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5-Time Olympian Jacqueline Edwards Turns Entrepreneur

Jacqueline Edwards has created Tootsies compression socks for expectant mothers who need to stave off pain, discomfort and swelling.

5-Time Olympian Jacqueline Edwards Turns Entrepreneur - Lioness MagazineTootsies is the brainchild of 5-time Olympian and Stanford University graduate Jacqueline Edwards, a world-class track and field long jump champion who was born in Jamaica. As an athlete, Jackie wore compression socks to help with recovery, blood circulation, muscle soreness and muscle tone. As a result, she was uniquely aware of their many benefits and actually cites compression socks as one of the key reasons she was able to have such longevity in her athletic career.

Today she swings by Lioness to chat as our Entrepreneur of the Day:

1) How long have you been in business?

We have been in business for one year.

2) Why have you chosen to dedicate yourself to this particular business/industry?

I chose this particular business and industry because it has particular relevance and meaning to me. Throughout my professional and Olympic track career, I wore compression socks and so I was uniquely aware of the many benefits they have to offer. Circumstances were such that I was recommending compression socks organically to a pregnant friend to help her resolve swelling, discomfort and soreness that she was experiencing at the time in her legs and feet. Even though doctors recommend compression socks to alleviate these issues, through a little research, I came to realize there was nothing available that was specifically branded and marketed towards the maternity market. This opening gave birth to Tootsies Brand.

3) What makes business/product unique?

Tootsies is the only line of fun and fashionable compression socks specifically branded and marketed for maternity. There is nothing else like it out there.

4) You could have worked for anyone and would have been successful, why become an entrepreneur?

I competed for 17 years as a professional track athlete. Aside from competing in the Olympics and all of the amazing memories and experiences that I had, one of the perks of the job so to speak, was that I didn’t have to work a 9-5 job. Training was extremely difficult and challenging but I didn’t have someone to report to, other than my coach and my days and schedule were flexible to some degree and I liked that. Additionally, I’ve always had an eye for business and always envisioned myself creating a brand or an idea that was innovative but meaningful. Tootsies has been the perfect marriage of all my skill sets and experiences. I’m a very hard worker and am learning just how challenging business can be. However, that has never stopped me before and I believe that I can create a lasting impact in the industry, plus working for someone else would never satisfy me in the same way.

5) What was your last, “why did I go into business for myself” moment?

Pretty much every time I expect other people to work as methodically and diligently or care as much about the quality of my company as I do. It’s difficult when I realize others don’t have the same vested interests. So delivery times, quality and reliability may not always be as high on others priority list as I would like to think – and there’s not too much I can do about it.

6) Every female professional should have ____?

A comfortable pair of tennis shoes and Tootsies compression socks in her trunk for those days when she has stood up in heels for way too long and needs instant relief!

7) If you could steal some business mojo from another mogul, who would it be and why?

Sara Blakely. She is the founder and owner of Spanx and also a minority owner of the Atlanta Hawks basketball team. She took an idea that was fairly simple, also in the hosiery category, and has developed it into a billion dollar brand. Many have tried to duplicate it but none have secured quite the space in the market that she has. She has not relinquished control of her company even though it has grown tremendously and continues to flourish. I love the branding and the simplicity of the idea. It also shows you just how powerful the female buying power is for a product that is solely for women. Lastly, to become a minority owner in the very male dominated arena of professional sports teams is also something that I admire greatly. Seems like sky’s the limit for her!

8) What is your business motto?

My business motto is “Sell the problem you solve, not the product.”

Edwards participated in the 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008 Olympics.
Edwards participated in the 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008 Olympics.

9) If you could give another entrepreneur three tips, what would they be?

If I could give another entrepreneur 3 tips, they would be:

  1. Focus on marketing, particularly direct to consumer. If no one knows your company or product exists, it doesn’t matter how amazing it is.
  2. Don’t expect to be an overnight success. Many “overnight successes” are years in the making and you only become aware of them when they become household names. Trust and believe there were many sleepless nights, filled with blood sweat and tears that preceded their success. Be prepared to do the work!
  3. Keep a copy of “The Entrepreneur Roller Coaster” by Darren Hardy nearby. For those days that you’re questioning yourself or your decisions and wondering if you made a mistake, flip through the pages of this book and it’ll recharge your battery for sure!

10) Has there been a piece of technology or software that has been a lifesaver to you?

Without question – Dropbox! It is the BEST way to keep all of our papers, worksheets, documents, spreadsheets, marketing materials, letters – everything organized. I’m really not sure how we would function without it.

11) What is your goal for next year?

Right now, Tootsies can be found in brick and mortar stores, hospitals, health and wellness facilities, online and we’re about to launch in a major airport. We want to continue to grow steadily in all of these areas, continue to build the brand name, to educate our target audience and continue to learn the retail business. Our social media presence is something we really want to expand and focus on as well. We are realizing more and more just how important social media is and the impact that it has on our success as a brand.

12) When someone is telling their friend about your business, what do you hope they say?

I would hope they say that Tootsies represents the idea that women don’t have to sacrifice their sense of style to resolve a very prevalent problem. That our line of socks are cool and comfortable and the quality is of the highest standard. Most importantly, I would hope that they say that our socks were effective and that they would highly recommend them!

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