was thinking after my next holiday I might get started or after my son is in school I am going to get started’ and I’ll say ‘just get started.’ There is no perfect time.
CHRIS: So, how do you nurture the models that are in your agency? What do you do?
TARYN: We’ve got a really fantastic team of bookers who look after our talent. We have regular get-togethers, wellness days – where we bring in yoga experts, life coaches, health and wellness teams. And a big thing about our agency is; we are really focused on health and fitness so all our office trains together every morning…
CHRIS: At 5:30 with you?
TARYN: [Laughs]… Up at the crack of dawn -yes!
CHRIS: [Laughs]… Wow what a boss you are!
TARYN: Exactly, whip them into shape. And that flows on throughout our agency. They’ve got access to nutritionists, naturopaths, personal trainers, health and wellness experts – ‘cause it’s so important. And then we have referral advice if they do need broader support than what we can offer internally because I think it’s so important at that age that they have that support network.
CHRIS: Have you ever had to sack anybody?
TARYN: Yes, I have.
CHRIS: …and how tough is that?
TARYN: It’s really hard. It’s really hard especially if it’s coming from a…you work with them so closely and you do develop such a strong relationship over a number of years. It’s really painful for both parties.
So as hard as it is… it’s like ripping off a Band-Aid. I’m trying to get better at it but it takes its emotional toll.
CHRIS: Yes, I imagine it never gets easier.
TARYN: No. I don’t think you want it to get easier either do you. I don’t want to turn into that sort of person…YOU’RE FIRED!
CHRIS: But what’s next for you?
TARYN: It’s a really exciting time…I am about to launch a new online platform, which is called theright.fit. It’s a platform that connects talent and client directly so makeup artists, stylists, models, actors, MCs, anyone in this sort of creative space. We are trying to connect them with clients directly because agencies can be a pain point in the process.
So, especially with technology, turn-around times on briefs and globalisation… we do need to service things incredibly quickly. Theright.fit aims to do that and put these two parties in touch. Putting the power back in the hand of the client and the models or the talent directly so that they can build their own brands, careers and earn some extra cash and get a head.
CHRIS: So you are not doing yourself out of a gig by doing that?
TARYN: Look, potentially… you know I think that’s disruptive and exciting. I really like the idea of allowing talent to build their own brand, their own profiles especially social media superstars, bloggers and influencers. They want to be able to curate their lives, their brands and connect with clients in a safe place. So it’s all curated, it’s a safe payment platform and it allows them to get that work.
CHRIS: so it cuts out that middleman – but you are the middleman?
TARYN: That’s exactly right. That’s exactly right, so yes it’s going to be controversial and it will be interesting to see how other agencies respond but I think it’s so needed. It’s happened in every other industry and I’d rather be a part of that than sitting there waiting for someone else to do it and being scared of what’s ahead.
CHRIS: That’s possibly one of the most selfless business acts I’ve ever heard.
TARYN: It’s definitely, a really exciting time and very interesting. We will definitely see how it unfolds but I am super excited about it. Tech you know is such an exciting space to be in and making something that is revolutionary and is going to change the way people interact is a really cool thing.
CHRIS: Well best of luck with the revolution!
TARYN: Thank you so much!
To see more in this series of Chris Bath’s interviews with inspirational women: