Following an athletic career that saw her compete in five successive Olympic Games, Bahamian long jumper Jackie Edwards is now focusing on her fledgling maternity business, and has some words of advice for other athletes looking to make the jump into the post-sport world

Jackie Edwards battled injury throughout her athletic career, and in 2009 an Achilles tendon tear forced her into retirement. But she is now forging ahead with a new venture that draws heavily on her sometimes-painful experiences as an elite athlete, having launched Tootsies – a range of maternity compression socks for women.

The lightbulb moment
Despite having now left the long jump behind her, Edwards’ initial idea was borne out of her sporting experiences.

“The idea for Tootsies came about two years ago after a conversation with a pregnant friend. She was complaining her legs were swollen, so I gave her a pair of compression socks. The next day she rang me and said they had really helped with the swelling, and that was the germ of my business idea,” she explains.

“I used compression socks regularly throughout my athletics career to increase blood circulation, reduce soreness in my legs after training and speed up recovery, so I know all about their benefits.”

Using your athlete skill-set
Edwards is a psychology graduate from Stanford University and has a Master’s degree in sports psychology, but she says that her Olympic experiences helped massively as she made the transition from athlete to entrepreneur.

“My academic background taught me all about focus, motivation and setting goals,” she says. “But you need all three to be a successful athlete, and the same applies when you are setting up a business. You have to have a clear vision of where you want to get and exactly how you are going to get there.

“Athletes are no strangers to hard work and sacrifice, and that also helps in the world of business. The big difference as an athlete is that you’re only reliant on yourself, while in business you have to deal with third parties, suppliers and printers, and they’re not always as passionate about what you’re doing as you are. I’ve found that hard to come to terms with.”

Never stop learning
By her own admission, Edwards’ learning curve with Tootsies has been a steep one over the past two years, but her advice to other aspiring entrepreneurs is reassuringly simple.

“It’s crucial to never stop learning,” she says.

“I think I’ve come a long way since I first got the idea for Tootsies, but that doesn’t mean I or the business are the finished article. Keep talking to as many entrepreneurs and business people as you can, because you will be amazed at how much incredible insight you can get into things like branding, marketing and advertising.

“I’d also stress how important it is to embrace social media, even if it’s not initially your thing. The opportunities social media presents are almost unlimited, and if no-one knows about your business, it doesn’t matter how good your product is.”

For more information on how to make your entrepreneurial dreams a reality, take the courseBusiness Start–Up: From Idea to Launch”