Getting to know Pia Muehlenbeck
Meet Pia Muehlenbeck, mega influencer with 2M+ IG followers, and 395k+ YT subscribers. Pia is my absolute favourite aussie gal – she is genuine, lighthearted, goofy and drop dead gorgeous. Not to mention, her sidekick and hubby, Kane, is equally hilarious making her entire community laugh (including myself) on a daily basis. Pia and Kane started Instagram mainly as a photography passion, and this passion has flourished into what they refer to today as the Pika Crew. Pia and Kane bring their community along for all of their travel adventures, as well as Pia’s business endeavours including her lifestyle and fitness brand, Slinkii. After saying this, it may not come as a surprise, when you hear Pia is also equally hard working, dedicated and business oriented.
So how did the beautiful Pia Muehlenbeck skyrocket to 2M+ followers? Let’s find out!
When did you first start using social media?
So first off before I answer this question, I want to give a bit more background into how this all started. I used to be a junior lawyer – I graduated from university and got my first job in a law firm right in the middle of the city and I worked there for a year. At the same time, I was running this tiny blog, called Slinkii that I had created myself. Being a lawyer was quite dry and mundane, and it didn’t have a big interaction component, so I used my blog as a creative outlet. It touched upon health and wellness, fun recipes, homemade salt scrubs etc.
Despite having low website traffic, I truly enjoyed it and it was very therapeutic for me. I was gearing up to write a blog post on the best yoga mats, which of course, led me down a rabbit hole in terms of what they were made out of. My research revealed that yoga mats were made out of Polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which is one of the most environmentally hazardous consumer materials ever produced – it is harmful to the environment, as well as human health throughout its entire life cycle of production, use and disposal, as it never biodegrades. I found this so incredibly ironic because Yogis are typically associated with being environmental and conscious beings, but their main tool was extremely harmful to their own health as well as the environment. I came home to Kane one night and said “I have an idea. I want to make eco-friendly yoga mats. Let’s research this, I think there is a gap in the market”
After this, we started working on Slinkii, and speaking to people in India and Bangladesh and creating yoga mats. I had zero money, I had just finished uni and Kane and I were living in this tiny apartment with $3000 in savings between the both of us. We spent all of this money trying to create eco-friendly yoga mats, and set aside a tiny amount for our future marketing budget. Once I was very happy with composition, I decided “okay let’s do this, and sell them on my blog Slinkii.” After this, we turned Slinkii into an e-comm store, and still had the blog running on it as well.
This is where the mishaps started. We had 500 units delivered to our tiny apartment, and you literally could not move, there were yoga mats absolutely everywhere. Also, all of the tiny little labels arrived with our branding logo sewn on upside down, so I had to go to a local seamstress and pay her to unstitch and restitch all of the logos back on correctly, so this essentially wiped out our marketing budget. SO, we were left with 500 yoga mats, no money, and absolutely no idea on how to market them!
Regardless, Kane and I got our things together, went to the park, and shot photos of myself on this yoga mat planning to post them on instagram, and this was at a time, when I was only at 300 followers and well before influencer marketing on social media was even established. After posting them to instagram, a few days later, we got an email from a girl who opened up a yoga studio in Sydney, and said “I saw your IG post, and I’ll take 100 units of your yoga mats.” So we packed up a big van, drove them over to her studio, and this is really what kicked off our little business venture.
For the first four or five months, I would go to the law firm all day, then come home, do all the customer service emails, packaging & labelling for shipments, and then the next morning, I’d go to the post office and ship everything manually before heading back to the law firm for the entire day.
Pia started her blogging journey in 2016, and hit under 1M followers in only a year with an average following of 4000 to 5000 new people every day. Daily Mail wrote an article about Pia’s tremendous growth on socials and Snapchat picked it up and shared it to their home page. This article led to 115,000 followers in only ONE day.
Walk me through the step-by-step process that you went through to get to where you are today. What was the first thing you did? Next?
So I definitely dove deep in the previous question about our journey, but after 4 or 5 months, I quit my job as a lawyer, and after a year or so, Kane quit his job.
After we launched the yoga mats, we were making great sales. With these sales, we’d take those profits and would create one little set of sportswear, and then the next little set of sportswear. While we were focusing on growing our business Slinkii, my personal instagram was also growing. With that growth, we started to have other brands reaching out asking us to create content for them as well. Without even realizing it, we created two businesses simultaneously.
In terms of our diary vlog series, it goes back to when Kane quit his job. The same day he quit is also the same day he decided to pick up his camera and start filming our entire day and our first ever vlog was the worst thing EVER.
How long was it before your social media platforms became profitable? How did you live through those first few months/years? Did you have any struggles?
Essentially, I still worked my lawyer job for 4 or 5 months and I gave myself a personal goal of how many yoga mats I needed to sell before I felt comfortable quitting my entire law career. Once we hit that number, I thought to myself, “I am young, this is my one opportunity, and if I don’t do this now, I may end up 10-20 years down the road thinking why didn’t I do this thing that I’m absolutely dreaming about doing.”
Kane also stayed in his job to ensure rent and other items would be covered, and he gave me 6 months. He said, “you got 6 months to make this happen and if it doesn’t pan out, you have to go back to work.” So he gave me a little fire and incentive to make it happen.
What did you do prior to influencing on social media? If you weren’t an influencer, what would be your dream job?
Prior to influencing on social media, I studied law and I started working in commercial law as a junior lawyer but to be quite honest, I never really saw myself as a practicing solicitor. I always thought, “this is a great degree to have, but I knew I’d always pursue a business or start my own business one day.”
