Anna Shillinglaw started her model agency, Milk Management, from a bedroom in her Army quarter. A&Y caught up with her to find out how she’s developed it into a successful international business…

 

IT ALL started when model Anna, went on a photoshoot to South Africa and happened to be staying in the same hotel as Edward Smith, who was on a rugby tour with the British Army.

“I was living in the USA at the time and had been modelling for 17 years. I didn’t know how much longer it would last, so I was considering moving back to the UK – meeting Edward clinched it.”

I had to prove myself and show that it was credible

Working from home
Anna felt there was a niche in the market for recruiting girls of all sizes, from 8 to 18, and her philosophy for Milk Management is to nurture models, not just simply represent them.

With her mission clear, she established her own agency from the unlikely setting of her first quarter in West Byfleet.

“I converted one of the bedrooms into an office, set up a website and used contacts to recruit models I knew,” she explained.

Anna started with five women on her books and found it was difficult to recruit people at first.

“Lots of models I knew would just say ‘good luck Anna’ but they wouldn’t necessarily sign up with me,” she continued. “So I had to prove myself and show that it was credible.”

The next step was to set up a “virtual” headquarters in London and the company was soon registered with fashion websites.

Her client list has grown to more than 80 and she now has real offices in London, employing six people.

Her models work internationally across the fashion arena and have graced the covers, catwalks and screens of world-renowned institutions such as Vogue, Chanel and the International Fashion Week stages. She also books celebrities like Jessie J.

There have been times when we have just thought, let’s get through these next couple of weeks and somehow we have done just that

Juggling Army life
So how has she managed to achieve all this while coping with the unique challenges posed by Army life, and becoming a mum to Oscar, now aged three?

“It was really hard at first, especially when Edward was away and looking back I don’t know how I did it,” she said.

“There have been times when we have just thought, let’s get through these next couple of weeks and somehow we have done just that.

“Edward has been really supportive. I think he’s wanted to divorce me once or twice but we’ve got through it!

“He’s seen how successful it’s been so he knows that this could be our future. I’ve also been lucky that Oscar has been really good so I’ve been able to cope with being a working mum despite not having any family close by.”

Anna’s advice to other Army spouses who are thinking of starting their own business is simple.

“There’s always a solution to a problem,” she explained. “I’m quite driven and failure was not an option so nothing was going to stop me. All you need is an idea and the passion to make it work.”

et1Find out more about Milk Management at www.milkmanagement.co.uk

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