Agent Inc. Aims to Protect Models in the Fashion and Events Industries

Agent Inc. protecting models
Agent Inc., a start-up based in California, is providing a new and safer way for models to book jobs. On the events side, many companies and venues hire promotional models as a way to help with networking and educating attendees on their product or service. On the fashion side, clients book models for promotional campaigns, photo shoots, etc. Though glitz and glamour are words associated with the fashion and modeling world, models are often subjected to racism or sexual assault. And with the onset of the #MeToo movement, stories are being told almost daily. There is no time quite like the present for an innovative platform to revamp the modeling industry—in both corporate and fashion events. “We sat down and thought, ‘if we were to reimagine the industry as a whole, how would we do it?’,” said Mark Willingham, CEO of Agent Inc., a platform that is spearheading how models and companies book business; it already has over 10,000 models signed up and has seen an increase on the model and client side with the #MeToo movement. After a 12-year career in the fashion industry and working with models, Willingham, along with co-founder Dustin Diaz, started to look at the elements that needed improvement in the industry: model safety, booking jobs, background checks and payments. “After researching, he [Diaz] found out the industry is super fragmented,” said Willingham. “On the cover, it’s glamorous but it has a dark underbelly and is nontransparent. It’s difficult for models trying to build their careers and is really hard to see what’s going on behind the scenes.” One example Willingham mentioned is when models were hired for events, they would often ask the marketing staff, “How much are you paying the agency?” The agency would tell the model $200 for the four-hour job. But the marketing team/company actually paid $600 to the agency, meaning the agency kept two-thirds of the profit. Thus, creating a broken trust between the model and agency.

Security Measures

With this “Jekyll and Hyde” persona permeating the industry, Agent Inc. has renovated the model-booking process by adding a layer of transparency and protection. It does serious vetting by conducting background checks, sex-offender checks and identity verification with every person who interacts with or books models. Other modeling agencies for events have clients fill out a form online or request a quote to book models—leaving little security to the process and models vulnerable to unwanted advances. The platform aims to empower the models to grow and manage their careers—allowing them to be independent. They can streamline the booking and scheduling process, share their experience at the event, rate and review the companies, secure payment, report inappropriate behavior and receive 24-hour support from the Agent Inc. team. On the client side, once companies or venues apply and are accepted on the platform, they can put in their requirements for models that best suit their needs and receive options within seconds. They can also rate the models. In a traditional agency, companies have to contact the agency to coordinate time and arrangements for everything, said Willingham. “It’s like playing a volleyball match,” he said. With Agent Inc., the booking process is directly between the model and the company. Models also set their own rates, so there are no pay discrepancies. The company is only charged a five percent service fee versus 20 percent, widely regarded as the industry norm. “A question I am often asked, ‘Is this a great opportunity, timing wise?’ Yes, it is—timing wise,” he said. “But we’ve been doing this for two years. We started the business based on this because we knew what was going on in the industry. It just happened the conversation has started.” As the #MeToo conversations continue and more models are in demand for corporate events, Agent Inc.’s goal is work with companies who share the same belief in wanting protection for models and more transparency. The company is proud to say that there have been no reports of inappropriate behavior. “We want to make sure we work with companies and vendors who stand strongly behind this,” he said. “Who train their employees on the mechanisms that will prevent these atrocious behaviors from happening.”