Unless you’ve taken your digital detox way too far and have totally lost touch with the wonderful world of social media, chances are you’re familiar with Pia Muehlenbeck.
We often see her flaunting her bangin’ bod in a bikini on some exotic island somewhere, but behind the edited reel of life is an honest, genuine and hard-working woman who very inspiringly took a leap of faith and left her cushy corporate job in law to follow her creative visions.
Not only has she managed to make Instagram her most powerful business tool (hello, two million followers and kudos for outsmarting that damn algorithm), she’s also the founder of SLINKII, an eco-friendly activewear label that is sustainably designed using recycled fishing nets.
To top it off, her and fiancé Kane are full-time lifestyle and travel vloggers (the holiday-envy is real), not to mention she’s currently working as the market editor for GRAZIA. Phew, we’re getting tired just thinking about it.
Recently, Pia invited us into her stunning Sydney home where we chatted about all things work and play (more work than play) and of course, what she does to maintain that rig.
How did you get to where you are today?Tell us about your transition from studying law to becoming an influencer, founder of your own company and Grazia Market Editor.
Whilst I was at university, I spent hours and hours hunched over textbooks and started to have quite a sore back, so I would set alarms on my phone to force myself to stop, take a break and do yoga. At the same time I had a health and wellness blog (that had pretty much no traffic!) called SLINKII. Because I was doing so much yoga at the time, I started to write an article on the best yoga mats and I noticed there was a gap in the market for eco-friendly yoga mats that were not made from harmful PVC.
Around this time I left university and took my first law role. Despite having almost no spare time, I set out to find manufacturers that could produce mats that were environmentally friendly, and my fiancé and I ended up spending almost all of our savings on a bulk order of mats.
Once it came time to actually start selling the mats we had zero marketing budget, so Kane and I decided to take photos myself with the mats in the hope of selling some to my friends on Instagram. At that time I had about 500 followers. Incredibly one of my friends owned a studio, and actually asked to order 100 mats, and from that point we were off!
I immediately realised that Instagram was going to be a powerful advertising mechanic for us, and so we would spend our weekends taking photos, and I would post consistently every weekday. Within a few weeks my account started to grow, I took the risk and quit my job and within a year I had almost 1 million followers, and thanks to Instagram, a thriving e-commerce business.
“As much as I loved working in the legal world, I just felt that I wanted to be my own boss, naively I think I thought I’d have more spare time, although in reality I work more than ever now, but I love it.”
At what point did you realise you could make blogging your full-time career?
Once I hit around 80k followers, I started to have modelling agencies offer me money to post products on my feed. As my account grew, so did the revenue, so that part of my business happened very organically.
While many influencers narrow in on just one category, your Instagram spans across many. Do you think this has been a help or a hindrance in setting you apart from other influencers? Why?
I really respect influencers who have a focus on one niche. Although personally, I used to love following lifestyle bloggers who covered all aspects of their lives, so that’s what I chose to work towards. Neither avenue is right or wrong, however for me, I really love that every day is so different due to the variety of brands that I now work with.
What advice would you give to someone who’s thinking about changing his or her career direction?
For me, the very cliché phrase YOLO rings true. If the opportunity permits you to chase your dreams and enjoy your every day, why wouldn’t you? Obviously it’s not always easy, but even if things don’t work out, at least you know you gave it your best shot and gained some life experiences. I was fortunate, my fiancé gave me a six month window, he agreed to pay rent and bills for six months, and if my business idea didn’t work out, we agreed I would go back to work. It was a great motivator to give it my 100% and thankfully it paid off.
“Sometimes it’s essential to take that huge risk and lay everything on the line because then you leave yourself no option other than to succeed.”
With so much on, do you work from the Grazia office or mostly remote?
The internet is my friend! So long as I have a laptop, I’m good to go. It means that even when I’m travelling I’m still able to do everything I need.
Can you tell us about your morning routine? How important is this for you?
I start at 5:45, usually I’m a zombie around the house for the first 30 minutes, it takes me ages to come to life. Then I hit the gym at 6.30 for an hour, and then try to squeeze in 30 minutes of yoga after. From there, I walk the dog with Kane and we have our WIP on the go.
