Have a look at Aussie fitness influencers Steph Claire Smith and Laura Henshaw’s respective Instagrams and you’d think they have it all. And to an extent, they do. Together, the former models are now co-founders of global fitness app Kic, they’ve got their fitness and nutrition on lock, and they’re both in healthy, happy marriages – with Steph also mum to two-year-old son Harvey. But if ever there was an interview that proves social media is just a ‘highlights reel’, it's this one.
From dealing with 12-hour days (including Steph scheduling in daily sex with her partner Josh), to Laura being pitted against Steph and her larger social media following and Steph’s experience with therapy, the pair were refreshingly honest about real life.
It’s this candour that has got them where they are today; Kic was conceived in 2015, after the duo bonded over body shaming during their modelling careers. ‘My entire worth became tied to my weight, and I was weighing myself up to three times a day,’ says Laura. ‘While it was one of the lowest points so far for me, I am so grateful that I went through it as it enabled Steph and I to connect and for Kic to be born. We wanted to create a safe place for the community to get fit and healthy in a sustainable way, without pressure to change the way they look.’
700,000 global downloads later and it’s clear they’ve succeeded, but their journey hasn’t been a linear one. Here’s proof that even the most savvy businesswomen struggle, and what Steph and Laura do to manage.
You’re both very transparent about mental health on social media, can you tell us about a time you have struggled and how you overcame this?
Laura: It is so important to remember that nothing is at it seems on the outside (especially on social media). For me, one of my lowest points was about 10 years ago. I was modelling overseas and got caught up in diet culture. I went from never thinking about my body to it being the centre of my world. My entire worth became tied to my weight, and I was weighing myself up to 3 times a day. I remember I had a ‘goal’ weight that I had to deprive my body of nutrients and excessively exercise to reach, and I thought when I got there I would be so happy. I truly believed that if I hit this weight, I would finally feel like I was enough.
I will never forget the day I stood on the scales and my goal weight came up in front of me and instead of feeling fulfilled, I felt empty. I looked at my body and still didn’t feel good enough.
Building Kic was what helped me get back to myself. I wanted to help other women going through the same, and doing so became the most special silver lining.
Steph: I’ve seen a psychologist a few times to work through negative emotions I feel. I idolise positive, selfless individuals who seem to always have a glass half full attitude. Sometimes I judge myself too harshly if I ever think or feel something that doesn't fit within those traits, and the snowball effect just leaves me exploding in an emotional way that I then later regret. I’ve come to accept all emotions, rather than labelling them good or bad, or positive and negative, I just try my best to acknowledge them and work through them.
You’ve both gone from models to businesswomen, how have you found that transition?
Laura: Tough. Alongside modelling and waitressing, I was studying law and business at university, so I did imagine one day I would have a CEO (or dreamed) role, but I never thought it would be as early in my career.
I am challenged every single day and put a lot of pressure on myself to meet the really high expectations I put on myself. With our mission being something that we are so incredibly passionate about, which I am so grateful for, it really does increase the pressure to do the best job I possibly can, to make sure we are making more impact.
Imposter syndrome and thoughts of self-doubt pop into my mind daily. I used to think ‘when we have done X’ or ‘ticked off X goal’, the imposter syndrome would go away but I have actually felt it is quite the opposite. The more ‘success’ we have had with Kic, the scarier it gets.
Steph: Oh, they’re so different. The biggest difference for me is going from being responsible only for myself, to then a business and a team! However, there are also some similarities; I have been able to carry over some of the strengths I have from my modelling career, like confidence. But do I doubt myself as a businesswoman? Yes, sometimes, but other times I feel incredibly proud and sure of myself.
How do you both balance working such long hours with exercising and your home and social lives?
Laura: It is definitely a balance that I have to say, never feels balanced. I usually get to the office around 8-8:30am and get home between 6:30-7pm, then I will have dinner with my husband, Dalt, and then more often than not will jump back on my laptop to finish everything I didn’t get done in the day (which always feels like a massive list).
I try to get my Kic workout done in the morning, as I find that makes such a difference to how my day goes and is my ‘me time’ each day. On the weekends, I do try and take some extra time away from work and balance this with creating content or finishing off my weekly tasks.
I definitely don’t always get it right and struggle with maintaining my output and not burning out. I try to not do too many huge weeks in a row, and so will try and get in some extra me time in the weeks around these to prevent burnout.
