I was homeless & living in a tent

SETTING his sights on becoming a successful model, Ernest Sturm, now 34, moved to Los Angeles in 2008 when he was 21.

But the reality was much harder than the young man had thought and he was unable to find anywhere to live which resulted in him ending up on the streets.


Reece Witherspoon with one of his model waitersCredit: Jam Press
Khloe Kardashian is also a fan


Khloe Kardashian is also a fanCredit: Jam Press

“I spent two months homeless in LA, sleeping in a tent in Point Mugu, in my car, on friends’ floors and a blow-up bed in an office,” Ernest, who is originally from Russia, said.

“I was camping at Point Mugu but I hadn’t paid for the space because I couldn’t afford it.

“There were plenty of nights when I was the only person out there and it was pretty terrifying.

“I would lay in my sleeping bag and hear wolves and bears moving around.

“As I was camping there illegally, one night I came back and discovered the park rangers had taken my tent down.

“Literally, my ‘house’ was gone. From then on I started sleeping in my car, which was also pretty scary but surprisingly comfortable.

“I tried to protect my mum from knowing exactly what was going on but even still she begged me to come home – what mother wouldn’t freak out knowing her son was homeless.

“I knew I had to stay though, I was so sure I was going to be successful. I was never scared about the future.

“Looking back, that time was actually one of the best times in my life.

“I was completely free and focused on my future and not long after I found a job on Rodeo Drive serving at a hotel and got myself a place to live in LA.”

It was while waiting tables at celebrity haunt Chateau Marmont that Ernest first got his million dollar idea for Runway Waiters, the company that would see him rubbing elbows with celebrities and raking in the cash.

Ernest was working as a model, but needed another job


Ernest was working as a model, but needed another jobCredit: Jam Press

He said: “I was modelling but I needed another job so I started working there and I quickly realised that they only hire good-looking men and women, without actually stating so.

“A lot of the people there were on the same books as me.

“I thought, ‘I could do this but instead of just going after pretty people I could work exclusively with signed models’.

“At the time I was also working for a catering company that would hire ‘good-looking’ people for events because certain clients, like fashion brands, would ask that staff were ‘presentable’, which really means attractive.

“I asked the catering company to give me a chance to put together a team for them and that was really where it began.

“Our first event was for Armani and I put together 10 to 15 male models to serve, and these weren’t just handsome guys, these were agency-signed models that were all over 6ft and looked incredible.

“We worked with Brent Bolthouse [known from MTV’s The Hills] and that’s where it all started, through word-of-mouth.”


Founded in 2014 by Ernest, Runway Waiters is now the go-to service for big name stars such as Justin Bieber, Simon Cowell and DJ Khaled.

Even the Dalai Lama has got in on the action, hiring 50 models for an event.

And it’s easy to understand why: the company only hires servers who are also signed to top modelling agencies like Wilhelmina, Ford Models and IMG, among others.

But the agency claims it’s not “discriminating”, but simply filling a gap.

Ernest said: “The catch is that if they want to work for us they have to be signed to a top model agency.

“It’s not discriminating against what people look like because it’s a requirement of the job to be a signed model.”

Many previous employees have seen their careers skyrocket since donning an apron and becoming better acquainted with a tray of crab puffs.

Matt Le Blanc has attended one of his parties


Matt Le Blanc has attended one of his partiesCredit: Jam Press

This includes model and actor Taylor Zakhar, who after serving cocktails for Runways Waiters has now shot to fame as Joey King’s love interest Marco in the Netflix franchise Kissing Booth films.

Then there’s Broderick Hunter, who regularly appears in magazines such as Cosmopolitan, Maxim, Essence and Vogue, and Andrew Gray, and who stars on Bling Empire.

And it’s not just the men.

Former waitress Hailee Keanna Lautenbach has also starred in a string of films including Handsome: A Netflix Mystery Movie and Logan Paul’s Outta My Hair.

Meanwhile sisters Pyper America and Daisy Clementine Smith have both walked for high end designers Giorgio Armani, Dolce & Gabbana, Cushnie et Ochs, Philipp Plein, Moschino and Ermanno Scervino.  

Today the company staffs multiple markets such as New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Atlanta, Miami, Chicago, Dallas and Austin and the business turns over over $3 million in revenue per year.

While Ernest’s team might be certifiably beautiful, they are still there to do a job and it’s essential that they do it well.

Though they do occasionally get some odd requests to fulfil for clients – like the A-lister who wanted them to wear diapers.

He said: “It’s vital that every waiter is good at what they do, they must be polite and friendly and hard workers.

“The team always wears basic catering attire.

“Black shirts, trousers, shoes, socks and a black skinny tie for the men, and women wear classy black cocktail dresses and black closed toe heels.

“Once, a client wanted our models to wear diapers for his baby shower.

“We compromised and the models wore onesies with giant pacifier necklaces.

“We do have to draw the line with clientele at times – they are still agency-signed models after all.

“Another time we had a high-end fashion brand request only models that could speak Mandarin.

“And once a client flew models from LA to Hawaii to serve a Prince who was there on his family vacation.”

When it comes to keeping details under wraps, Ernest is the height of discretion but reveals that not all clients ask the team to sign NDAs.

The formerly struggling young man who is now making millions also has a dream client: Queen Elizabeth II.

He said: “Queen Elizabeth II would be quite the interesting client.

“Imagine a bunch of male models for Her Majesty! I would love to be a fly on the wall at that ball.”

The next step for Runway Waiters is partnering with brands to produce events, as well as supply staff – with the company already having worked with Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Adidas.

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