ShortPress Small Talk series: WINK Models


Small businesses in Australia continue to push the boundaries of our ‘glocal’ economy. The ShortPress Small Talk series profiles a diverse range of small businesses to find out what they do and what makes them tick.


Founded in 2007, WINK Models is a leading figure in Australia’s talent and modelling industry, and is now a national business with an annual turnover of 3 million dollars. ShortPress sat down with the company’s founder and managing director, Taryn Williams.

ShortPress: Describe your business in less than 50 words.

WINK Models: WINK Models is a national commercial modelling agency that represents more than 650 models across Australia. We're inclusive, hard working, generous in spirit and in time, and innovative.

What inspires you as a business owner?

WM: Challenging the status quo, always striving to be better,  looking for new ways to do things and constantly developing and growing, both personally and as a company.

What does a typical day for you look like?

WM: I'm up at 5.30am to get a good workout in, and then I like to be at my desk before 7.30am to get some work done before the phones start ringing. I Skype my business partner in at around 8am to get an update on his news from overnight. I usually have a Skype WIP with each of our interstate offices, and meetings with clients and models throughout the day. At 4pm each day, I sit down with our development team for our new business,, and get an update on the progress of the build. We usually have an event most nights, fun PR launches, parties, red carpet events and gala balls. I fall into bed around 11pm ready to do it all again!

What have your biggest challenges been so far and how have you overcome them?

WM: Delegating. Hands down. It’s something I’ve always struggled with, and I found it so incredibly hard when I started out and was hiring my first employees. The biggest test of this was when I opened our first interstate office in Melbourne. It was really hard for me to relinquish control and accept that I couldn’t physically be across every meeting, every booking, etc. You realise you are becoming the biggest bottle neck in your own company, and stifling growth and progress. You build the systems, the processes, and have regular WIP meetings and clear lines of reporting, and then you have to let go. It’s hard, but watching your team win without you is incredibly validating.

What about your biggest learnings?

WM: Get a mentor. I was incredibly lucky to have two amazing mentors early in my career. One was from the advertising world – he’d started and sold a number of successful advertising agencies – and the other was from private equity. They both had very different approaches to starting a business and running a successful company, and it really made a world of difference in terms of not only having a sounding board, but access to support, knowledge and networks I wouldn’t have been afforded otherwise.

If you could start over again, would you do anything differently?

WM: I would hire staff and experts earlier. I really believed at the start I needed to do it all myself – my BAS, answering the phones, meeting all the models, organising events, booking every job, the list goes on! There’s that fear that you can’t afford to hire people to do these things for you, but realistically, the small cost of hiring these people is outweighed by the fact that they can do it faster than you. It also frees you up to do what you're best at – winning business and servicing your clients.

What advice would you give to budding small business owners?

WM: Don’t spend time rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. In a small business, if something isn’t working, you have to be agile and make decisions quickly. If that means letting an employee go, or putting a stop to a project you’d been working on that wasn’t quite working, then so be it. You simply don’t have the resources and time to try to force something to work. Cut your losses, and focus your energy on the next thing.

Who are the business leaders you look up to and why?

WM: Sheryl Sandberg – her book Lean In had a huge impact on how I think about women in business and overcoming gender bias in business. And Jo Burston. She's ambitious, hardworking and such a great role model for Australian businesswomen.

Where to now for WINK Models?

WM: We're expanding with our Brisbane office, and looking at a base in Asia – possibly Hong Kong or Singapore – to service our clients in that region. I also have a new project launching in November: It’s something I have been working on since earlier this year and it’s set to disrupt our industry!

Images: Supplied