Song muse, entrepreneur, author, podcast host, speaker. Steph Claire Smith's resume has grown since she first starred on our cover in late 2017. She still models – for brands such as Baby-G, Bras N Things and Bondi Sands – but it’s in the business space that she now spends most of her time. There’s sunnies brand Soda and swim label Midnight Co., both of which she co-founded, but her number one baby is Keep It Cleaner (KIC).
Launched by Steph and best friend Laura Henshaw, the KIC empire now includes a lifestyle program (workouts, meal plans, mindfulness), app, podcast, book (A Girl’s Guide to Kicking Goals), wellness retreat and foodie products from protein bars to pasta. Not bad for what started back in 2015 as a recipe ebook.
“We had about 20 spelling mistakes that my mum liked to point out to me when we launched,” recalls Steph, laughing. “So apologies to anyone who had the original ebook! Any mistakes ... we learn from.”
It’s that attitude of always learning and listening that’s proving to be a kickarse success formula.
“The biggest challenge [in a business sense] is that Laura and I are bosses, which is so weird to say. We’ve got such an amazing team [at KIC] and we’re lucky that we’ve found people who are so passionate about our baby. But it has been difficult for us to navigate how [to manage people]. To put that serious head on and take my heart out of it sometimes is hard – for both Laura and I. I think it’s going to be a forever-learning thing, which we are totally fine with.
"For a long time, Laura and I were just called models and influencers. People put us in a stereotypical category, [ignoring] all the hard work we do. Being a model and an influencer is still hard work, and I still love doing that, but – for us – when we were putting so many hours into the business but never quite being called ‘businesswomen’ or ‘entrepreneurs’ [was disappointing] ... or, if we said we were, people would look at us [strangely]. But now I think it’s pretty well known how hard we both work.
My advice? Just stay true to yourself and really do your best to surround yourself with people who do support and believe in you. If there’s someone who’s bothering you with the way they treat you, it’s OK to say, ‘Hey, I don’t appreciate how you’re making me feel.’ It’s not a weakness [to voice that].”
“Our [KIC] podcast is a place where Laura and I can dive right into our emotions and opinions. Sometimes the things we post on Instagram can be taken the wrong way, so it’s nice to have that platform now, too. When I listen to myself on a podcast, it’s kind of intimidating, but I’ve been getting used to it.
We’re also launching into Woolworths ... with 20 sports and diet products. The main thing I’m super excited about is our protein powder, because that’s something we get asked about almost daily in the community. Ours is clean, it’s yummy, it blends well. We’ve got five flavours: berry, chocolate, vanilla, which is my favourite, plus salted caramel and espresso. And then we’ve got more protein bars, bliss balls and electrolyte waters.
Every time we do something like a fitness expo or workout event, we love meeting and working out with the girls. So, we’re also thinking about doing an Australia-wide – and even New Zealand [wide] – tour towards the end of the year.”
Read more of our chat with Steph – covering her love of weights, what’s in the KIC pipeline and the other babies in her future – in the July issue of Women's Health, on sale now.