Medal-Worthy: The Top 5 Olympian Business Ventures

Olympic fever begins in just over a fortnight. We take a look at some of Australia's more memorable crossover athletes and the businesses they founded once out of the spotlight.

1. Michael Klim

Klim has a bulletproof swimming career; he set 21 world records, won six Olympic medals and was a three-time Olympian. After retiring from competitive swimming in 2007, Michael turned his efforts to saving the skin of his and other Australian men from the harsh elements of the Australian environment and developed men’s skincare range, Milk.

Fuelled by the difficulties in finding easy-to-use skincare products to soothe and nourish his chlorine-affected skin, the marine-based ingredient skincare line launched in August 2008 and has seen amazing growth since. Last year he was named emerging entrepreneur in Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year awards.

The range has since expanded with Michael’s wife, Lindy heading up the skincare line for babies, Milk Baby, which developed when Lindy was pregnant with the couple’s second child.

Initially stocked exclusively at Myer, almost four years later, Milk products are now available to purchase online and in major stores worldwide including Sephora, Lane Crawford (Singapore) and Boshiwa (China) and also pharmacy giant, Boots (UK). Michael is currently investing in a Marinova complex made from Tasmanian sea kelp, a leading ingredient with vitamin B anti-ageing properties.

2. Hayley Lewis

Olympic swimmer Hayley Lewis brought home silver and bronze medals from the 1992 Barcelona Olympics and also competed at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. She rose to fame at the age of 15, winning five gold medals at the Auckland Commonwealth Games in 1990. After battling with weight issues in her twenties, she retired from professional swimming in 1996. Thanks to her experience with body image issues, she was announced as host of The Biggest Loser.

Hayley’s the author of Dream, Believe Create: A Woman’s Guide to Small Business, released last year, in which Hayley discusses the failure of her first two business ventures - a dog walking service and a market stall selling patchwork cushions. It was only after she pursued her third business venture, the Hayley Lewis Swim School in Brisbane’s Carindale did she reach any success before closing it down to concentrate on her gift shop in Balmoral, Brisbane.

3. Pat Cash

In 1987, Cash became the first Australian male to win Wimbledon since John Newcombe in 1971. He went on to represent Australia at the 1984 Summer Olympics.

Planet Ark is an Australian not-for-profit organisation that was set up by Pat Cash and international charity campaigner Jon Dee in June 1991. Planet Ark Environmental Foundation aims to work with people and businesses to educate on how they can decrease their carbon footprint and help the environment.

Planet Ark is responsible for green initiatives including as National Tree Day and National Recycling Week and has been a huge success.

4. Rob Woodhouse

Former Australian Olympic swimmer Woodhouse took home a bronze medal from 1984 Los Angeles Olympics and also competed at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul. To this day, he’s still the only Australian male to have won an Olympic medal in an individual medley event.

After retiring from professional swimming, Rob set up his own sports management company in 1995. A year later, he joined forces with former Collingwood football player Craig Kelly, to start Elite Sports Properties (ESP), one of Australia’s leading sports and entertainment marketing and management companies.

Now with offices in Melbourne, Sydney, and Adelaide, ESP has also recently opened an office London in the lead up to the Olympic Games later this month. Armoured with a Bachelor of Business and a MBA, Rob serves as Company Director.

5. Ian Thorpe

The king of the pool, Thorpedo won 9 Olympic medals (including 5 gold) between his appearances at the Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004 games. In late 2006, Ian Thorpe announced his retirement from professional swimming at the age of 24. Some four years later, in February 2011, he announced he had ended his retirement with a failed attempt to requalify for the Australian Olympic swimming team.

But with this much recognition, it was impossible for Thorpey to stay out of the spotlight. In 2002, he designed a men’s pearl line for jewellery label AUTORE. In 2006, he did one better and launched underwear line, ‘it’ in partnership with underwear giant Mitch Dowd to be sold exclusively in David Jones department stores.

In 2004, Ian also established Thorpedo Foods, a joint venture between Japan’s Yakult Honaka and Australian company Freedom Nutritional Products Limited, to provide a range of healthy Low GI food and beverages. The first product released was Thorpedo Energy Water and following its success, a range targeting children is subsequently in development. This year it was revealed that both of Thorpe's business ventures were in trouble, but Thorpe continues to forge ahead.

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See also: Pole vaulter turned ice cream queen: Tatiana Grigorieva

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