A push to expand your social business

Mexican triathlete Eligio Cervantes achieved a lifelong dream when he competed at Athens 2004, but had no idea what he wanted to do when his athletic career came to an end. After a short time in administration, he was soon pulled back to his first love, cycling, but found the road to success marred by speed bumps. Eventually, Cervantes managed to use the skills he had accrued throughout his career to bring about a significant culture change in his hometown, Tulancingo, encouraging safe bike use across the city and turning his business around in the process. And in September, he participated in the first-ever Athlete365 Business Accelerator workshop, in New York (USA) alongside 12 other athletes-turned-social entrepreneurs.

  • Eligio Cervantes stepped back from competitive triathlon without a plan for what was next.
  • But following advice from a sponsor, he created a cycling culture in his hometown of Tulancingo and opened his own bike shop, KINEIN3T.
  • The Athlete365 Business Accelerator programme has helped Eligio take the next step on his entrepreneurial journey.

Throughout my sporting career, I never really took the time to think about what would come after. You never want to consider not doing what you love, but it’s so important to plan ahead as an athlete’s career is very short. Now, I tell everyone to start building something for after, whether that’s your own business or a different career – you should have something to do for the rest of your life.

Of course, for me, cycling has always been my passion ever since riding my first bike after school as an eight-year-old, but it never really crossed my mind that I could continue to work in cycling after my athletic career. Instead, I worked in administration for a short time, but fortunately, one of my sponsors insisted that I should open my own bike shop. In 2009, I took the leap and opened KINEIN3T. I thought it would be a really exciting, open market with plentiful opportunities, but soon found that there was a lot to overcome.

Speed bumps and successes

One of the major obstacles that my shop faced from the very beginning was simply the lack of bicycle culture and infrastructure in Tulancingo. Cars were king on the road, which meant it was not only difficult to ride a bike in town, but also could be very dangerous. I soon realised that if my shop was to be a success, we would have to bring about a culture-shift and change the way people think about riding bicycles. We first organised a triathlon team and took part in competitions to promote the use of bikes, though the numbers were too small to have a measurable impact.

The real change came when I visited Aguascalientes, which had a really integrated bike culture with great infrastructure, and, significantly, a night-time riding group. When I returned to Tulancingo, I decided to organise our own event, and so Miércoles de Bici (Bike Wednesday) was born. Originally, around 40 or 50 people joined the 6-8km night-time ride through the city, but now that number has grown to over 300 strong. As a result, there is now a dynamic, vibrant cycling culture, leading to more mechanics and repair shops, which is great for me and my business. The growing support has given us a strong, united voice in the public forum and so we are really pushing for bike rights, with the creation of more safe spaces for bike riders our top priority.

What the Athlete365 Business Accelerator workshop in New York really emphasised was that as Olympians, we have the power to make a difference in society

Using your athlete profile

In the past, I never presented myself as an Olympic athlete. If somebody knew I was an Olympic athlete, then great, but I never went out of my way to highlight it. What the Athlete365 Business Accelerator workshop in New York really emphasised was that as Olympians, we have the power to make a difference in society. In not letting everyone know I was an Olympian, I was wasting perhaps my biggest unique selling point and slowing down the growth of my own business. I would encourage all athletes to embrace your athletic past and to use it as a tool, especially when you are just starting your business and need the visibility.

A push to expand your business

The Athlete365 Business Accelerator online course also inspired me and made me believe that I can do more, that I have a social responsibility. Sport is such a powerful tool, and it can really bring about a positive change in society and improve lives. As such, I want to expand my work further and to bring about a similar change in culture with regard to swimming. It is such an important skill to learn for young and old, and those who perhaps don’t have the opportunity to practice should not be held back by factors outside of their control. It’s a social responsibility that we have as athletes to improve peoples’ lives.

Want to spark your own inner entrepreneur like Eligio? Check out the Athlete365 Business Accelerator programme here, which could lead to an opportunity to participate in a workshop in your own region.