At 21 years of age she started a career as a model agent, but soon saw a gap in the market for innovative, quick-fix beauty products after seeing frustrations from models and makeup artists first hand.
She started ModelCo in May 2002, launching with the Turbo Lashwand heated eyelash curler, followed by the incredibly successful – and world first – Airbrush TAN in a can. ModelCo products quickly became the must-have beauty bag items for women the world over.
Lucy Stephens spoke to Shelley about becoming a successful businesswoman and what’s next for ModelCo.
How did it all begin?
There was a defining “aha” moment which inspired the idea for ‘Tan in a Can’. I was sitting at my desk as a model agent and a model walked in with orange streaked self-tan all over her legs. I looked at her, then looked at the can of Rexona deodorant sitting at my desk and I thought “Wow, Can you imagine if there was a tan that could be sprayed out of a can?” I remember my whole body feeling very hot and tingling with this notion that something huge was about to be created. When ModelCo TAN Airbrush in Can – the world’s first airbrush ‘tan in a can’ self-tanning product hit the market it truly changed the way that women self-tanned, delivering professional results with the convenience of an at-home application.
LASHWAND Heated Eye Lash Curler was created in the same way when I thought about how it would assist make-up artist’s lives if they could instantly and easily curl and coat the models lashes without the damage.
What is your favourite part of running a business?
I love building the ModelCo brand and creating fabulous products that women adore. I feel privileged and proud to be helping women look and feel their best. I also like creating a wonderful team environment that embodies ModelCo HQ. I always try to inspire young employees and feel rewarded when they prove to be successful in their chosen careers.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced with your business, and how did you overcome it?
Because the brand is doing so well there are endless opportunities available. It is important to manage growth carefully and execute each idea properly.
What's the most important thing you have learnt in building your own business?
I have learnt that it is crucial to follow your own instinct. It is difficult to disappoint people, but it is important to trust yourself and take control.
What ModelCo beauty product can you not live without?
ModelCo Tan Airbrush in a Can – I like to have a tan all year round for a natural, bronzed glow.
What are the benefits of using a tanning spray as opposed to a mousse or cream?
A self-tanning spray allows you to reach all areas of your body with ease and is a great tool for contouring and shaping your body. However in saying this, a wooden spoon comes in extremely handy when self-tanning your back with a mousse and tanning mitt.
How do you come up with new ideas for products? Are they based on your own needs?
I create products for women who are style-savvy yet time-poor, who want to look and feel their absolute best whilst enjoying a busy lifestyle. All of our products are dual purpose and quick fix. That’s what ModelCo is about – achievable, everyday glamour. LIP LIGHTS lip glosses and lipsticks come with inbuilt LED lights and a side mirror for ease of application (have you ever tried applying lip gloss in a dimly lit room?); FLUIDSPLASH 3-in-1 Foundation comes with a matching concealer in the lid.
Were you surprised about the massive success of ModelCo, or was that always part of your game plan?
I wasn’t surprised at the success of ModelCo as I knew I was onto something that would make women’s lives easier and more glamorous. I was surprised with how quickly the business grew and just how high the demand is for dual purpose, innovative beauty products.
What's next for ModelCo ?
ModelCo is about to launch into a whole new beauty category. This is something that has been 2 years in the works and we are very excited for the unveiling in August this year! Over the next 5 years I look forward to experiencing the international growth of ModelCo and continuing to produce must-have beauty products for women globally.
What advice would you give to other women looking at starting their own business?
Understand the business that you are going into. Surround yourself with people who have more knowledge than you and who can guide you through the process. Work out the funds you need to start up and then double them! My motto is to never give in, never give up and never take no for an answer. I think this is what enabled me to build my business and succeed beyond my wildest dreams.