Shelley Barrett ModelCo


established 2002; forty-three employees (including retail employees at David Jones); $15 million-plus turnover

It's hard work creating a brand cult that counts celebrities like Victoria Beckham, Keira Knightley, Mischa Barton and Cameron Diaz as devotees.

It's even harder to attract such people's attention for free. But that is what Shelley Barrett's beauty company ModelCo has managed to pull off in just seven years.

The company's 125 products are sold in 1000 department stores worldwide—and the financial crisis hasn't held up its growth in the slightest. The stores include tres chic boutique Colette in Paris, beauty mecca Space NK in London, and lingerie chain Victoria's Secret in the US. In Australia, where it all began, ModelCo has an exclusive concept-store agreement with David Jones.

In 2008 Barrett, aged thirty-six, had the ultimate endorsement when Victoria Beckham was snapped in LA checking her face with a ModelCo eyebrow compact that perfectly matched her pink outfit.

Barrett was naturally delighted when her marketing director showed her the picture, which adorned a newspaper's front page, not least because she and the former Spice Girl share a love of pink and handbags. 'I didn't have any idea she used our products until the picture came out,' she recalls. 'We were so flattered. The power of celebrity is huge.'

The only celebrity with whom Barrett has made a formal alliance is Elle Macpherson, who in 2006 became the face of her product Erase Those Fine Lines. The supermodel launched the product at a glamorous event in Sydney, where few fine lines etched the faces of the assembled beauty editors. Elle said she liked the treatment because it offered women a 'non-invasive choice' and that she 'finds the company and Shelley Barrett very interesting'.

Barrett began her business career at twenty- one by launching her own modelling agency.

A decade later, it had 1200 models and actors on its books. 'My mother did my accounts and she still has our first cheque for $120,' Barrett says proudly.

Working with models and hair and make-up artists at fashion shows and shoots, she watched sympathetically when the girls winced as they curled their lashes and moaned that they wished there was some other way to create luscious eye-lashes. By 2002, Barrett had found one: a heated lash curler that created the desired effect gently, like a hair curling wand. The trick was to find someone to manufacture it.

Fortuitously, her husband Damien was starting an import business at the time. He helped Barrett find a company in Korea that could make the wand and ship it back to Australia. They named it the ModelCo Lash Wand Heated Eyelash Curler and packaged it in pink simply because that was Barrett's favourite hue. 'It became the fastest- selling product in Myer,' she says. Shocked and thrilled by the demand, the couple continued producing the bestseller. ModelCo overtook the model business, and within two years making millions was Barrett's sole focus.

If she needed any reassurance that she'd succeeded, Japan was it.When the company launched there, sales reached $1 million in two months. 'When I started I had no global aspirations,' she admits. 'It was more of a pet project. We grew so quickly, it was sell, sell, sell, and all this money was coming through the door. But then it became about knowing how to spend it wisely. We didn't make huge mistakes, but we could have done things a little better, smarter and quicker if we'd had better systems in place.'

Barrett created a point of difference in a crowded market by creating a slew of innovative dual-purpose and 'quick fix' products—all in her signature hot pink

packaging. The first ^ When I started I had no self-administered spray global aspirations- It was tan (tan in a can) was followed by Liplights, a range of lip glosses

more of a pet project.

We grew so quickly, it was sell, sell, sell, and all this money was coming through the 1. that had a mirror and door. J

a light for a touch-up

in nightclub darkness or the back of a taxi.

And the pace hasn't slowed. Barrett has also launched Fibrelash, a revolutionary eyelash product. 'You literally paint on false lashes and it costs just $48,' she says. 'I think make-up is recession- proof. Women will never give up lipstick, lip

gloss, foundation and mascara. And when the news is depressing, women want something to make them feel better. It's all about feeling good. So we've expanded during the economic downturn and increased our spend on marketing and PR. And it's worked.'

The crisis has made Barrett more creative in her approach to marketing. 'We need to ensure there are value-driven offers—great promotions for gifts with purchase, for example—that draw in more customers.

'We have a promotion running at the moment where customers at David Jones who spend $48 on our products will get a full-size mascara, valued at $28, for free. That is always going to be appealing.'

Barrett says she has looked closely at her costs and cuts back wherever possible to build a buffer against any unforeseen downturn in demand. 'I have looked at freight, travel and administrative costs, but we haven't made any changes to our employee head count or our marketing. It's all about negotiating for smaller quantities and better deals across all of those areas. But given that we're expanding, I'm spending most of my time managing the growth.'

A nice problem to have.

As the mother of two girls aged two and three, Barrett knows the power of the quick fix. Her company has managed to both meet demand and respond to trends faster than other beauty brands thanks to smaller size and greater agility and a determined focus on innovation. 'The business grew organically from the Lash Wands, and a lot of money goes back into research and development,' she says.

'Competing against the rest of the world is part of the challenge that I relish. It pays to be ambitious and actively seize opportunities. I don't feel threatened by foreign competition, and I'm proud that ModelCo is taken seriously in the international area.'

Barrett won the American Express Award for Australia's fastest-growing small business in 2004, and was named Telstra's New South Wales Businesswoman of the Year. ModelCo's foun-dation was named 'Foundation of the Year' over products by Dior and MAC, 'which was a huge coup for us. I set myself huge goals and find the best team to achieve them.' That still includes her husband and her mum.

ModelCo recently opened a small office in New York; the company is projecting a $12— $15 million turnover and Barrett is planning to make further inroads into the US market with a presence on the Home Shopping Network, where sales can reach $500,000 in one hour. Her airbrush tan range is already available at

Victoria's Secret's in-store beauty bars—where it landed with minimal effort on her part: 'Victoria's Secret contacted us after hearing about our products from a buyer who saw them mentioned in magazines. We'd been tagged as the brand to watch and had won a Newcomer of the Year award. We're fortunate in that we've never had to knock on doors.'

Barrett travels every six weeks to London, Paris and New York, where she occasionally gets an opportunity to buy for herself instead of the company. 'I love bags and shoes,' she says. 'And I love little holidays away. We took the girls to Hayman Island for a five-day break, which is enough for me to rejuvenate. I also have massages in day spas at hotels. As the head of a beauty company I do have an image to portray, so I have to look groomed.'

Kerrie Davies

golden rules

Know your industry.

Find great staff and utilise their best skills.

Have a business plan incorporating retail plans, distribution and new products.

Start small and build.

Always find a way—because there always is a way.

Chasing Big Bickies

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Источник: Nick Gardner. How. I made-.my first million. 26 self-made millionaires reveal the secrets to their success. 2010

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