By Jasmine Chorley Foster
Travis Smith has been modelling for only two years, but has worked in London, NYC, Paris, Milan, and Singapore, is ranked at #28 on models.com, and has worked for some major clients. But at only 20 years old, he's dived into entrepreneurship by launching ModelFolio, an iPad portfolio app designed for exactly what working models need - no more, no less.
TBM: How did the idea for ModelFolio come to be?
TS: I was modelling in Singapore and saw models using iPads at castings. I was tired of my own hard copy; it’s heavy and prints are expensive. So I figured all these models were using an app that I should be using too, but it turned out there wasn’t anything out there like that. My roommate and I went home, brainstormed for three weeks, and ended up with what basically became a ten-page essay on all the intricacies of the app.
TBM: So it is a partnership?
TS: Originally it was a partnership. It was just as much his idea as mine. But I recently bought his share of the company.
TBM: Was is difficult forging a partnership with a friend?
TS: Not really. We’d only known each other for a few weeks and all we really talked about were ideas. I mean, we didn’t talk much about girls, or whatever else. So when the idea of the app came up, we both just ran with it.
TBM: Did you have any formal business and/or technology experience prior to this venture? Did you go to university?
TS: No, not at all. I’m only 20, and really had no experience with apps or business. Developing ModelFolio has forced me to learn a lot very quickly about marketing, the app industry, etc.
TBM: Where are you from? When and how did you begin modelling?
TS: I’m from Hawaii and there's really no fashion there. I went to a school where you didn’t even have to wear shoes and guys could turn up to class shirtless. I just had my braces taken off and was maybe 17 or 18 when I got scouted outside Ala Moana shopping centre. This person handed me this really shabby-looking business card with ripped-up edges and wrinkles, and told me to call them if I ever wanted to model. I showed it to my mom, but was like, “I never want to be a model.” It was really ridiculous to me. But my mom actually set up a secret test shoot behind my back. The pictures were pretty terrible I think.
TBM: What has been the hardest part about starting ModelFolio?
TS: Publicity is really hard. I mean, there is only so much you can do on social media and it’s not like we have a huge budget.
It was also really hard to get ModelFolio off the ground. After we had our idea, we needed to find a programmer. It’s really expensive to get an app made, and if we had hired someone over the Internet for $1000USD or something it would have been a really terrible product. I ended up meeting with Eight Inc. just by chance and they offered to do it for us, in exchange for owning one-third of the company. And they’ve done work for ESPN and CitiBank, and they’ve been pretty great to us.
TBM: Do you think with the increase of models using iPads you may be dealing with competitors soon?
TS: Of course. There’s always going to be competition. I think that right now we’re the best one on the market, and we just have to continue to be so.
TBM: What is the difference between the Free app and the $4.99 app?
TS: Well, the free app is pretty much a way for models to try-out the app without committing to a purchase. It only lets you upload 3 photos, so it isn’t as effective as a portfolio. But it allows you to see if you like the way it works, and if you do, then you can purchase the $4.99 version, which is unlimited.
TBM: What do your bookers think of your using the app over the traditional portfolio? Do they encourage it? Overall, have they been supportive?
TS: Yeah they’ve been really supportive. And I’m pretty independent in terms of managing my career. As an example, I know when I have new images coming out and if I can’t find them myself, I’ll ask my bookers. So I’m really on-top of keeping my portfolio up-to-date.
TBM: Are reactions from clients/casting directors usually positive?
TS: Yeah, especially because it’s so user-friendly. There have only been one or two clients who haven’t reacted so well, because they just didn’t know how to use an iPad. I think that is a pretty temporary drawback though.
TBM: Yeah, everything is touch screen now.
TS: Yeah, everything is touch screen and I think the hard-copy portfolio will definitely not be around forever. I think eventually instead of going into your agency and picking-up your updated book, you’ll just hand them your iPad, they’ll upload the photo(s), put it where it needs to go, and that’s it.
TBM: No need to lay out all your photos on the floor and rearrange your book manually. I hated doing that.
TS: Exactly! And it’s not necessary. Every other industry has become so digitized in the past few years. Fashion hasn’t really taken advantage of technology yet, but it will.