ModelCo Founder and CEO Shelley Sullivan has been a standout in the worlds of fashion and beauty for the past two decades. In the 1990s she was running her own successful model and talent agency in Sydney when she identified a new opportunity in the beauty market. With an intuitive knack for knowing what women (really) wanted in their makeup bags, Shelley envisaged believable, achievable beauty – and a line of quick-fix, affordable, quality products for women.
“Looking after so many models, I listened and learnt what they really wanted in their beauty regimes: quick-fix and smart beauty products that they could afford,” explains Shelley. “Models tend to be a tough audience; they spend half their time sitting in the makeup chair and have access to so many different brands. I knew if I could create something my girls loved and used in their downtime then I was really on to something.” Said Shelley Sullivan (nee Barrett).
Shelley got to work on realising her vision with a first-to-market heated lash curler; the launch in 2002 marking the official beginnings of ModelCo. Turbo Lashwand Eyelash Curler was an instant hit, not just with her models but with influential media, celebrities and customers. Within months it had sold out globally. Motivated to create a brand that was more than a one-product wonder, Shelley then dreamt up the brand’s next innovation: Tan Airbrush In A Can. The world’s first airbrush self-tanning spray, it reinvigorated what was then a sleepy self-tan category and empowered women to DIY with the confidence of convincingly natural colour.
Media and best-in-class retailers like Colette in Paris, New York’s Henri Bendel, and premium department stores quickly got behind the brand and soon enough, Shelley had sold her model agency and was painting the planet pink full time. With two global product hits on her hands, she then expanded the ModelCo range into on-trend colour, complexion-perfecting natural skin care, and further self-tanning innovations. Today, there are over 250 products in the ModelCo. range.
Shelley has continued to build on the brand’s early ties to the modelling world by initiating some clever collaborations with some of the world’s most beautiful faces including Elle Macpherson, Rosie Huntington Whiteley, Danni Minogue, and currently Hailey Baldwin who have all acted as brand ambassadors.
“Partnering with strong and empowering women has become something of a ModelCo signature,” explains Shelley. “All of the celebrity ambassadors we have worked with have a genuine love of and interest in beauty and our commitment to quality, innovative products and believable, achievable beauty has really resonated with them.”
In late May 2017, Shelley announced a new collaboration with global fashion icon Karl Lagerfeld due to land in early 2018. “We are honoured to partner with KARL LAGERFELD, one of the world’s most renowned and iconic names in design, and make this the most coveted beauty collection of 2018,” said Shelley. “This super fun, highly coveted and collectable collection will combine our high-quality formulas and innovative, technical packaging with KARL LAGERFELD’s unmistakable artistic aesthetic that’s sophisticated, modern and cool.”
Considered one of Australia’s leading female entrepreneurs with over 20 years in business, Shelley was invited to join the cast of The Nine Network’s Celebrity Apprentice in 2015 as both an advisor to host Mark Bouris and a mentor to the celebrity contestants.
Since launching ModelCo, she has been awarded a number of prestigious business accolades including the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year and the American Express award for Fastest Growing Small Business. Shelley is an active committee member of sunSCHine for Sydney Children’s Hospital and is a strong supporter of the National Breast Cancer Foundation. She lives in Sydney with her husband and two daughters.