Then our day really depends on what I’ve got booked, my e-comm business is now a (quite) well-oiled machine, so that enables me to spend more time creating content and growing my other channels, all of which ultimately help with the growth of SLINKII.
At 8pm we finish work, shut the door the office and switch off. I find having time away from work is so essential to maintain a happy balance in life.
What’s the most amazing thing you’ve had the chance to do because of your job?
Travel. As a child I always dreamt of hosting a TV show a little bit like Getaway. Now thanks to social media, I’m able to visit some really amazing places on earth, and run a business from a laptop. That’s been really rewarding.
You juggle a bunch of different commitments — how do you go about balancing everything, staying sane and healthy?
When your run our own business it can be really hard to ‘switch off’ sometimes, but Kane and I make sure that we prioritise the things in life that we value outside of work. It’s incredibly important to schedule in time for yourself just to enjoy. We make sure we spend lots of time with family and friends, we try to take one day a week completely ‘off’ and we priorities exercise and wellbeing.
What types of exercise do you find most effective for your body?
I mix up my workouts quite often to avoid getting bored, but I regularly do Pilates, yoga and weight training. When the weather is good I’ll swap that for a run around the city.
How often do you workout? What’s the average length of your sweat session?
6 days a week. Sundays is usually my rest day, oh, and also my cheat day!
Do you practice mindfulness?
Not specifically, but I do feel that yoga forces me to be mindful whilst practicing.
Do you follow a particular diet or subscribe to any health trends? Take any supplements, beauty blends or superfood powders?
As fascinating as diets and health trends are, there is no getting away from the fact that a good clean diet with a lot of colourful veggies is always going to be the best thing for you. I do supplement my diet with vegan protein, and I sip on BCAA’s during the day with my water.
To be honest, there are so many different facets to my business that it’s impossible to describe an average day. No two days are the same! Some days are photoshoot days, some days are travel days, sometimes I’m working on our new SLINKII pieces, and sometimes I’m in meetings working on new collaborations. Whilst the lack of routine can be a little tough sometimes, the variety is actually what I love about what I do. It keeps every day super interesting!
As someone who travels a lot, what are some of your jet-setting beauty essentials?
Face wipes – as soon as I’m on that plane, off comes my make up. It stops me breaking out as soon as I land!
Can you take us through your AM beauty routine? Any favourite products?
I’m trying to cut out as many chemicals from my routine as I can so I love using natural products like coconut oil as moisturiser. It keeps my skin looking glow and hydrated, plus I get to smell like summer!
What items are you currently wearing on repeat?
I’m actually loving the 90s vibe making a real comeback so I’ve been constantly wearing slip dresses, slingback heels, and a sunglass chain.
With such a large Instagram following, it’s safe to say you’re an inspiration to many. Who do you look to for lifestyle or style inspiration? Is there anyone you insta-stalk?
Right now I’m loving everything that Camila Coehlo does. She can put no foot wrong!
Being a modern day role model in the new age of social media, how concerned are you with the message you are sending to the younger generation? What message do you try to send?
My average audience age is 24-35, so I’m quite fortunate that my followers are very receptive to the eco-friendly message I try to put out. My swimwear is made from recycled fishing nets and it’s been so well received. My aim for this year is to create more products that focus on sustainable production.
What’s your 2017 career highlight? And what do you have planned for 2018?
It’s not really a career highlight, but I did get engaged in the palace in Versailles last year, and this year whether I like it or not, my focus is going to be my wedding! I apologise in advance for all the wedding spam that is coming this year!
Just a couple of quick questions…
3 things you’ll always find in my fridge: Bottles of cold water. Lemons. Dark chocolate.
Most people probably don’t know this about me, but: English is my second language.
If sugar were a superfood, my diet would consist of: My mum’s tiramisu for literally every meal.
I’m inspired by: Seeing so much creativity out there. I think social media has provided an incredible platform for people from all walks of life to get creative and do what they truly love.
The advice I’d give my 20-year-old self: Don’t doubt yourself. Just go for it, work hard and don’t look back.
Favourite emoji: The giggling monkey.
Favourite café: Bills.
Song on repeat ATM: I seem to have Frank Sinatra on repeat right now!