Taking in champion swimmer Michael Klim’s towering 6’3” frame, expertly molded by an intensive, long-standing training regime, a skincare line might not be the first thing that comes to mind. The sport icon has become endeared in the Australian public eye for his record-breaking contribution to the sport, earning him the title of Male Swimmer of the Year in 1997 by Swimming World Magazine, and impressively, six medals over three Olympic Games.
But the same traits that have made Klim so successful in the pool – determination, practice and perseverance – have also fueled the launch of a successful organic skincare line. ‘‘I always wanted to create a brand of some sort,” Klim told the Sydney Morning Herald. “I thought, to be honest, probably in fashion or something like that.’’
Klim’s initial idea for the business grew from identifying with the man on the street. ‘‘When I met my wife [Balinese princess Lindy Rama] she knew a lot of people in the industry from cosmetics and skincare, and we definitely identified there was a growing market,” he says. “There was definitely an opportunity for an Australian-made product for the average Aussie bloke.’’
Partnering with Rama, Klim launched a self-funded male skincare brand in 2008 called Milk – a twist on the entrepreneur’s name, spelled backwards – and immediately found a devoted following. “There aren’t too many products out there that are made for blokes by another bloke,” he says.
Remember, Milk was developed by someone who often logged upwards of five hours a day in heavily chlorinated water, leaving the Olympian in need of some manly pampering. To soothe his parched skin, Klim looked to natural marine-based ingredients like brown seaweed and algae extracts to create the skin-softening lotions and scrubs.
Though Klim didn’t qualify for the London Games, he is still at home in the water, acting as Head Coach of the Wesley College swim team where he attended university. The water provides respite and a chance to brainstorm, Klim says, calling the pool his “think hub” where he is able to flesh out business ideas and decide how to best promote his products.
Milk now graces the shelves of major stores like Coles, Target, Woolworths and Myer, and will soon be rolled out at U.K. pharmacy giant Boots and Sephora. Rama manages a spin-off line, Milk Baby, which is carried at Baby Bunting and Toys ‘R’ Us. Product names are whimsical and catchy like “Sleepy Bubs” bubble bath and “Stinky Winky,” a refreshing rose and jasmine essential oil-infused room spray.
Adding to his list of awards, Klim was recognised as an emerging entrepreneur at last year’s prestigious Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year awards.
While Klim admits his celebrity status “definitely helps” promote the product line, he speaks like a true businessman. “At the end of the day the product has to speak for itself,” he says, “and has to deliver on what you say it’s going to deliver on.”