When one startup is not enough

Do the people inside your business truly want you to succeed?
Mentoring vs business coaching: What's the difference?

By Jo Burston

I love talking to successful entrepreneurs, but it’s still unusual, and always special, to meet one who has had more than one success.


Taryn Williams is on her second startup, founding theright.fit off the back of her earlier success with company number one, Wink Models.

As she notes, “Starting two companies has played havoc with my work-life balance, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything! I think some of us are just wired for excitement and challenge, and being driven in that way.”

Taryn started Wink Models 10 years ago to systematize the processes needed to scale the management and employment needs of a large cohort of models, their bookings and payrolls, and do so efficiently and fairly. On the back of being able to scale the Wink Models business, she wanted to devise a second, creating an online marketplace that brought together fashion producers, such as videographers and photographers, and models. It grew out of the need to identify new types of talent. Advertisers were starting to seek different modelling talent, replacing a 19-year old model in a Mercedes with a woman in her mid-30s who, in context, might be able to afford such a car, for example.

And producers and advertisers were starting to find it difficult to find and recruit this talent. At the same time, the frequency and depth of advertising was changing, moving from perhaps three shoots a year to as many as seven or eight, oriented to digital, with consumers wanting to see fresh content, in smaller clips, on their mobile devices, more often.

Taryn and her team wanted to create a platform that allowed talent and producers to connect with each other for projects, and the platform replaces the traditional way of phoning talent agencies. If a photographer has a spare hour, and can shoot a piece of content that might have a lifetime of a week, they can now find that work, allowing both sides of the equation to manage their income and their personal brands.

And coming from a modelling and production background herself, Taryn knew the areas that could benefit from improved service, such as model payment times, which were notoriously slow.

When self-awareness comes into play

Probably the biggest challenge in Taryn’s career has been delegating. “I’m a control freak! I need to be across every aspect of the business! And I eventually got to the point that I realized I could not cast every single model, and that I was actually the bottleneck standing in the way of success. It took a long time to learn how to let go, introducing systems and processes that allow me to manage the business without getting in its way. I recruited the best I could in each of the areas I needed to fill, so that I could work with the best in each field, and then give them the autonomy they needed to be successful. And I found this uncomfortable, but it was the right thing for the business.”

Mentors have played a central role in Taryn’s career to date. “I’ve had wonderful mentors who have given me some awesome advice. A favourite quote is, ‘Don’t spend time rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic’ – there are times when a product or a person just isn’t working, you need to cut your losses, pivot quickly, ‘fail fast’, take the key learnings and move on. And if you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room. Personal growth is everything. It’s incredibly important always to be learning and challenging yourself, always being slightly uncomfortable.

“One of my current mentors, without whom I’d be lost at the moment, is incredibly inspiring, and I hope one day to be able to give something back. Connecting mentors is so important, especially for the next generation.”

As to the near future, aggressive growth is the main priority for Taryn and her team, with a focus on execution and delivery for theright.fit in Australia, from the company website to its pricing platforms. Then expansion into international locations such as New York, Los Angeles, South Korea and Singapore is planned.

Taryn’s vision for the future of theright.fit shows there are real opportunities in Australia for startups to grow fast and globally. Women-owned businesses that have expanded overseas simply achieve greater success than those that don’t grow beyond our shores.

Would you like to hear Taryn Williams’s survival tips for global expansion? At Rare Birds Con 2016, on 8-9 June in Sydney, she’ll be sharing her insights on this and how mentors can help grow your business. 

This series brought to you in partnership by Rare Birds and Microsoft Surface. #microsoftsmb #rarebirdscon16 #mystartingstory

Do the people inside your business truly want you to succeed?
Mentoring vs business coaching: What's the difference?

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