Model Co

Reporter: Sally Obermeder

"Model Co actually started by accident. It started as a bit of a project on the side. I actually had no idea that we were starting a global cosmetic brand."

Shelley Barrett is the founder of Model Co, an Aussie beauty brand that launched in 2002 with just one product. At the time it was a world first - a heated eyelash curler. That small creation changed both Shelley's life and the beauty industry.

"Models were having their eyelashes ripped out by those other ones so I thought "wow imagine if I could create a heated eyelash curler". At the time I had no idea of the phenomenal success that it would be."

When it launched it sold out, 8 years on, the curler continues to be the company's number 2 best seller.

"It was a quick fix multi purpose product that delivered results so that was why it was so popular. It outshone what I thought it would and what I think I tapped into was knowing what women want, before they wanted it.

From there the innovation and sellout products have continued. Shelley's next creation was tan in a can - another world first, and now the firms no 1 global product.

"We pioneered the airbrush technology and the particular formula itself, the blue green base. We own the formula so women keep coming back for more, and we had it a good 18 months before anyone in the world"

The ultimate acknowledgment is that now every big beauty brand has copied Shelley's concept.

"Does that annoy you though having big companies copy your ideas?"

"I look at it as complimentary rather than frustrating" says Shelley. "It's a compliment that the big luxury brands that are steeped in history are copying what Model Co does."

Another compliment is Model Co's A list following. The list of fans reads like a who's who of Hollywood. Nicole Ritchie, Lily Allen, Kylie Minogue, Naomi Watts, Sienna Miller, Victoria Beckham, Kate Winslet, Uma Thurman, Mischa Barton, Cameron Diaz, Renee Zellweger, Keira Knightley and Ashley Olsen

Earlier this year Shelley discovered that America's first lady was wearing her eye shadow.

"The first thing I say is: really? what shade? We are very fortunate to have garnered so many celebrity fans. But we try and stay focused on creating products for everyday women but the celebs love what we create, so it's great."

"Is there any price that you can put on celeb exposure like that?"

"It's priceless. you can't put a price on celebrity endorsement. When we talked about Michelle Obama wearing our eye shadow, our sales went up several hundred percent. When Victoria Beckham was seen using a Model Co pink compact, I mean that image went around the world, and our brow compact sales overnight went up 268% of that 1 particular product. When Kylie was talking about Lash Wand we couldn't keep the product on the shelf so we obviously value that and it's huge and it's tremendous growth each time for us every time."

The firm has had 300% growth year on year, and is now stocked in 27 countries and 1000 stores worldwide. Amazing success for a firm that made just $26 000 in its first year.

"All of our products are unique and time saving, it's what I want to give women."

Innovative Model Co creations include:

The eyeliner with the sharpener attached to the lid

More Brows - the gel formula with hair like particles

Brush on Lashes - instant fake lashes that simply wash off

Lip Lights - the gloss that comes with an inbuilt mirror and light

"Are you proud of what you've achieved?" asked Sally Obermeder.

"There's not a lot of time for self congratulations I don't think I'm at that stage where I can say I've made it. I still have a long way to go."