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New gen bosses: Reuben Selby, founder of Contact, the model agency that gives its talents control over the jobs they pick

New gen bosses is a new series created to guide and inspire more people to go out there on their own, either as new business founders or freelancers. And what better way to do that than to ask the ones that already succeed at it? We want to know about big fuck-ups and even bigger successes, and the risky decisions they had to make along the way. We want to be the last little push you needed.

Job title: Founder and CEO
Industry: Fashion
Company founder or freelancer: Founder
Company name: Contact
How long have you been doing it: 2 years
Age: 22
Location: London

What pushed you to start on your own?

Even at school, I always worked on creative projects on the side. I have been working on different businesses since I was 15, so it’s been a very natural progression for me.

I did an art foundation, but again, I wasn’t really doing it to get an art degree, it was more that I knew I wouldn’t go to university to study your typical ‘intellectual’ subjects, and so I needed to figure out how I could go straight into the industry.

What was the very first thing you needed to do to set everything up?

Build a brand and an identity, and then testing if clients would work with Contact and liked what we were doing. I was actually already representing models before I created the business side of the agency, just to try and see how it would go—to see if I could actually do it. Once I had the confidence I could turn this into a business model, I went for it.

What was the riskiest decision you had to take?

Leaving a full-time job and putting all my time and money into something that could have failed.

What was a skill you didn’t foresee needing that you had to learn?

Being incredibly organised, and managing sales. In my opinion, you just can’t run a business unless you’re incredibly organised.

Reuben-Selby

At what moment did you realise that this was going to work out?

When clients started paying us properly for what we’re worth and giving us budgets to work on our own projects.

Working with brands that I’ve always looked up to was a big milestone too.

What did you spend your money on?

Building a brand identity and bringing on an assistant as soon as I could afford it. That’s why it’s so important to make sure you have enough money to build your business in order to bring in enough money to sustain it.

Pretty much all of my first projects have been self-funded, even my business. I’ve only recently started pitching to investors and raising money from angel investors.

What was your biggest fuck up?

Hiring without having a long term view in mind.

What was your biggest success?

Launching our website and app that aims to automate the model booking process. Then proving the idea by having clients that pay to use it.

Also, we have a big partnership with Depop that I’m really proud of.

Reuben-Selby

What do you know now that you didn’t know then?

I’ve learnt a lot more about what it takes to manage and lead a team.

What are three tips you would give someone who wants to start on their own?

One: Believe in yourself.

Two: Develop grit.

Three: Remove your ego.

Want to discuss taking the leap with other new gens? You’re in luck! We’ve created New Gen Bosses, a Facebook group to continue and expand the conversation started through this new series.