Entrepreneurs who can solve problems with disruptive solutions change industries. However, the essence of what makes a person disruptive doesn’t start the day they launch a business. It is ingrained in them, and is then built on a foundation of knowledge, resources and abilities. At the age of 21, with the blissful naïvety of youth and A$30,000 in savings, I started my first business: WINK Models.
Having worked in the industry for several years as a model and producer, there were so many things I loved about it, yet I was frustrated by the way agencies worked with models. It was common practice for models to be paid late, not in full, or not at all, and jobs could be few and far between. I felt compelled to fix what I saw as a broken business model.
From day one, WINK’s company policy was to pay all models within seven days, regardless of whether we got paid by the client. I am proud to say that, to this day, we still pay within seven days. The company was completely bootstrapped, saw fast growth, and has just celebrated its tenth anniversary.
Disrupt or be disrupted
The lessons I learned during those first few years allowed me to watch the market and adapt to what the company needed to grow. I quickly realised how important technology was in allowing us to scale up and successfully manage our talent in a streamlined way.
We started by building the first industry app, which allowed us to integrate payroll, accounting and live web updates. The technology allowed us to facilitate a sustainable structure, it removed the key dependencies in the business, and we thrived. That’s when the idea came for my current business, theright.fit.
Entering a new market to be a disrupter is brave, but disrupting the market that your business is already in while still operating that business is daring.
Theright.fit is a two-sided marketplace for creative talent and influencers that makes it easy, efficient and cost-effective for brands to create impactful campaigns. The platform empowers a wide array of talent including models, influencers, actors, photographers, stylists, videographers and make-up artists to control their careers and build their brands online.
It can be hard to find work as a freelancer, and talent are traditionally charged a commission on every booking. Theright.fit gives talent the tools to build their brand profile online via the site and connects them to jobs they may not otherwise have found. For the clients, they can book and pay for their entire campaign in the one place, knowing that they’re working with professional, fully screened talent.
While many people have asked me why I would risk disrupting the success of my existing business, I believe no business is immune to disruption and, as an entrepreneur, it is my duty to ensure my companies are constantly evolving and building. I see a place for both, depending on the client’s needs and budget.
Partnering, delegating and collaborating
Being at the helm of not one, but two, businesses, both at different life stages, was a steep learning curve for me. I knew that to continue to achieve growth, I needed to start delegating. I have an amazing managing director at WINK who controls the day-to-day operations of the business. This has allowed me to focus my efforts on theright.fit to ensure that we are delivering the best possible platform and creating a company culture that impacts our teams, our clients and the industry.
With technology allowing us to operate in a global environment, we knew early on that we would need outside investment and working capital support. As those who have raised capital know, the journey is like a full-time job and, for a period, limits the time you can put into the everyday operations of the company.
My advice to anyone considering investment capital is to make sure you are crystal clear on what you are looking for in your investors outside of capital, and that you are aligned with them on what success looks like.
Having grown one business before, I knew how important it was to surround myself with the right people, and I really wanted to have the best in market as soon as possible. Six months into the business, we secured a A$750,000 seed-funding round, with experts in online marketplaces, Airtree Ventures, who have been a constant support throughout the journey.
Are you recognising the opportunity?
I firmly believe that the fastest way to go backwards is to stand still. From an early age, I have been focused on problem solving and challenging the status quo. The idea for both my businesses came from a desire to improve an existing situation and to meet a market need. This has caused a flow-on effect to others in the industry who are feeling the pressure to also do so.
Whether it’s through technology, ideas, systems or people, I challenge you to look at the industry you are in and ask yourself these two questions: ‘What can be done to improve efficiency?’ and ‘How can I be a part of it?’
If you’re serious about being a leader and making a difference, you will find the answer. For those serious about really impacting their industry and seeing disruption as more than a buzzword but an actuality, the next question can only be: How do I make it happen?