Executive: Paola Bedin is the founder and owner of MYN Sport (MYN stands for “Mind Your Nature”), an e-commerce company specializing in fashionable sportswear. Bedin, 48, was born and raised in Italy and came to the United States about 15 years ago when she worked for an Italian company looking to expand its U.S. operations. She first landed in Austin, Texas, then arrived in Tampa. Her work took her back across the pond to the UK before returning to the States, settling in Tampa for good and starting her own business.
Departure: Cycling. Bedin is a former professional cyclist. She fell in love with the sport at the age of 7 and rode professionally for almost three years before retiring at 18. Although no longer a professional, she continues to ride to this day, often over long distances. Cycling was a family business of sorts: Bedin’s grandfather rode and raced bikes, as did her father and uncle. MYN Sport is an extension of her passion for high performance cycling.
edin says she was recruited into a professional cycling team because at the time not many women participated in the sport in Italy and most European races required each team to field a male and female team. She later defied her parents’ wishes to pursue the sport as a career – even though cycling was a big part of her family heritage.
“I started riding a road bike, not a kids bike, when I was 7,” she says. “It comes from a family passion. I have an older sister and my mum wanted to give dad a boy when she was pregnant with me.’
Bedin’s father, uncle and grandfather were excellent cyclists and regularly raced, so in theory a son would be an ideal vessel to carry on the tradition. But Bedin refused to let prejudice stand in her way. “I always wanted to race and [my parents] he never wanted me to race,” she says. “They always wanted me to focus on school.
Ride to prosper
Bedin trained year-round, even in the snowy winters of northern Italy, to maximize her natural talent for cycling. That often meant she strapped on a pair of joggers. “We’d go out and train on cross-country skis because the muscles you’re moving are the same,” he says. “They combine well with the muscles you move while cycling.”
Bedin readily admits that she was not one of the stronger riders on her team. In fact, she often found herself trailing the pack, which gave her plenty of opportunities to study how cycling clothing fit and worked. “You have no idea how well you can see the wear from the back of those shorts,” he says, “where you can see through [the fabric], where it just looks wrong. It was a great experience for me and it turned out well professionally.’
Bedin is clear about the brevity of her professional cycling career. “I have been blessed [with talent] but I saw that I wasn’t good enough to be at the top,” she says. Wages were also surprisingly low, especially for female cyclists. “The pay that professional women get is less than McDonald’s pay, with all due respect to the people who work at McDonald’s.”
Today, Bedin continues to drive…and drive…and drive…usually about 8,000 miles a year.
“I ride my bike almost every day,” he says. “Now it’s a bit more complicated for me – being a single mother of two, everything takes a lot of time and effort. And cycling as a sport is not like running when you go out for an hour. It takes a lot of hours.”
Bedin never rides alone, instead preferring to cycle with groups that ride fast over long distances. She enjoys the challenge, but it also gives her a chance to assess how her MYN Sport clothing will hold up under long-term pressure.
“I like to go out and test fabrics,” she says. “It takes a long time.” I normally only like to send a product once I have tested it for a year. I do it myself, but I also use other guys who put up to 14,000 miles a year to test it. I care about quality.”