Good company: A trailblazer in fitness and businessNovember 04, 2018 — Davis Enterprise
Sally Edwards is unstoppable, no matter the challenge
Many successful companies have humble beginnings. When Sally Edwards, an accomplished athlete, entrepreneur and author, first got the idea to open an athletic-shoe store, her dream to get Sacramento fit was the simple goal that drove her plan forward.
That was in 1976; now 42 years later, her business, Fleet Feet, has more than 200 storefronts and holds the title of the largest athletic shoe company in America.
But that’s just the beginning of Edwards’ success stories. As the keynote speaker for last Thursday’s 19th annual Big Bang! Business Competition, hosted by the UC Davis Graduate School of Management, Edwards spoke of her decades-long career in running, writing and innovating.
She jokingly admitted that she was only convinced to be the keynote speaker once Joe DiNunzio, the executive director of UCD’s Mike and Renee Child Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and current Davis school board candidate, agreed to attend a 6 a.m. spin class with her.
This drive for physical fitness and wellbeing is at the heart of each of Edwards’ endeavors. As she said in her speech, “I want to get America fit — that is my passion.”
Using an array of props, such as a swim cap, bike helmet and Whac-A-Mole game to symbolize the power of endurance and the struggle of balancing different aspects of life, Edwards, 71, spent her time on stage Thursday highlighting her own accomplishments, but also inspiring others with her assurance that doing what you love is the key to finding and securing success.
She pointed to her three main philosophies as the tools necessary to be both successful and happy.
Her first motto is “When was the last time you did something for the first time?” This question truly embodies Edwards’ adventurous nature and willingness to try new things, as well as being a fitting maxim for entrepreneurs. Viewing “competition as our best friend,” she has pushed herself as an athlete and a businesswoman.
When the sport of triathlon was invented in the 1970s, Edwards helped pave the way for the swimming, cycling and running race. Now a member of the Triathlon Hall of Fame, she wrote and self-published “Triathlon: A Triple Fitness Sport,” the first-ever book on the sport. Since its release in 1982, Edwards has gone on to write 23 more fitness-related books.
Her second philosophy — “Identify what you love and fill your life with it.” — exemplifies her life. Besides having a passion for getting others fit, Edwards is passionate about her own career as a competitive athlete. In 1981, she came in second-place at the Ironman World Championship, a 140.6-mile annual triathlon held in Hawaii.
Her third and final motto: “Organize and execute around your priorities.” As Edwards knows, fulfilling this goal takes patience and commitment. When Fleet Feet first opened, she admitted, “If we sold five shoes in a day, we were thrilled.” But her persistence paid off; she ran the company for 17 years.
Her departure from the business, however, did not mark the end of her time in entrepreneurship. Edwards, referring to herself as a “data-driven athlete,” founded the fitness technology company Heart Zones in 1993. According to the company’s website, its mission is to “Get America fit through data driven fitness that utilizes wearable technology and sound methodology.”