Becoming an Olympic-level athlete is a lot like running your own successful business. Passion, dedication and the ability to succeed despite failures define both the successful athlete as well as the successful entrepreneur. It’s really no surprise that a large number of former Olympic athletes have turned their drive and passion toward running successful businesses after their success in sports. Here are five female Olympic athletes who have turned their sports successes into entrepreneurial wins.
Nadia Comeneci (with husband Bart Conner)
Both Nadia and Bart are former gymnasts who have built their livelihood post-sports by catering to the needs of other potential Olympic gymnasts. They’ve worked together to build not just one business based upon the needs of up-and-coming Olympians, but several of them. International Gymnast magazine claims to be the authority on gymnastics since 1956, and the two act as editors of the magazine. They’re also involved with Grips, Etc, a gym equipment supplier, Gym Divas, a clothing company and several other business ventures. As the two share a total of seven gold medals, they definitely know their stuff when it comes to gymnastics equipment; they’ve been able to translate that knowledge into a successful gymnastics empire.
Having teamed up with HSN last year, Serena Williams, winner of 2 Olympic gold medals, has released a line of women’s accessories. The line includes jewelry, handbags, and knits with a classic, feminine appeal. Williams has named the collection Signature Statements, stating: “I always want to make a statement, both on and off the court. One of my dreams has always been to share gorgeous gifts of fashion and luxury with the world. Off the court, my passion is fashion. Signature Statement is my own line of accessories and fashion, complete from jewelry to dresses.” She also has a clothing line called “Aneres”. The fashion line may not come as too much of a surprise, as Serena Williams is no stranger to donning trendy, yet sporty apparel on court.
By the time she was 16 Debbie Meyer had already won three gold medals for women’s swimming. She’s taken her prowess in the pool and turned it into a successful business. Today she runs the Debbie Meyer Swim School in Carmicheal, California. Along with several other highly talented swim instructors the school offers Olympic-level swim instruction for children who have dreams of someday making it to the Olympics themselves. Many will argue that Debbie Meyer is the greatest female distance swimmer of all time, and her swim school affords young learners the opportunity to learn from one of the best.
Mary Mazzio rowed for the U.S. team in Barcelona, and since the Olympics she’s translated her passion and intensity into several fruitful careers. While Mazzio worked as a successful partner with Boston law firm Brown Rudnick, she launched 50 Eggs Films. Now she works for 50 Eggs Films full time as a writer, director and producer, and she creates award-winning films such as Lemonade Stories, Apple Pie and The Apple Pushers. Her grit and hard work brought her to the Olympics, and today it’s brought her to become a very highly regarded documentary producer.
While Olympic skier and 2-time Olympic medalist Shannon Bahrke was recovering from a knee injury during the 2007-2008 she started Silver Bean Coffee Co., which is a coffee roasting business based in Salt Lake City, Utah. Bahrke retired from competitive skiing in 2010 after the Vancouver Olympics to focus on her business. She said that while she was still competing, five or six hours a day (at least) went to skiing and the training necessary for her to win. The rest of her day, even if it was only two hours right before bed, was focused on building her business.
Noelle Pikus-Pace is an Olympic skeleton racer, mother and the owner of SnowFire Hats LLC in Utah. While many Olympic entrepreneurs rely upon others to take care of the small details of business, Pace says that she thrives upon multitasking and being fully involved with her business. She finds way to bring her work with her to training, and it’s common for to set her business materials in front of her during light cardio training sessions, such as riding a stationary bike. For Pace, combining her passions helps her thrive.
No matter what your business is, plenty of the same principles apply to you that apply to Olympic athletes. Be inspired, be driven and be persistent, and you can win at your business goals, too.
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