As a 10-year veteran of the industry, I am thankful for the opportunities that modeling has afforded me. It helped me pay my way through college and post-graduate degrees. I met and worked with an entire network of people I probably otherwise would have never interacted with, some of whom are my best friends and business partners today. I also learned crucial business skills by watching how agencies marketed and branded me to international companies, major publications and the general public. Most importantly, I gained a sense of empowerment that can only come from true inner confidence.
Just like any experience, modeling is what you make of it. I realized that consistently portraying a temporary standard of beauty was, for me, a finite career. I soaked up as much as I could, and parlayed those lessons into becoming a successful entrepreneur. Below are some of the most critical lessons modeling taught me about business.
Remember How Small Your Industry Is
Regardless of how large you may think your industry is, it is actually very small. It becomes even smaller based on geographic reach. This is true of the modeling industry. The top photographers and makeup artists who constantly book the finite amount of hard print magazines can be counted on two hands. They all know of each other, and word gets around about who the divas are and which pros are easy to work with. The same is true of legal, real estate, retail, food and beverage or otherwise. As a result, reputation and business dealings, even with an NDA in place, can reach third-party ears and help grow (or hurt) your brand. Conduct yourself with professionalism.
Identify Your Niche in the Market
I hit my stride with modeling while living in Miami Beach. There is an endless parade of beautiful models in Miami. Luckily for me, the majority of these beautiful women are every ethnicity under the sun other than Asian. When I entered the modeling industry, I was evaluated by how I would fit into the market: What was my look? What am I built for? (Fashion, runway, print, commercial, etc.?) What is my sub-genre within that genre? (Fitness, swimwear, couture, etc.?) The questioning and categorization continued until my niche was established: Asian, print, swimwear/lingerie.
The same principles can be applied when considering your company and its product. Sometimes your market will tell you exactly what it lacks. Being an Asian print model in Miami helped differentiate me. My look filled a need and helped me stand out when being considered for bookings. When my business partner Dannielle and I started Sin City Cupcakes, we researched and noted that, at that time, there were 11 bakeries in the Las Vegas metropolitan area that specialized in cupcakes and only one (that no longer operates business in Nevada) that specialized in alcohol-infused cupcakes. Identifying our particular niche helped us to fill a need in our area and gain popularity.
Collaborate, Cross-Promote and Co-Brand With Similar Companies
Some of my favorite spokes-modeling memories were while representing liquor companies. Whether it was Key West Bike Week or Miami Beach Polo, the event perfectly aligned its branding and marketing with the respective liquor company. The co-branding and cross-promotion that all parties exerted resulted in an A+ consumer experience and increased goodwill of each brand involved.
My Elite Homes U.S. partner Deven and I implemented that lesson in our company’s first-of-its-kind collaboration with Lamborghini. The branding is in sync with our current business. The collaboration fits both companies. The power of cross-promotion between the parties is a win-win.
Be Consistent, Both Personally and With Your Product
Part of what made me stand out, especially during the early years, was the fact that I treated modeling as a job. I showed up to photo shoots on time and shoot-ready: my body, weight and hair in real life were consistent with the photos that earned me the bookings in the first place. Consistency in both appearance and manner are important.
Besides being well-groomed in business settings, you never know who is standing behind you in line at the store or who pulled up next to you at the gas station. Every time you step outside your door is another opportunity to network and every person you meet has the potential to help your business. The underlying supposition is that if you care enough to display a meticulous outward appearance, then your attention to detail in other settings may be just as particular. You as a business owner should be consistent with all parties, and your company’s product should be consistent for the consumer.
Maintain a Professional Online Presence
As technology progresses, anyone, anywhere in the world, can learn more about you and your company via online mechanisms. When I first entered the modeling industry, it was a pre-Facebook/pre-Instagram era. The rapid-fire (over) exposure of aspiring models had yet to hit instant accessibility and companies/clients heavily relied on physical comp cards, look books and go-sees to evaluate a model. As a result, my online presence grew in conjunction with my increase in successful bookings. I learned first-hand the advantage of having a strong online presence and having my best images displayed for instant accessibility.