This past month, our very own Sally Edwards was featured in Comstock magazine. She was highlighted along with 15 other entrepreneurs from the Sacramento region. Comstock had asked readers to submit their picks for Sacramento’s top entrepreneurs. After going through about 100 nominations, Sally came out on top. See the feature below:
Sally Edwards made a name for herself as a pioneer of women’s running shoes. At 28, she and her best friend launched Fleet Feet Sports, selling running gear out of a remodeled Victorian in Midtown Sacramento, before growing the company to 40 retail locations and $20 million in retail sales.
“There were hardly any women’s shoes at that point,” Edwards says. “Women ran and worked out in men’s tennis shoes, and the running boom hadn’t started. I always see opportunity.”
A TECHNOLOGY AND METHODOLOGY COMPANY THAT PRODUCES WEARABLE TECHNOLOGY TO EMPOWER PARTICIPANTS TO PURSUE HEALTHY AND ACTIVE LIFESTYLES
In business for:
No. of employees:
Initial funding source:
Edwards is a serial entrepreneur who has always had the goal to “get America fit.” In 1993, she sold Fleet Feet and the next year launched Heart Zones as a patented cardiovascular training program, certifying instructors, fitness professionals, PE teachers and individuals. Heart Zones was a “quiet lifestyle business” that Edwards operated while keeping the conversation about fitness alive through writing, teaching and training materials, as she looked for better solutions to accomplish her goal.
Twenty years into her Heart Zones venture, Edwards made a significant pivot after software engineers pitched her on their heart rate monitor hardware and software. “I said ‘I’m 65 years old, is this really what I want to do, start a software company?’” she says.
Bringing together Heart Zones’ existing training materials with wearable technology offered the solution Edwards had been seeking — a tangible way to track and personalize her program for users. Now, the company offers not just the Heart
Zones curriculum and certification, but is able to sell or lease heart rate monitors, movement sensors and other equipment to health clubs, physical education programs and rehab centers to clients in 42 states and in six countries that include New Zealand, Canada, England, Brazil, Chile and, soon, China.
Edwards herself understands the power of physical strength and is an accomplished athlete. She’s set her own impressive world records in the Ironman Triathlon Masters and Iditashoe 100 Mile Snowshoe Race, and has authored over 20 books on the subject of health and fitness. She even had a snowshoe business in the early ’90s. She’s passionate about the power of athletics, and in particular helping young women see their own potential.
“Reach inside yourself and there is an athlete there,” Edwards says. “There is a woman strong and powerful and she can stand up and accomplish things she never thought she could do.”
What do you attribute your business success to?
In American culture, we’re taught from the military that we lead from the front — ‘It’s my way or the highway.’ It’s not collaborative, it’s not compassionate. When you lead from the back, you’re putting your team in front and raising their profile. That’s my basic business philosophy, ‘It’s not about me, it’s about all of the other people around me.’ So setting aside your ego, particularly for entrepreneurs, often is quite hard to do. It really isn’t if you’re going to try to accomplish your goal. It’s not about you.
How do you define entrepreneur?
For me, it’s someone who wants to start something and stay with it until they’re successful, and it doesn’t matter how many years it takes. Heart Zones is a 25-year-old company that was a quiet lifestyle business until this software. This perfect storm came: the obesity epidemic, the health care initiatives, the wearable technology, the affordability of it. I just kept writing books and talking about it and looking for a solution, and I found a solution.
In following your passion, what have you had to sacrifice?
Actually not a lot, because one of my basic principles is to ‘Live a balanced life’ and it’s very hard for entrepreneurs to do that. We fall so much in love with our mission and our work that we ignore the other things around us … Balancing intellectual interests and social interests and fitness interests and business interests is challenging, but you can do it.