The wellness industry is expanding at a breakneck pace, and women are leading the charge. Our new series profiles the brand founders and influencers who are breaking the mold. Follow along as we learn about the ins and outs of their daily gigs, how they're looking to change the collective conversation, and what they envision for the future of wellness.
It's almost startling to remember that roughly five years ago, Instagram was relatively new, the wellness industry mainly circled around boutique Spin classes and juice bars, and the term influencer certainly wasn't part of our daily lexicon. But in 2012, that's the very landscape Bianca Cheah stumbled into when she first launched her blog, Sporteluxe, born out of a personal passion for health, fitness, and fashion.
Now, the Aussie has long since established a reputation as one of the original fitness influencers, boasting 165,000 followers on the aforementioned social platform. Sporteluxe is now a bona fide digital publication with offices in Sydney and Los Angeles. She doesn't overlook the gratuitous timing of her come-up in the industry, as the fact that Instagram exploded in popularity as she was building a following certainly played a role in the growth of her company. But more credit is due to Cheah's hard work, business savvy, and foresight: Back when blogs felt more DIY than impeccably curated digital magazines, Cheah used her background in modeling and graphic design to create a digital brand that felt elevated and authoritative—which ultimately set her apart. And the rest, of course, is history.
Below, Cheah reveals what exactly it took to build her then-blog into the force it is today, her honest opinion on the word influencer, and the breathing technique she uses when stress creeps up in the workplace.
On pushing her vision when no one would take her seriously…
"Before Sporteluxe was born, I was very into my fashion and fitness blogs and I especially loved to read Elin Kling's blog every single day. I loved her style and everything she wrote about. She really inspired me to create my own blog. I also loved fitness, nutrition, and activewear. But I could never find a blog that fused all my passions of fashion, health, and wellness together. That's when I thought to start my own blog, creating my own content. And thus, Sporteluxe was born in December 2012.
"I didn't expect it to get as big as it did. It was more of an outlet for my passion. I'd also just graduated after studying interior design, so I was really looking to put my digital creativity to use. I was modeling, working as a waitress at night, and blogging during the days. It was hard at first. No one took me seriously, and I actually had people tell me to get a real job. But I persisted. I hustled PR agencies to send me press releases of new wellness product launches so I had something to write about. I asked them to add me to their media lists. I remember the first beauty event invite that came through. It was a favor from a PR agent. I think she felt sorry for me."
On finding her white space…
"I hustled every day, wrote hundreds of reviews, and worked with photographers to create as much content as possible for my blog. And because I was already a model, I'd always make sure that the quality of my images was A+ work, which is where my blog stood out from the rest. The look and feel was super chic, and the content that I was writing about gained a lot of attention. That's when my blog started growing organically. I'd found the gap in the market and everyone loved it. Not only because of the shoots but because of the wellness content that I was producing when no other publication was. It was what people wanted to read, and because I was pushing out three stories per day, my content was newsworthy and relevant—unlike the magazines where the content felt old.
"In 2014, I suddenly had the thought of turning it into a company, building out the platform to make it the number one destination in Australia for wellness. I hired a team and the rest is history! And here we are today with a little Sydney office and an L.A. office."
On a typical day in her life…
"I'm more of a late starter, so I usually get into the office at 9ish, and I tend to not leave till about 7ish. My day is filled with trips to Blue Bottle Coffee for my single-shot oat milk lattes and on the odd occasion I'll spoil myself with a boba tea.
"My morning is always writing out my to-do list—which is always a page long—getting through my emails, going through the website and stories that got published overnight. I'm big on quality checking. If there's a feature image I don't like, I'll change it, or if the titles aren't grabbing me, I'll also change them. The editorial girls know how picky I am with this, so they are used to it!
"I'm also putting together top-line ideas for briefs that come through or creating the storyboards for the confirmed jobs. I edit all the images that we shoot for campaigns. I edit the videos we shoot. I am a woman of many hats. My graphic design skills from university came in handy! I also write some of the stories on the site. Most of the time, the editorial girls write, as they're much faster than me. I oversee the daily EDMs that go out and go through strategy with our social media manager.
"Usually, I'm last out the door. I could work forever, but I know that work/life balance is everything, so I really make an effort and try to get on my mat for a strengthening yoga session."
On staying sane at the office…
"I'm lucky to have completed my yoga teacher training. In this course, we studied Pranayama breathing techniques. Before my yoga teacher training, I would work myself up so much that I'd essentially cry if I got stressed. But now, I breathe, and it works wonders for me. Ujjayi breath is quite common for me while I'm at my desk, and you'll always catch me sitting in a seated pigeon pose. People laugh at me, as I've always somehow got one leg up or both up, but it keeps my hips open and stretched."
On social media's role in her success (and the "influencer" label)…
"It's funny, as I don't know anything else but social media. Social media is my marketing tool. If I didn't have it, then I'm not sure how I would have got the reach for anything on Sporteluxe. I'm lucky, as I started the blog and the Instagram together, so they both leveraged off each other as they both grew. And I also think everyone is an influencer in their own way.
"Instead, I like to call influencers 'digital creatives.' They encompass the whole works. They're essentially a production agency perhaps as a sole worker or small team who does it all, conception to delivery and everything in between!"
On what she sees as the future of wellness…
"Three years ago, I would have said that it was a trend. Today, it's a lifestyle. I see the world becoming more and more focused on becoming the best versions of themselves. It's so beautiful to see that everyone is making more of a stand on the future of the environment, animal cruelty, what we ingest into our bodies, and what we put on our skin and how we are all now becoming so aware of all this. I love it, and I only think it's going to become better and better and just the norm!
"Being healthy is cool, and that's why I started Sporteluxe: to help create more and more awareness of this lifestyle shift and to help make people be the best versions of themselves."