Startups are more than businesses - they are opportunities to improve the world. More and more entrepreneurs are using their businesses to make change, and one such business is Looks Like Me. Founder Selma Nicholls aims to increase the representation of BAME children in the media, in order to improve advertising's diversity problem and provide role models for children growing up. Let's find out more.

1. Explain your business in thirty seconds or less.

We're redefining beauty with Looks Like Me, a talent/model agency raising the profile of underrepresented groups featured in advertising. We provide exceptional talent, models, families and extraordinary, beautiful campaigns.

2. Where are you based and why is it a good location for your business?

We are based in Tottenham, it’s a great location for our business as it’s a culturally diverse community with up to 300 languages spoken. Many of our models are from the Tottenham community (Haringey borough), neighbouring boroughs and beyond.

3. How did you come up with the idea?

I was motivated by Riley-Ann, my three-year-old daughter, questioning her own identity and requesting straight hair and white skin, wanting to look like the beautiful people on TV and magazines. Due to the limited visibility of children that looked like her on the big screen and advertising in 2015, I decided to create the change I wanted my daughter and other children to see, setting up Looks Like Me, committed to raising the profile and increasing visibility of Black and Ethnic models in advertising.

4. What stage was your business at when you applied for the Start Up Loan?

Looks Like Me received confirmation that our first model had been booked for a casting with Next on the very day I submitted my application for the Start Up Loan.

Looks Like Me - Selma Nicholls
Image by Helen Marsden

5. How have you used it to grow your business?

I used the loan to work with my fabulous industry creative team to create and produce the logo, brand, website, styling, photography, campaign shoot, marketing, advertising and promotion of Looks Like Me.

6. Who is your mentor and how have they helped you?

My Virgin Mentor is Kate Lavender, a PR expert. She offered extremely useful advice regarding how to profile both Looks Like Me and myself, especially in regards to social media, prior to launching.

7. Who helped you to get a Start Up Loan?

My Virgin StartUp business adviser was Neena Madhok - she was totally amazing. This lady challenged me to refine and rework my business plan many times over to get it as strong as possible, but most importantly Neena motivated me to get Buy-In from the industry, shortly after our first model was featured in the Next Autumn/Winter 2015 campaign.

Looks Like Me - Selma Nicholls
Image by Helen Marsden

8. Biggest achievement so far?

My biggest achievements so far include:

  • Being coached by Anamaria Wills via East London Dance (ELD) and Vicki Uchenna Igbokwe, to define the concept of Looks Like Me.
  • Sharing the LLM story on various platforms including WOW (Women of the World, Southbank Centre) Black Beauty Hair, Mumsnet,  B3parenting magazine and becoming a monthly contributor at Junior Style London. 
  • Fortunate to have a Looks Like Me base for photography shoots and creative classes for our models - massive thanks to the Mill CoProject and to be working with an exceptional team of industry professionals such as Ahmed Akasha D237 (LLM Brand&Design), Helen Marsden Photography (Photographer for all LLM campaign visuals), Yvadney Davis (Stylist for all LLM campaign visuals), Jade To (Make-up artist) and not forgetting the our LLM parents and models for supporting the LLM campaign and going on this journey with us. 
  • Extremely privileged to be mentored by Alex Massey (partner in a Big 4 accountancy firm) and Karen Blackett OBE (Chairwoman, MediaCom UK).
  • Being introduced to the phenomenal Nadya Powell (Innovation Disorder), Nathalie Gordon (Sunshine) and Wren Graham (Sunshine) and their powerful story.
  • Honoured to be one of four co-founders of powerful movement #ChristmasSOwhite raising the profile and importance of Looks Like Me’s services and sharing with the world the behind the scene film (created by Sunshi Nestudios Manchester & Michael Adeyeye) clip which offers an insight to how we work, highlight ending with Riley-Ann’s hair poem “Children Like Me”, which she created summer 2015, learning to love her natural hair - I hope this poem brings joy and empowers other children to love their hair too.
  • How welcoming and supportive the advertising industry has been to Looks Like Me has been absolutely amazing, I am truly grateful for their openness - 2017 looks exciting.
  • Seeing great support from all our friends and followers from around the world!
  • Most importantly I feel a great sense of achievement that we launched 4 months ago and our models have been featured in campaigns including Next, Mini Khumalo, Creative Soul Photography, Gurgle magazine and more.

9. What’s next for your business?

Building networks and making Looks Like Me services integral to advertising agencies campaigns and advertisements.

The toughest part of this journey is learning the art of patience!

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