If you’re an avid Yogi or love sourcing the latest activewear, then you’ve most likely discovered SLINKII Athletic.
Founded by former Lawyer Pia Muehlenbeck and Photographer Kane Vato, SLINKII unites high-end casual styling with performance fabrics to create a sportswear label unlike any other.
Not only is this a brand breathing life in to the luxe sportswear market, but SLINKII aims to inspire environmental preservation with its Plant A Tree initiative, to provide financial support to the One Tree Planted organisation.
But what sets SLINKII apart (and has Woman Rising very interested to know more) was the label’s ability to grow rapidly without any investment in traditional advertising or marketing campaigns – just authentic word of mouth and a very savvy Instagram account.
To learn more about SLINKII’s journey from blog to business and everything in between, Woman Rising chats with Pia to kick off our In Her Shoes Summer Series.
Firstly, let’s get the facts:
Name: Pia Muehlenbeck
Business: SLINKII Athletic
Location: Sydney, Australia / Online
Year Launched: 2014 (as a store) 2011 (as a blog)
Q: What was your professional journey before starting your business and how did your biz concept spark?
I actually am a fully qualified lawyer. I trained for 5 years to work in law, and graduated with first-class honours.
Originally SLINKII was a blog. I was studying, and to be quite honest I needed an escape. I loved training and fitness so I would force myself to take breaks from studying so that I could do SLINKII-related things, try new workouts, recipes and training gear. I found it really relaxing. When I left University, and got a job in a law firm, I realised pretty quickly that the rat race wasn’t for me, and I wanted something different. I had fairly good traffic coming to my blog, so I decided to monetise it.
I loved Yoga (among other sports), but I realised a lot of mats were made from unhealthy substances, so I decided to make my own eco-friendly mats. From there it sort of snowballed, and I made a small range of supplementary gear, pants, tops and bras. Last month I launched a swimwear range, and my boyfriend and I are now working on a menswear range to launch before Christmas.
Q: What gave you the confidence to dive in at the beginning?
It was very daunting. Thankfully, I have a very supportive boyfriend who told me to give it my all, and not to worry because he would cover all our bills. Whilst it was a strain financially to rely on one income whilst living in the middle of the city, it was fantastic to be able to wake up and not worry about ‘living costs’ so I could fully focus on the business. It also gave me the confidence to dive in head first knowing that we could still afford dinner and a roof over our head.
Q: What has been some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced since launch and what lessons came from the experiences?
Scaleability. Social media is the main driving force in the growth of SLINKII. However, my personal social media has exploded over the last year which in turn has meant on more than one occasion we have been out of stock for extended periods, or we are up til the sun comes up picking and packing orders. Thankfully we are JUST getting a handle on that now. We’ve got more capable warehousing now, and staff, but it’s been a real struggle up until recently.
Q: How important is following your intuition in your business?
So important. To stand out and make a mark in the industry as a ‘little person’ you’ve got to take risks. On more than one occasion we’ve just thought ‘screw it, let’s do it this way’, and it’s paid off.
Q: What are 3 things you wish you knew then?
Hmmm, that’s tough. I’ve learnt way more than 3 things along this journey already! I guess my top three would be:
- Learn to delegate – I’m a bit of a perfectionist, so delegation doesn’t come naturally for me. But I force myself to allocate tasks out and it’s benefitted heaps.
- Hire people better than you – Neither myself or my boyfriend are amazing at every task within this sort of business operation, so one of the key things we’ve decided to do is outsource certain tasks to professionals in that field. Again, it sort of follows on from the first point, but to know someone better than you is doing something for your business that you are not great it, is not only humbling, but also reassuring.
- Start sooner – I started SLINKII as a blog long before I decided to switch it to a sports label, I just wish I’d done that sooner, because I know I’d be even further along by now!
Q: What is the key piece of advice you would provide others starting out?
NOT. DELAY. If you have an idea, research the competition, check if you have something cool and get started right away. I’ve got a few friends that are still talking to me about their ‘startup idea’ they had when I had my ‘startup idea’… Yet they haven’t gotten off the starting block, and that’s a shame. You’ll never start out with the perfect product or business, but making a start is better than going round in circles.
Q: What does it feel like to look back on what you have accomplished so far and know you have developed your own path?
I don’t really look back, I like to focus on the future… However I do often meet lawyers at varying stages of their career, and (unfortunately) not many of them enjoy their job, and most of them are working crazy-long hours making SOMEONE ELSE wealthy. We work long hours, but it’s so satisfying, I love waking up and making progress with SLINKII. When I meet lawyers not happy with their life choices it really just reminds me how grateful I am to have left the rat race and get started when I did. Every day makes me smile…. Plus I get to work with my boyfriend every day which is a bonus!
- A biz system/program/platform you can’t live without: Evernote – I make notes about EVERYTHING and it’s very handy to have all my notes available on every device.
- What keeps you motivated (aka professional motto): I know lots of people love them but, I don’t believe in motivational quotes or mottos. Just get your stuff done and make sure your work today is better than yesterday and you’ll build a good strong brand. It’s really that simple.
- Who do you admire in business: My mum – at 50+ years old, she’s recently started her own online business selling a natural eco-friendly tooth whitener called Warpaint, and she’s doing really really well. I’m so proud of her for her accomplishments especially seeing as her background is not online.
- When I started, I wish someone told me…. I was not going to get much sleep!!!
- One day I hope to…. own an animal conservation sanctuary.