There are moments each day I think ‘My goodness, can I actually do this?’ but there hasn’t been a moment yet that I haven’t been able to work through, so I try to focus on that. We are also so incredibly lucky to do what we do, and with our mission being so closely tied to our hearts and helping people feel confident in who they are, I find the energy each day.
I 100% couldn’t do it without our community, our incredibly supportive and amazing team and of course, Steph, my rock.
Steph: The way I like to explain the juggle is that the weeks are always off balance, but that’s okay.
Some weeks we have early starts and late nights in the office, which means I might not make bedtime with Harvey, and I might not always have time for a workout before work. But then other weeks, there's a little more flexibility.
You can only control so much, and I realised that the moment I let go of trying to have this perfectly balanced routine where I got X amount of time with Harvey, worked a decent but not overwhelming amount, got my workouts in, daily walks and then time with friends and family too, I was able to just take each week as it came and release the pressure of it looking or feeling perfect. My dream week for workouts is one or two Kic strength training sessions in the gym, along with two at home Kic Pilates flows, daily short coffee walks and a long walk on the weekend.
There was a time that I decided to commit to having sex with Josh daily for 30 days, to avoid dry spells. It worked really well, but it wasn’t easy. Sex certainly felt like a task at times, for the both of us, but what the challenge really showed us was how much better everything is when you connect physically, regularly.
Post the challenge, it’s not as if we continued having sex everyday… but what we were able to do was prioritise setting that time aside each week to connect. Everyone's idea of a dry spell is different, just as everyone's idea of ‘regular sex’ is different too - it really comes down to what works for the both of you. But if you are looking to shake it up, to build back up a habit of prioritising each other, give it a go.
How do you both deal with comparison culture?
Laura: As two women working together, we get compared all the time. For a long time, people commented that I was “riding on the back of Steph’s big following” and this was something that I struggled with internally. I found by accepting I was “option two”, I wouldn’t have to deal with rejection each time, as it became the default.
I am so lucky to have such a supportive best friend and business partner in Steph who never made me feel this way (it was more just inside my own head). It is so easy to get caught up in the comparison trap, and for me what really helped was really working on my confidence. Steph and I are our own people, we are both really different, and that is what makes our partnership magical.
We both feel really equal in the business, in terms of where we add value, the work we do, and this has been hugely pivotal in our success for both the business but also for our friendship.
Steph: When I was modelling, I’d fall into this trap daily, and I was comparing my appearance, body measurements and how successful I’d been as a model so far – it’s a competitive industry, particularly when it’s your full time job.
But when I started to move away from the industry and dive more into Kic, I was able to see the beauty in everyone as individuals themselves, for who they are and how they choose to live their lives. I’ve found my idea of happiness and success, and I try to remind myself of those things whenever the comparison trap rears its head. Regularly moving my body helps to process some of these thoughts and self-judgement, and journaling helps me be honest and clear with myself when I feel lost.
You are big proponents of exercise for mental health, but a lot of women still exercise to achieve a certain appearance/look a certain way, do you ever experience this and how do you overcome it?
Steph: It’s ingrained in us to be motivated by physical change. We have been taught how to hate ourselves and pick our bodies apart. It’s a learned behaviour, it’s not something we’re born with, but it can take years and years to overcome. Body trends come and go (so sad when you think about it, like our bodies can go in and out of fashion!). So yes, sometimes the thought does creep into my mind. However, it's not my main motivator, and that is what we encourage for our community as well. Find a more purposeful and sustainable WHY, and you’re more likely to enjoy the journey and lifestyle itself.
What has been the hardest part about running Kic so far?
Steph: Feeling like I have no idea what I am doing at times. I’ve always been someone who has stuck to their strengths, however with the size of the team, and the nature of what we do, we often have to wear other hats, challenge ourselves, and sit in places that aren’t super comfortable. But we have each other, and I have learnt that it’s okay to not always know the answer to everything.
What has been the best part about running Kic so far?
Steph: Easily the feedback from the community. When we hear how we’ve positively impacted people’s lives, their confidence, perception of themselves or relationship with food and/or exercise, there is nothing more rewarding than that.
What has surprised you most about launching Kic in the UK?
Steph: It’s just so surreal that people from all over the world know about us! When we recently held events in London, it was incredible to meet some of the faces that we have gotten to know virtually in our Facebook community.
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