‘Nella Mode’

When Seloie Kimberly McLeish of Rosedale, Queens, graduated from St. John’s University last spring, she envisioned a future of becoming her own boss and fulfilling her longtime dream of owning and operating a business. Now, this vision has slowly become reality, as she has begun to establish SM Models, Inc., a new modeling agency.

McLeish, 22, was drawn into the world of fashion as a young girl. This dream motivated her to break into the fashion industry. After receiving a business certificate from the state in October 2005, she was well on her way to establishing her business.

While McLeish is a financial analyst at JP Morgan, she knew that not being her own boss hindered her passion.

“Money is not my driving force,” McLeish said. “What really motivated me to start this business was that I wanted to dictate what was going on rather than work for someone else. I thought, ‘what would I be passionate about?’ [My dream] was a light bulb that went on in my mind.

“My boyfriend was the person who pushed me and said, ‘You really can do it,’ because he’s doing the same thing (establishing his own business),” she added.

It was not until last month, however, that McLeish finally saw her dream unfold: she set her sights on hosting a fashion showcase at the Crowne Plaza Hotel at LaGuardia Airport, featuring models she handpicked to appear on the runway.

“I’ve always been interested in the fashion industry itself,” McLeish said. “I also would like to have my own clothing line. Most people want to be their own boss. Owning my own business and owning a model agency is something I knew I would enjoy.”

Prior to last month’s fashion showcase, McLeish knew it would take a well-thought-out initiative in order to make her show a success. She soon convinced several people in the fashion industry to provide her with clothes and accessories for the models to present. McLeish’s showcase, entitled “A Spring ’07 Fashion Experience” would debut in no time.

“Basically going into it, I had a vision,” McLeish said of her showcase. “I worked behind the scenes; it was a whole learning experience for myself. I started to put together [a plan] for budget, and looked for venues. Soon after, I held casting calls at Queens I.S. 8 (The New Prep Middle School) and from there, everything came together.”

McLeish made contact with several people in the fashion industry, and had eight fashion designers participate, including creators of accessories and men’s sportswear. Two of the designers were well-noted in magazines, and were even featured in the reality show “America’s Next Top Model.” Other fashion designers in the show were underground designers and not known to the public. For many of them, McLeish’s showcase would be their official public debut as well. This, McLeish said, made the showcase all the more special.

“Gina Velasco (one of the designers) was my first networking experience,” she said. “I contacted her via Web site. What I decided to do was e-mail her, and she immediately responded in a matter of days.”

McLeish’s next step, she says, is to open an operating office in Manhattan or Long Island. For now, she will relish in her recent success.

“One thing about this show is it taught me about how strong I am,” she said. “I definitely went through so many obstacles with this show and I’d say that the biggest thing that people will be impressed with is that I had no sponsors. As long as you have the determination and passion for what you are doing, you will be a great success.”