Olympic champion Lydia Lassila on how her biggest tragedy became her business inspiration

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“In hospital, the nurse handed me a frozen condom to shove in my knickers, and my instant reaction was, “surely we deserve better than this!”. *Cue lightbulb moment*– Lydia Lassila

Inspiration comes from the most unlikely sources, right? It definitely did for freestyle aerial skier and 2010 gold medal Olympic champion Lydia Lassila, who, after suffering major ruptured knee injuries and undergoing surgery and recovery in 2005 and 2006, was struck by a big idea. 

“I needed to ice my knee constantly to help with the swelling, pain and inflammation, and couldn’t find a product that would stay in place and stay cold”, Lydia explains. “So… I decided to make my own”. 

Enter BodyIce. A Melbourne-based Certified Carbon Neutral sport and wellness brand that makes area-specific ice and heat packs to help people recover from injuries using natural cold or heat therapy-specific ice.

Childbirth, subsequent vaginal swelling and breastfeeding presented Lydia with her next problem to solve. Instead of icing her nether regions with a ‘frozen condom’, Lydia came up with BodyICE Woman, postpartum ice packs. 

And it didn’t end there… her babies becoming active kids presented Lydia’s next BodyIce exploit called BodyICE Kids… (I have a feeling she has many more to come…!)

An over-achieving mum, athlete and entrepreneur, I was keen to mine Lydia’s brain in an effort to find out how she does it all… 

Can you tell us a little bit about your business?

At BodyICE we make area-specific ice and heat packs that help people recover from their injuries using natural cold or heat therapy. We have a sports injury range called BodyICE Recovery, friendly kids range called BodyICE Kids and also a women’s range called BodyICE Woman for pre/post-childbirth and throughout breastfeeding.

In early 2020, I also launched a range of eco-friendly yoga and wellness essentials called ZONE By Lydia. I have since expanded this range to include sustainable street-style activewear, made from hemp. 

Where did the idea for BodyICE come from?

BodyICE was born from a bit of a disastrous situation! I was struggling with a knee injury and had ACL surgery in 2005, and then again in 2006 after re-injuring it while competing at the Winter Olympics. I needed to ice my knee constantly to help with the swelling, pain and inflammation, and couldn’t find a product that would stay in place and stay cold. So, in frustration, I decided to make my own. 

I knew I wanted to create area-specific ice packs that were easy to use, portable and effective, so I drew up the designs, got some samples made, and I was on my way.

Our Woman and Kid’s range followed in 2015 after (again) my own experience with childbirth and breastfeeding, and then having toddlers running wild and on the loose!

Childbirth (especially the first one) was a real eye-opener! I delivered Kai naturally and was fairly swollen and sore in the nether region… which is no surprise in hindsight, but at the time, [was] something that shocked me. 

In the hospital, the nurse handed me a frozen condom to shove in my knickers, and my instant reaction was, “surely we deserve better than this!”. Cue lightbulb moment: “Ding”. A few days later I arrived home… and so did my milk! Argghhh engorgement! I busted out my trusty Recovery ice bags and cooled down my throbbing boobs. Instant relief… “Ding Ding Ding Ding!!!!” Cue inspo for BodyICE Woman. I figured if I needed it, then so would millions of other women!

Our Kids range then followed. I wanted to create ice and heat packs for kids that are non-threatening, fun, colourful and most of all, instantly soothing in times of need.

How did you take the business from idea to reality – what was that journey like?

I think at the time, I needed a bit of a distraction from my injury and the trauma of it, so starting a business was the perfect distraction! Initially, I tried to find manufacturers in Australia. However, they didn’t exist, and I soon discovered Alibaba and the wide world of Chinese manufacturing. 

As soon as I was off crutches, I took a trip over to China and started meeting manufacturers. From there, I sent my designs to a few of them and waited for the samples to come back. I then chose the best one and placed an order. I didn’t really have a plan on how or who I was going to sell this product to, but I figured that if it was solving a problem for me, it would most likely solve a problem for many people recovering from injury.

What are some of the biggest hurdles you have faced with BodyICE?

Communicating with suppliers proves to be a constant hurdle and you really need to make sure all details are met on each and every stock purchase and that they understand your requests.

And what about your biggest achievements so far?

I think one of my biggest achievements in life was managing to win an Olympic bronze medal in 2014, as a mother, whilst successfully running a business. When I think back, I don’t know how I managed the load of all three of these major roles.

Wow. That’s truly a feat! Congratulations! 

At what point in the business did you have kids? (Or did you already have kids?)

I had my first child in 2011, five years after starting my business. I was also still competing as a full time athlete, so there was a lot going on in that time of life!

What impact did/does having kids play on you as an entrepreneur/founder?

I don’t think having children really changed how I operated my business, but it did inspire my next line of products in BodyICE Woman and BodyICE Kids

What do you find the hardest thing about being a working mum?

Finding the time to get everything done! That goes for business-related tasks as well as home/family-related tasks as there’s always so much to do, and I’m always a little too optimistic on what I think I can achieve in a day! 

There are definitely days where I feel a little guilty for not being able to give my kids loads of attention because there’s work that just needs to [get] done. So, I find it’s a constant balance of meeting the needs of my family, my own needs and that of the business.

What is the best advice you have for managing the #juggle?

I’ve found the best routine for me is waking early so that I can get a couple of solid hours of productive power to myself in the morning before chaos hits. That sets me up for a good day. I also try to compartmentalise as best as I can and just focus on one thing at a time…. Multitasking is too overwhelming! 

How do you find balance between being a mum and a business owner?

I think I’m pretty good at switching in between those roles, and I try to just be one thing at a time. So, when I’m doing something with the kids, I try to be fully present, and the same goes when I’m working. If you try to be both at once, you’ll do a mediocre job at both!

Do you have any tips for how you manage/plan your days around work and kids?

When the kids were small, we used to have live-in au pairs so that we could focus on work whilst the kids would be entertained and get outdoors when hubby and I couldn’t. That helped us so much because there wasn’t consistent childcare where we lived. 

These days, it revolves around the school and sports schedule, so I try and get the bulk of my work done during school hours and then spend the rest of the day with the kids, or try and get some exercise in.

What do you love most about what you do?

Ultimately, I love the freedom of being an entrepreneur. I love working from home or wherever my laptop is – and the lifestyle that provides. For me, it outweighs the risk and non-stop nature of running your own business. I get to be around my family constantly and live spontaneously all over the world!

What is that one self-care thing that you do just for you?

I love yoga and surfing or getting some me time in nature. Without those things, I get pretty moody!

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