Executive: Paola Bedin is the founder and owner of MYN Sport (MYN stands for “Mind Your Nature”), an e-commerce company that specializes in fashionable athletic clothing. Born and raised in Italy, Bedin, 48, came to the United States about 15 years ago when she was working for an Italian company that wanted to expand its U.S. operations. She first landed in Austin, Texas, then came to Tampa. Her work took her back across the pond, to the United Kingdom, before she returned Stateside and settled for good in Tampa and went into business for herself.
Diversion: Cycling. Bedin is a former professional cyclist. She fell in love with the sport at age 7 and rode professionally for nearly three years, retiring when she was 18. While no longer a professional, she continues riding today, often at long distances. Cycling was the 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.
Bedin says she was recruited to join a pro 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 squad. She later defied the will of her parents to pursue the sport as a career — even though cycling was a big part of her family heritage.
“I started to ride 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 mom, when she was pregnant with me, she wanted to give my dad a boy.”
Bedin’s father, uncle and grandfather were all excellent cyclists and raced regularly, so in theory, a son would have been an ideal vessel for carrying on the tradition. Bedin, though, refused to let preconceived notions about stand in her way. “I always wanted to race, and [my parents] never wanted me to race,” she says. “They always wanted me to be focused on school.”
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 cross-country skis. “We would go out and do cross-country ski training because the muscles that you move are the same,” she says. “They combine well with the muscles that you move when you ride a bike.”
Bringing up the rear
Bedin readily admits she wasn’t one of the stronger riders on her team. In fact, she often found herself trailing the pack, which gave her plenty of chances to study how cycling clothes fit and performed. “You have no idea how well you can see from the back how the shorts are getting worn out,” she says, “where you can see through [the fabric], where it just looks bad. It was great experience for me, and workwise, it worked out well.”
Bedin is clear about the brevity of her pro cycling career. “I was blessed [with talent] but saw that I wasn’t good enough to be on top,” she says. Also, the pay was shockingly low, particularly for female cyclists. “The salary that the professional women get is less than a McDonald’s salary, with all due respect to people who work at McDonald’s.”
For the fun of it
Today, Bedin continues to ride … and ride … and ride … usually about 8,000 miles per year.
“I cycle almost every day,” she says. “Now it's a little bit more difficult for me — because I'm a single mom of two kids, it takes a lot of time and effort to do everything. And cycling, as a sport, is not like running when you go out for an hour. It takes a big amount of hours.”
Bedin never rides by herself, instead preferring to cycle with groups who go fast over long distances. She enjoys the challenge but it also gives her a chance to evaluate how her MYN Sport apparel holds up under prolonged duress.
“I like to go out and test the fabrics,” she says. “It takes a long time. I normally like to send out a product only if I’ve tested it for a year. I do it myself, but I also use some other guys to test it, guys who ride up to 14,000 miles per year. I care about the quality.”