Freestyle skier Lydia Lassila, now retired, is an Olympic gold medallist whose career was threatened with a significant injury before it had reached its peak.
The Australian turned injury into enterprise when she developed the BodyICE range of heat and ice packs, drawing on her experience as an athlete to shape her product.
Read her story and explore how you could make the most of your own light-bulb business moment with the Athlete365 Business Accelerator.
Just eight months before the Olympic Winter Games Turin 2006, Lassila had to undergo radical reconstructive surgery, but it also proved to be the catalyst for a new endeavour in her life, inspiring her to create BodyICE, a range of products that combine a traditional ice pack with joint-specific neoprene straps to hold it in place.
Being an entrepreneur means being comfortable with taking a risk. Having been an aerial skier and an athlete my whole life, I was already used to that. And as an individual athlete, the responsibility is always on you to perform well. No one else can help you do that. You have to back yourself. You have to have that confidence. You might be scared, but you just do it anyway. I think that’s a really important trait to have in business as well.
I was sitting in the cafeteria in the Olympic Village in Turin, just after the accident, and I was feeling pretty miserable. I had this plastic bag of ice balancing on my knee and my leg up on some chairs. The bag was leaking and slipping all over the place, and out of frustration I just picked it up and threw it on the ground. I said, ‘Someone should make a decent ice pack that stays cold and doesn’t fall off my knee!’
Pretty much at the same time, a light bulb went off in my head and I just started thinking about this idea of trying to make some joint specific ice packs that could help people recover from their injuries. It’s something that I wanted for my own injury and realised there was just a gap in the market.
IT ALSO REMOVED ANY FINANCIAL STRESS THAT I MAY HAVE HAD AND GIVEN ME SECURITY IN THE BACKGROUND, KNOWING THAT WHEN I DID RETIRED, I WAS GOING TO BE FINE. I COULD GO STRAIGHT INTO A NEW LIFE WITH SOMETHING ALREADY ESTABLISHED.
Starting the journey
I just went straight into it using the savings that I had from skiing. My first client was actually my knee surgeon. I walked into his office with a prototype strapped to my knee and when I explained what it was he ordered 500. So I was in business pretty much from day one.
I soon found that I was earning enough from the business to help finance my sporting career. I had this nice new stream of income, which then allowed me to do the extra things – such as hiring my own sports psychologist – that I thought I needed to become a better athlete.
It also removed any financial stress that I may have had and given me security in the background, knowing that when I did retire, I was going to be fine. I could go straight into a new life with something already established.
Showing off your skills
I’ve probably been quite bad at connecting my profile or my sporting accolades with the business; I’m not much of a self-promoter. My advice to other athletes wanting to start their own business is to use that card.
You’ve achieved so much and made it to an Olympic Games – you might even have an Olympic medal – and you’ve reached the pinnacle in your sport. I think that carries a lot of weight in business and with the people that you meet. It shows that you have worked hard and you have achieved something special.
When something like [a bad injury] happens, it can go either way. You can sit on the couch and feel sorry for yourself, or you can find ways to get on with it and distract yourself. BodyICE was the best distraction for me. When I look back on my career, it was the best thing that could have happened.
Inspired by Lydia’s story and looking for a place to start your own business adventure? It’s never too early to start thinking about a career after sport. The Athlete365 Business Accelerator will help you develop your own personal business plan from idea to reality, starting with a step-by-step, free-to-use online course.