Sports Business/01/25/2018

Franziska van Almsick on her business and second career: “More and more women are holding their own in management positions”

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What does Franziska van Almsick actually do? The former world-class swimmer who made her athletic career as “Franzi” is now hitting the road as a businesswoman. She’ll present her fitness program Mybod-e and her foundation Schwimmkids at ISPO Munich 2018. In an interview with ISPO, the mother of two talks about the balancing act between business and family. And van Almsick is sounding the alarm: “Every other grade schooler can’t swim properly or at all!”

Franziska van Almsick has made the leap from professional sport to sports business.
Franziska van Almsick has made the leap from professional sport to sports business.

As a swimmer, Franziska van Almsick was at the top of the world for over a decade. Now, the Berlin native is also a successful businesswoman in the sports business. Van Almsick is also a guest at ISPO Munich 2018

She’ll first talk in the Health & Fitness Forum (Hall A6) about her career and her fitness platform Mybod-e on Tuesday, January 30 from 12:30 to 1:00 pm. From 3:30 to 4:00, she’ll also present her foundation Schwimmkids in the Outdoor & Watersport Village (Hall A4). spoke with the 39-year-old about her projects and the reasons why women still don’t have it easy in the sports business.

Franziska van Almsick: “Good balance that makes me happy” Ms. van Almsick, when you have to specify your profession when checking into a hotel, what do you put down?
Franziska van Almsick:
I just leave the field empty.

As a former swimming star you’re still very prominent and in demand at several events, you’re needed in your family as a mother of two and you’re faced with several challenges as a businesswoman – which role would you soonest find yourself in again today?
Naturally, I’m a mom to two kids first and foremost, and family comes first for me. But the other areas of my life are also very important to me. I need the variety and the balance, and I’m thankful that I can dedicate myself to the projects that are fun for me and near and dear to me. In recent years I’ve been quite successful at finding a good balance between all the different areas that make me happy and satisfied.

Let’s talk about the entrepreneur Franziska van Almsick. In 2013, after your second pregnancy, you got on board with Mybod-e Shape, an online fitness program. How has your balance sheet turned out after four years?
We have a growing client base and are happy to say that most of them have been regular customers for years. That shows us that quality is winning out, even in such a highly competitive market.

Franziska van Almsick will be speaking at the ISPO Munich on Tuesday, 30 January.
Franziska van Almsick will be speaking at the ISPO Munich on Tuesday, 30 January.
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Franziska van Almsick: Mybod-e also interesting for companies

By now there are quite a few online fitness programs from a lot of suppliers, even prominent senders like – the concept is similar everywhere: You buy an annual membership, about 100 euros, get workout instructions and tutorials via video, and then you can even book individual services. Where do you see yourself in this market after four years? What is your unique selling point compared to your competitors?
Our program is different from the others in that it’s personalized and everyone can train according to their own needs and goals, wherever and whenever they want. Right at the beginning a fitness check is made and it is determined what you yourself want to achieve. The training is compiled accordingly.

I think that’s very important, because everybody trains differently. You can’t take a one size fits all workout program. It just doesn’t work that easily. But when you get a personalized training concept, and even get help with your diet, your success will be greater and long-lasting. And that is what our customers always reflect back to us.

Back then, you reported in your online diary that you’d lost 30 pounds in twelve weeks. Since then, your workout program the “Franzi Diet” has been causing excitement throughout the online world. How much has Mybod-e Shape benefited from your personal story?
I think it showed what Mybod-e stands for and what people can achieve.

Is the portal an economic success for you? Are you planning any expansions?
We’re very satisfied with our online platform, and will continue to focus on sustainability. That also applies to our collaborations. We don’t want any rush jobs, we want long-term success in the years to come. We’re now also going to open and expand our concept for companies, as the health and motivation of employees is becoming more and more of a focus for most employers. Ultimately, they’re the cornerstones of success and the competitive ability of a company. Many are now also integrating it into their business management.

Franziska van Almsick: Schwimmkids as a go-between

Now we come to “Schwimmkids,” a club with the goal of teaching grade schoolers how to swim and thus making a key difference against the second leading cause of death in children – drowning. Is “Schwimmkids” like a labor of love for you?
Yes, absolutely. We started with it over ten years ago, and now we’re active in 16 cities throughout Germany, and more are joining in all the time.

You’re taking a stand to make sure that all grade schoolers receive qualified swimming instruction. With what measures?
Every other grade schooler can’t swim properly or at all when they leave grade school. For one, that’s because their classes are cancelled or don’t take place at all. Or the classes are simply too big for any single teacher to be able to give high-quality swimming instructions.

And that’s where we come in. For example, we can provide teaching assistants, take care of transport to the swimming pools, take on the administration costs, or pay for entry. You could say we’re the go-between for the school and the swimming pool operators or the city. The centers of our work are third and fourth graders. We support children with and without equal needs or disabilities in equal measure.

What successes can you already point to with Schwimmkids?
Thus far we’ve been able to help about 8,000 grade schoolers with Schwimmkids projects.

Grants for schools and measures that get more kids swimming are good causes. But are they enough? What can and should parents be doing?
Kids these days can speak Chinese in first grade, but they can’t swim. It’s so important that children everywhere come into contact with water, and they should know about the risks. Parents can do a lot. It’s most important that they set a good example and go to the pool with their children now and then, instead of leaving it to schools to teach them how to swim.

And they can start getting their children used to the water early. That can happen through splashing around in the bathtub or taking a shower. Starting at an age of about five to six years old, children are capable of learning how to swim in a technically clean way.

According to the Schwimmkids website, its supporters include the Sky Foundation, the Volksbank BraWO and its Children’s Emergency Fund, and the city of Heidelberg – that’s still a pretty small circle of sponsors. In your opinion, which other companies are still have something to offer?
These companies have supported us almost from the very beginning, across cities. We also have a number of companies that are committed to ensuring that the support for Schwimmkids is provided in a particular city. Every company can help increase the number of children who can swim safely by sponsoring a city or as a permanent partner.

Franziska van Almsick on women in the sports business

We’ve come to a different topic, namely women in the sports business. You yourself are married to a business man. Tell us about why there are as many female athletes as there are male ones, but so few women in leadership positions in sports companies? How is it that even the world of sports business is still so male-dominated at the top?
I think that more and more women are holding their own in management positions. Of course, the bottom line is that there are still more men, but that’s probably also due to the fact that it’s not always easy to reconcile work and family life.

The brunt of the work with children is often still on the woman. I hope that the compatibility between job and family will be further improved, so that both parents can have the opportunity to work and take care of the family.