“The status quo is never good enough”: How this former model grew her agency into a $3 million company

“The status quo is never good enough”: How this former model grew her agency into a $3 million company


Taryn Williams started WINK Models in 2007 after experiencing the modelling industry first-hand. In classic entrepreneurial style, Williams saw several ways she could improve how the industry was operating – including how quickly models are paid.

Today, WINK Models has offices in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane and turned over around $3 million last year. We caught up with Williams to ask the secret behind her success.

I was studying international relations and marketing at uni when I got scouted. I got a bit of a taste for the modelling industry and the things I liked and didn’t like.

I had been modelling internationally and was offered a job in Korea. So I modelled there and made it my full-time gig.

When I returned to Australia I was always being asked to connect people and was constantly being asked if I knew any other models. So I started working in production and show-calling.

With the naivety of youth, I thought I’d start my own agency.

At the time the agencies in Australia weren’t very good and there were things I didn’t like about the industry.

Sometimes the models wouldn’t be paid until the client paid, which could be up to 60 days and isn’t viable for a human being to live off. So there were things like that I thought could be done better.

We started paying our models within seven days. It’s something we still do to this day – bankrolling their wages irrespective of the payment terms of our clients.

Big businesses are slow moving beasts but, at the same time, it is important models are treated really well.

I started the business with some personal savings but we were very lucky our first client was Nokia. It was back in the good old days when Nokia was the be-all-and-end-all of technology and everyone had a Nokia phone.

That was a huge turning point for us and we foresaw this was going to be a sustainable business.

I simply couldn’t be doing anything else. I’ve always wanted to be learning and challenging myself.

The status quo is never good enough.

We have a business plan, but it’s something I don’t like to rigidly adhere to because I think you can then miss outside opportunities.

We opened our Melbourne office a few months ago. We’re also opening in Brisbane, so we’ll be giving that a lot of focus in 2016.

We see so much content with the campaigns we work on that it drives you to create the best marketing campaigns yourself. It’s hard not to be inspired.

We have amazingly beautiful girls and guys – we could just do boring things like post campaign photos out to clients or put them up on a blog.

You have to do those things as well, but it’s really important when you’re engaging with creatives to think outside of the box.

Obviously no-one in a small business has the time or money to sit down and brainstorm many ideas but you need to go that extra mile.

The other big thing for us is social media. It’s had such a huge impact on our business and it’s a fantastic way for us to engage with our clients and our talent in a natural way.

Gone are the days of using a 19-year-old glamorous girl to sell a $100,000 car. People want a realistic person and social media is part of that.

One of the hardest things in business is managing a team of people. If I could wave a magic wand, I’d get the formula for the right words to use with each individual person to help them be the best they can be and grow in their role.  

You need to make sure you’re not just running a million miles an hour but you have the team there and they feel supported and have the resources to deliver.

It feels like every single day we’re hiring, and it’s really time-consuming making sure the new hires are trained and have all the things they need to come in and win at their job from day one.

Systems and processes are time-consuming but so, so important.

For most business owners, losing control of the business and allowing other people to do it is really frightening. But I go down to Melbourne once or twice a month and it is all going smoothly and makes me feel like maybe I’m dispensable.

I had some really amazing mentors when I started out and I still do.

Probably my favourite piece of advice I’ve ever been given is don’t spend time rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

Personally, I spend a lot of time asking how can I fix a scenario. But you just don’t have that luxury in a small business.

If something is not working you have to work quickly, whether it’s assigning someone else to that role or signing a new supplier. Back yourself.

If I could do it all again I’d definitely hire people faster. The first 12 months I tried to do everything myself.

I was doing my own bookkeeping and all of our social media, bookings and phones. I thought I couldn’t afford to invest in other people and I thought I knew my business so well that how could anyone do it better.

It’s not about knowing your business. It’s about finding incredibly skilled people who are good at what they do.

Find a great accountant, bookkeeper, lawyer – they are worth their weight in gold. They free you up to be good at what you do, which is servicing your clients.

When your employees are really good at what they do, that’s something that’s inspiring to be around. That’s probably the biggest value my employees bring.



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