shannon bahrke happe headshot
Shannon Bahrke Happe, former Olympian and founder of Team Empower Hour

Shannon Bahrke Happe knows the meaning of hard work and dedication. Before she became a mother, a successful public speaker and an entrepreneur, she competed in three Olympic Games and took home two skiing medals for Team USA.

It makes perfect sense, then, that Bahrke Happe chose to combine her passions for physical activity and public speaking into a thriving corporate wellness company, Team Empower Hour. With the help of her fellow Olympians, she offers inspiring keynote presentations and team-building activity sessions designed to help employees and leaders become more successful in the workplace.

But Team Empower Hour has another purpose: It's a way for Bahrke Happe to support and give back to the Olympian community.

"When I retired from athletics, I went through a huge dark period," Bahrke Happe told CO—. "A lot of us struggle [and think], 'I'm 30, with very little education and no savings — what now?"

For some former Olympians, trying to answer this question can be devastating. After one of her Olympic teammates took his own life in 2011, Bahrke Happe decided to channel her entrepreneurial skills into a business that could provide a transitional "next step" for Olympians who need an outlet to tell their stories and use the skills that got them through their athletic career.

"We give people an outlet to share their experiences and success stories, and most importantly ... their failures," she said. "It's easy to look at someone like Michael Phelps and say, 'Wow, he won [28 Olympic] medals,' but what did he have to overcome to win those? That's where I find strength – the personal connections between Olympians and the corporate people we work with."

[Read: What's Your 'Why?' 5 Inspiring Reasons to Start a Business]

Shannon Bahrke Happe at our CO— Salt Lake City event.

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CO—

"Silence the noise and ... put [your goal] out there. Make it known."

Shannon Bahrke Happe, former Olympian and founder of Team Empower Hour

Life lessons to 'empower' small business owners

Based on her own experiences and what she teaches through Team Empower Hour, Bahrke Happe shared some of her most important lessons learned about leading a well-rounded, holistically healthy life as an entrepreneur and a parent:

Being busy does not equal being successful

Some entrepreneurs think being busy and constantly overbooked means they're making progress. As an athlete and a business owner, Bahrke Happe has learned that true progress comes from choosing the right activities to move you toward your goals.

"If you're doing 100 other things, that's just looking busy — that's not honing in on that goal," she said.

It's important to filter your daily activities through the lens of your goals and decide what's actually going to get you closer, versus what's simply keeping you busy.

"Silence the noise and ... put [your goal] out there," Bahrke Happe added. "Make it known."

Leverage your network to help you grow

Nobody accomplishes anything by themselves, especially entrepreneurs. Bahrke Happe says it's important to use your network and connect with people who genuinely want to help you reach your personal and professional goals.

"Build up a list of coaches, mentors, peers, family and friends that you can reach out to for certain things," she said. "It's taken me a long time to get there. You always want to do it yourself, [but] it's all about relationships and cultivating the ones that are most important."

[Read: 4 Steps to Bring Your Business Idea to Life]

You can't do it all

In the past few years, entrepreneurs — especially women — have started to realize that it's simply impossible to do it all and do it well.

"You can't be an incredible mom, and the CEO of an incredible company, and do all this stuff, and then get a nine-hour workout in," said Bahrke Happe. "You have to prioritize."

To do this, Bahrke Happe recommends focusing on three main areas that are most important to you (for her, it's family, self-care and business). In each of those areas, quantify what it means to be successful on a daily basis, and choose one repeatable action that you can do to feel successful in those areas. It might be being there to read your child a bedtime story every night, or taking 60 minutes a day to do something just for yourself.

"To everybody, it's different, and there's no right answer," Bahrke Happe said. "But it has to work for you."

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

Published August 20, 2019