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 created 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 invented and designed the brand’s next innovation: Tan Airbrush In A Can. The world’s first airbrush self-tanning spray, it reinvigorated what was then a small self-tan category and empowered women to DIY their tans with confidence.
Media and best-in-class retailers such as 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.
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 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 2018, Shelley announced a new collaboration with global fashion icon and creative genius Karl Lagerfeld, to launch the KARL LAGERFELD + MODELCO limited-edition colour cosmetics collection. Emblazoned with ModelCo’s high-quality formulas, technical packaging and KARL LAGERFELD’s artistic aesthetic, the collection gained global recognition. The collection was available through KARL LAGERFELD stores and KARL.COM, ModelCo’s premium distribution network modelco.com; and in retail stores such as Nordstrom, Douglas and Galeries Lafayette in 32 countries worldwide.
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.
Shelley has spent her career supporting women in the fashion/beauty industries and in broader business. 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.