Michael Seifert is a model, entrepreneur, and founder of the the exclusive model agency TalentMan. After a decade-plus career as an international model, he decided to become an entrepreneur by founding his own agency–no easy feat given the fierce competition in the fashion industry. Two years later, TalentMan is stronger than ever. We caught up with Michael to learn how he transitioned from the world of fashion modeling to the world of business, being an entrepreneur, and succeeding in the cutthroat entertainment industry.
Can you tell us about your background?
My father is from Germany, while my mother is of Philippine descent. Being exposed to the entertainment/fashion industry at the young age of 7, I learned a lot about the ins & outs of the business while building my career as a fashion, print, runway and commercial model. By the time I turned 15, I was invited to join the prestigious association of the top models in the Philippines and when I hit 18, I graduated from a private German-French International School. It was when I turned 19 that I got scouted by a Brazilian mother agent who sent me to Shanghai two weeks later. Since then I traveled to successfully work in markets like Shanghai, Xiamen, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Bangkok, Berlin, London, Munich and Milan. It’s certainly been an adventure! Since then I’ve shot worldwide campaigns, appeared in prestigious TV stints and traveled to over 20 countries – a huge achievement in and of itself at 28 I’d like to think. Truly blessed and grateful!
How did you first get into modeling?
My mom got me into modeling in the Philippines when I was 7 as a result of being scouted multiple times in shopping malls by scouting agents.
What is your favorite modeling story?
That’s a tough one. I feel like every work trip to different countries has helped shape me into who I am today. If I had to look back at one particular story, I would generalize and say that meeting models that are now exclusively represented by TalentMan throughout my traveling journeys is always one of my favorite modeling stories.
Some models transition from modeling to photography, but very few actually become entrepreneurs and start their own agencies. What led you to decide to start The TalentMan?
I’ve always been someone who likes to challenge myself and take risks. As my professional international modeling journey began at 19, I’ve always kept my eyes and ears open to exploring new ideas and learning from people I look up to. I was always curious about business, and I remember in 2011 I hit a moment wherein I asked myself, what do I want to do for the rest of my life? I love modeling, but there’s more out there – I am blessed with a good skill set in speech, speak 5 languages, love to travel and meet new people and have been fortunate to work with some of the industry’s finest. After doing some PR & marketing work in Hong Kong and accelerating at it, I was recruited to join a Twitter app for musicians – TwitMusic – and work as Head of Artist & Label Relations. While transitioning from a modeling/PR & marketing career into the startup scene, a fire sparked in me that was fueled by all the entrepreneurs I was exposed to. I remember asking myself what my passion was at times, what I was good at, and thinking – If I can combine my passion with something I’m good at for the greater good of helping others (through nurtured, strategic management) I can find my niche in the business and retain all of the contacts I’ve made throughout my 6 years of travel and influence and help models, agencies and talent in general. Finally, in 2011 I joined a startup competition in Manila, Philippines to pitch my vision of TalentMan, besting 32 startups in the process and landing the 1st Runner Up title of Startup Manila Weekend. Since then, I’ve received great advice by mentors and have decided to put my potential and vision into play and the rest as they say is history! TalentMan is up and running since its birth in October 2014 and we’ve just celebrated our Two Year Anniversary!
What does an average day at work look like for you?
An average day in the shoes of Michael Seifert is not quite like the norm. I’m currently a full-time student in New York City, while running the management agency TalentMan full time and working on a few projects so I’m sure you can imagine how little time each day entails for me! Most of my friends and models would say my hands are quite full, so the average day varies but definitely attending class, doing homework and studying, working on the agency and occasionally meeting with friends one-two times per week to keep my sanity in tact haha! It usually ranges from waking up and responding to urgent e-mails, running a social media update on Instagram, to attending classes at Uni, to Volleyball practice twice a week, to 4-5 hours of studying, to meeting with agencies, to art directing photo shoots for new faces I am currently developing, to working on the agency writing e-mails, updating the website, social media links, blog and planning next steps. A bit of everything really.
Finally, whatever you do in life- never compromise your integrity.
Modeling is obviously a very competitive space. How do you find and retain great talent?
Indeed the entertainment/fashion space is extremely competitive. I would best describe the industry and finding talent as a miracle in and of itself – trying to win the ‘lottery’ each time. I can’t explain how I find the talent – it truly varies. In some cases I would street scout, in other cases models and talent would submit themselves online and at times I receive strong recommendations from trusted sources in and outside the business. I retain talent by being the best I can be to fulfill the needs and expectations as a talent manager and being an exceptional one at that – one that genuinely cares for the well-being of others. I have a sincere passion for what I do and care for all my models – the work speaks for itself. Finally, I would say my honesty, loyalty and integrity have paved the way into building well-respected brand as an entrepreneur today.
What sets TalentMan apart from other modeling agencies?
It’s unique approach in talent management that consists of potential, professionalism and passion – making sure our clients and partnering agencies see the exceptional value in our talent and benefits in working with us. I also believe that every agency and startup is unique in their own right. In the case of TalentMan, I would say that honesty, humility and loyalty are strong characteristics we pride ourselves in.
What advice do you have for other entertainment industry entrepreneurs?
Stay hungry, stay humble. Always give your 100% in everything you do and do it with passion. Life’s too short, if you believe in your idea when everyone else doesn’t, “just do it” as NIKE says. Those very few that have succeeded have chased their dreams and surround themselves around a good support system – like-minded individuals. Finally, whatever you do in life- never compromise your integrity.
What is the biggest misconception that people have about modeling and the fashion industry?
People think the industry is superficial and models are stupid and make millions of dollars. The industry may come with superficial tendencies, however it is in one’s perspective that your reality can truly change. There is beauty in everything in the world and just like any other industry, one must remember that those ‘perfectly sculpted model physiques and facial features are often photoshopped. In addition, models are some of the most insecure people I’ve met to date – I know, I used to be in that position years ago! Hopefully, my example of pursuing my education at 28 and running my own startup will exemplify that there are brains in the business of fashion and modeling.
What role does social media play both in promoting TalentMan and also in ensuring the career success of your models?
Social media is a vital component of building an online presence for any business. Online outlets such as Facebook & Instagram are a great way to creatively and effectively showcase your brand, models, their personalities and most importantly any work advancements made by the agency and its models. Instagram for example has proven to be very successful for TalentMan – we even scouted one of our boys there!
What is next for TalentMan and Michael Seifert?
So many things are in the works for TalentMan and Michael Seifert. 2017 is going to be a BIG year. Whatever is still to come, I urge and encourage you to follow us on our social media platforms like Facebook & Instagram (@talentmanmodels) for all the latest updates in real-time. Expect the unexpected, that’s all I can say for now! 😉