by Darralynn Hutson
Growing up in the inner city of Kansas City, Missouri, LaShawnna Stanley had dreams of being her own boss. Motivated to never accept the status of “Welfare chick,” LaShawnna said the birth of her daughter was the driving force for her to succeed. “I was the only chocolate chip in my family and for a long time, I never could really identify,” expresses Stanley, 42. “I met my family on my dads side for the first time at the age of twelve and it made me feel happy that I was me. It’s so important to know where you come from.” Today, the owner and CEO of Ethnicity Models, a flourishing modeling and talent agency that specializes in ethnic models – is on a mission to motivate other women to do the same.
MN: How did you start Ethnicity Models?
LaShawnna: I initially started the company recruiting models that looked good in my clothes. I owned a clothing boutique on the beach (in South Beach, Miami) and needed girls with curves; we starting doing fashion and modeling shows on the beach. More and more people came, especially celebrities and that’s how it started to grow.
MN: What was your method of raising money?
LaShawnna: I worked for corporate America for 10 years and had profit sharing account that I liquidated to start my business. It wasn’t a great deal of money but I used what I had to get a little start, reinvested what I made until eventually I had a complete business. I think it’s important for aspiring entrepreneurs to know that you do not need lots of money to start a business, you can start with a little and grow from there. Focus on doing what you love and the money will come.
MN: Who were your first clients and how did you close the deal?
LaShawnna: My very first client was a charity event for Magic Johnson’s foundation. Magic had been a mentor of mine for many years. He knew I started the company and gave us the opportunity to gain exposure. After that FUBU was in Miami looking for models for a calendar they were producing. I went to the casting with my models and waited until the end to have a one-on-one conversation with the owner Daymond John and convinced him that FUBU and Ethnicity pretty much had the same meaning and that he should use my models.
MN: How did you find the best models?
LaShawnna: It’s funny, I’ve never really had to find models, they always find me. Once I started out with my first five models and the word got out about how protective and supportive I was with my company; not to mention they call me “the negotiator” when it comes to getting the best pay rate for the girls. I get so many request from models, I had to start a online talent database community website that helps me manage and keep track.
MN: What type of Boss are you?
LaShawnna: I’m fun and playful; most people feel like they’ve known me for years. But when it comes to business, all games are put aside. As soon as the job is complete, I’m back to being my silly lil self. I’m the type of boss that creates other bosses, if you are around me, I will bring the entrepreneur out of you one way or another. You will look up and have created some type of business out of doing what you love. I love bringing that out of people.
MN: What advice do you have for aspiring models?
LaShawnna: My advice would be do your research first before anything else. Trust your intuition; if something doesn’t feel right, trust that feeling. Last but not least, don’t do anything in this business that you can’t share and be proud of with your mother and grandmother.
MN: What’s your advice for women struggling with being their own boss?
LaShawnna: Take time out for yourself no matter what. Learn balance and realize the business will still be there after your mani-pedi and massage, so don’t neglect taking time out for yourself. The happier you are, the more business and opportunities you will attract. I also recommend reading self help books by other bosses such as Russell Simmons, Oprah and Donald Trump. It will motivate you and also give you new ideas and inspiration.
MN: What is it that sets you apart from other Talent/Modeling Agencies?
LaShawnna: Ethnicity is personable and very family-oriented, which I think people are drawn to. I also set very high standards for the company and will not settle for less. Now, I listen to the lyrics in a song before booking my models. I can turn down a job if it degrades women. I didn’t do that in the past but now I’m taking responsibility for how women are portrayed. The girls have rules and regulations that they must adhere to. And I must enforce them. On set, I’m called the momma bear, a lot of the producers don’t like me. I have to fight all the time to keep respect. I didn’t know that at first, I had to learn that.
MN: How do you maintain and continue to grow in a lazy economy?
LaShawnna:You have to diversify yourself and your business; you have to have more than one avenue of income. In addition to representing talent, I am a casting director, producer, and I still own an online boutique and just started a modeling academy. I do motivational speaking for aspiring models & entrepreneurs, as well as, women’s empowerment life coaching. I believe the universe is abundant and it’s only a lazy economy if you believe it is.