I was raised by a single mother, who started her own business and I always found this to be so inspiring. She had no financial funding or partner support, and she started a business of her own and really made it work. So overall, I never look back and regret doing law school. I am so grateful for it, as I utilize those skills daily. Mainly because SO much of what we do is contract negotiations.
There is a show called, Getaway (a travel show), and when I was growing up, I always watched it, and thought it was such a cool job because it gave you the opportunity to travel the world. I think subconsciously we created a channel that was a culmination of our dream jobs, mainly because we are so lucky to say, we travel the world A LOT!
What are your thoughts on social media? And what do you think is the most commonly misunderstood thing about social media?
I think social media to an extent is an individual experience, and what I mean by that is we need to remember we are the ones in control of what we choose to consume, who we decide to follow, what we decide to engage with, and ALSO, as a content creator, we can curate our own community as well.
In terms of negativity, I’ve never had time for that unless the comments are constructive feedback. If they are bullying or harassment, I simply block and delete, and I’ve done this for a number of years, and I think because of this, my experience on social media has been very positive. It does give you the opportunity to connect with people all over the world, and you have the ability to make someone smile all the way in Europe when you are sitting here in Australia and I think that is such a powerful tool of connectivity. However, I do find people use it in a negative way, and that’s sad to see as well. If individuals are feeling this way, I always recommend taking a step back from it, regain control and either remove the apps, or re-organize your feed to curate a better community.
What negative assumptions, if any, have been made about you via social media?
If there is plain bullying, I don’t entertain it or respond to it. The main thing that I do get is people assume that I have wealthy parents and I have never worked a day in my life.
Meanwhile the reality is I was raised by a single mother, I had to get a scholarship to even be able to afford university/college. In addition, I’ve always set crazy high goals for myself, buckled down, and ultimately worked extremely hard for everything I have.
Tell us something about yourself that your followers don’t know
I speak fluent German, I was born in Germany and English was my second language. I always see people out on the street, and even when German people come up to me, they are always so shocked when I can speak fluent German.
The other thing is that I was the biggest nerd at school – my dedication to my academics led to me gaining a scholarship for school, and I also graduated with first class honours at law school.
Of all the gifted packages you receive as an influencer, which product/item excites you the most? What would be your dream brand to collab with?
When I was first starting out, I thought it was so exciting to receive PR packages. More recently, I have decided to accept less gifts purely because I noticed that the packaging was so extravagant and wasteful especially in the beauty industry. You’d get these amazing packages sent to you, but when you’d pull out the products, the product would be tiny, and the packaging would be massive. I’ve started to really appreciate brands that go that extra mile in sending you packages that are reusable. I am more likely to showcase a brand on my socials if the packaging is unique, reusable, and something I can actually use for the long haul.
In terms of my dream brand collaboration, I truly feel I’ve already worked with many of my dream brands. However, I would love to work with more high end retailers such as Versace and Bvlgari. In addition, there are two companies that we work very closely with: tourism board and Qantas – they both are creating experiences for us to travel and explore in the right way, and I feel this is what we are focusing on.
Who are three of the most important, and influential people in your life? and why?
My mom, Kane & my sister.
My mom is the most insanely inspiring woman – she moved us from Germany to Australia when she barely spoke any English, and raised my sister and I on her own whilst working a few jobs. She worked extremely hard to create a nice environment for us, and we never felt like we were in a position of “wanting more” as kids. Being an adult now, I can see how difficult that must have been to do. On top of this, she has instilled the importance of goal setting, and work ethic in me, and at the same time, this fun spirit, enjoy the moment/journey attitude too. She always said, “if you aren’t enjoying yourself, then what’s the point?”
Kane made me realize that I could have a fun, creative life. Since we work so closely together now, I really couldn’t do what I do without Kane, and vice versa. We compliment each other so well with his creative background and my law background.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give to an aspiring influencer if you only had a few minutes to give them your best tip?
Consistency is key. It is not an overnight thing – it’s about finding something you love, getting that content done, and posting consistently. You cannot grow an audience or community overnight, and a lot of people I notice especially on Youtube, will create videos for a bit, then realize how much work it is, and they give up due to low traction.
When I started Youtube, I had 1M followers on instagram, so when we hopped on Youtube, we thought it’d be easy and everyone would head over to Youtube to subscribe. This wasn’t the case, and made us realize that each platform needs to have their own attention for a specific period of time before it really takes off. It’s about sticking with it, believing in yourself, and not giving up. It could take years for your big break.
Also, ensure you are creating content that you are really passionate about, because if you are in it for the money, TRUST ME, don’t do it. You are going to put in A LOT of hours for a while before you see a massive return. But, once it does come to fruition, you can truly create your own dream job.
Where can you expect to see from this dynamic duo in the next 10 years?
The good news is Pia confirmed that she will always keep up the content creation side of the business, BUT her focus has begun to shift, as her entrepreneurial spirit continues to ignite.
You may be asking what does that mean? Well, Pia may have revealed to the BTG community that she is planning on creating more businesses in the near future with her hubby, Kane (but shhh! Keep it hush hush). These businesses will focus on environmental sustainability similar to her current business venture, Slinkii. This venture will focus on creating products that are natural and recycled, and ultimately, Pia plans to use her current influence to amplify sustainability and push that movement forward. Pia has acknowledged her extensive travel adventures, and plans to continue to be mindful on how she can travel in a more conscious and thoughtful way, as she feels honoured to be able to share these experiences with her followers who may not have the privilege of getting to do so themselves.
In summary, you can expect more content, more travel, and more businesses from this superwoman. Does it get any better than that? If you want to follow along with Pia’s journey, be sure to follow her @piamuehlenbeck, and don’t miss her goofy vlogs with Kane on their youtube.
Who are some of Pia’s biggest inspirations?