In the years since health and wellness empire Keep It Cleaner launched, its co-founder Steph Claire Smith has learnt a thing or two about trusting her gut.
In fact, she thinks learning to trust her instincts is one of the best things she’s done as an entrepreneur. It’s also the advice she’d offer to fledgling entrepreneurs looking to be successful in their own venture.
Steph says she and her co-founder, Laura Henshaw (who is now the CEO of Keep It Cleaner) have made some massive decisions based on the advice of others, but when it comes down to it, they tend to know what’s best for their business.
“KIC is our baby, Laura and I are the ones who live and breathe it, and we’ve learnt the importance of backing ourselves,” Steph told Women’s Agenda recently.
In only a short time, Keep It Cleaner has become a world leading health, fitness, and wellness app that delivers a holistic wellness program to its users, providing a positive and like-minded community with Steph and Laura at the helm.
Steph spoke to Women’s Agenda ahead of her participation as a judge in an upcoming awards program for entrepreneurs, the Make It Awards. The contest will grant three emerging entrepreneurs and creators a $30,0000 grant to help them take their business to the next level.
Steph is also a new parent to her son, Harvey and has spent the last year learning how to navigate everything that comes with parenthood and business ownership. She says it took her a while, but ultimately learning to be kinder to herself was a massive milestone.
In the below Q&A, Steph shares some of her best advice for entrepreneurs, more about the Make It Awards, and why she loves working with her co-founder, Laura.
Steph is also hosting a panel discussion at Vivid Ideas Exchange on June 18th at the University of Technology, in a session called Squarespace Presents: What Does It Mean to ‘Make It’?
What advice would you give to fledgling entrepreneurs looking to start their own venture?
Determine your ‘WHY” and make sure you’re passionate about whatever it is that you’re putting out to the world. Running a business is really hard, there are just as many lows as there are highs. If your number one goal is financially driven, you’ll likely find it difficult to push through when your business is going through a lull, or taking a while to get off the ground.
If you’re doing it to escape the 9-5, I hate to be the one to break it to you, but you’ll no doubt end up putting in more time, especially in the early days! But when your business is something you’re truly passionate about, it makes it so much more enjoyable and the overtime is definitely worthwhile!
What do you like best about having a co-founder (in Laura) at Keep it Cleaner?
There’s so much to love about having Laura as my co-founder. When I’m having a day of self-doubt or overwhelm, Laura is there to boost my confidence, and vice versa. We’ve never had an argument, but we do challenge each other which I think is healthy in a business partnership.
We both bring different skill sets to the table. Last year Laura was appointed CEO of KIC, which I am so proud of and think she’s doing an incredible job at leading the business. For me, I’m a creative at heart. I love working closely with our marketing and tech teams to make sure our users are getting the best experience possible. I’m passionate about researching and strategising the new programs, workouts, recipes and experts we bring to KIC. I couldn’t imagine doing KIC without Laura, it definitely wouldn’t be where it is today if either of us went out on our own.
Could you share some of the lessons you’ve learnt in your first year of parenthood, particularly when it comes to juggling your career and business?
One of the biggest learnings is the importance of being patient and kind to myself, but trust me, it took me a while to discover this. When I first returned to the office, I loved being back with our team, but I definitely found the adjustment overwhelming. I would compare my current productivity to the workload I could get through before Harvey arrived – which as new mums we definitely shouldn’t do! I’d find myself getting overwhelmed in our board and financial meetings, and would put so much pressure on myself to understand absolutely everything being said, even though I had been away from the business for a matter of months.
Everyone around me, my family, Laura and the rest of the team, were telling me that I was doing an amazing job juggling work and mum life, but I personally didn’t believe this. I reminded myself that there are only so many hours in the day, and I can only achieve so much. It took me a while but I think as women, no matter where we work, we need to be kinder to ourselves as we re-enter the workforce, it’s a huge adjustment!
What inspired you to create KICBUMP and content around pregnancy and parenthood?
In May 2021, we launched KICBUMP, our pre & postnatal Pilates program, which happened to be one week after Harvey was born, the timing was crazy! Through this, we saw a massive spike in conversation around pregnancy and parenthood within our community. It was important to Laura and I that we created a safe and inclusive space to celebrate this exciting stage of life, without overwhelming our core KIC community. So, naturally KICBUMP, the podcast was born. Motherhood is now a huge part of who I am and I love that I have a dedicated space to really dive into the challenges and milestones I’m facing as a new mum. I’ve already had the opportunity to speak with some incredible women about really raw and important topics, but there’s so much to explore.
What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve received?
Trust my gut. We’ve made some big business decisions where we have ignored our own instincts and trusted someone purely based on their experience outside of our brand. KIC is our baby, Laura and I are the ones who live and breathe it, and we’ve learnt the importance of backing ourselves. We now have a senior advisory board that has our best interests in mind. They’re incredibly valuable to soundboard strategies and challenge our thoughts, but in the end, if something doesn’t feel right, we need to hit pause because deep down we know what’s best for our business.
Why did you want to be involved as a judge at the Make It Awards?
Launching and running my own business has been such an incredibly rewarding experience for me. I’m excited to be working with Squarespace to grant three emerging entrepreneurs, creators or small business owners $30,000. I’m looking forward to seeing the game-changing ideas that are brought to the table and meeting all the passionate small business owners along the way.
What will you be looking for when judging emerging entrepreneurs?
I’ll be on the hunt for businesses that present both innovative ideas and clear passion in their award submission. Community is a sweet spot for me, so businesses that have a positive impact on communities get a big tick from me.