Many successful entrepreneurs share traits similar to Olympic athletes ― strong will, unwavering confidence and ambitious attitude. UH Bauer College of Business alumna Shannon Miller (’03), who was recently inducted into the International Women’s Sports Hall of Fame, has all three in spades.
Miller is the most decorated gymnast in U.S. history, with seven Olympic medals and nine World Championship medals to her name since her Elite International debut in 1991. She earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing & entrepreneurship from Bauer College before graduating from Boston College Law School in 2007.
Using the skills she sharpened at Bauer, Miller has already opened one business, started a non-profit organization and is working on another business venture. “The program gave me a background that helped me not only to run a business, but also to figure out what steps to take before making that leap,” she said.
“In business and sports, you have to have the same goal-setting ability,” Miller added. “You have to set goals, you have to follow through, and you have to work hard. Having your own business is a lot like being an athlete ― it’s up to you individually. Other people put time and effort into what you do, but you’re running the show, and you don’t want to disappoint anyone.”
Before coming to Bauer, Miller earned two gold medals at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, one as part of the “Magnificent 7” team and another for her solo performance on the balance beam, a first for an American gymnast. During her career, Miller has won an astounding 59 International and 49 National medals.
“The lessons you learn in sports are life lessons,” she said. “I’ve been able to pull those over to the rest of my life and my education. I’m one of those people that gets bored easily, and I like to be in control of my own destiny. I chose entrepreneurship because I thought going into business for myself would help with that.”
Miller now devotes much of her time to charity work for causes including Special Olympics, muscular dystrophy, Alzheimer’s disease, March of Dimes, Drug Free Youth, the Make-a-Wish Foundation and the Pediatric AIDS Foundation. She also travels the world as a professional speaker on topics ranging from health and fitness to leadership and goal setting.
Last year, Miller founded the Shannon Miller Foundation, an organization dedicated to fighting childhood obesity. “I’ve always been involved in charity because it’s something my parents instilled in me at an early age,” she said. “Last year, I was taking stock of what I was doing and where I was going, and I found I wanted to start my own foundation. It came down to what I was passionate about ― for me, that was working with kids, fitness and promoting ‘Healthy Lifestyle’.” Miller was also appointed co-chair of the Florida Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness by Governor Charlie Christ. Next summer, she will host “Gymnastics at Sea”, a cruise that will take young athletes, their families and gym clubs on a week long Caribbean Cruise while giving them a glimpse of what it takes to be successful physically, mentally and emotionally.
Although she doesn’t compete professionally anymore, Miller has stayed connected to her roots as a gymnast, through sports commentary, hosting her weekly television show, Gymnastics 360º with Shannon Miller, on the Comcast Network, conducting balance beam clinics for young gymnasts across the country, and as a member of the USA Gymnastics board. This summer she will join the 2008 Olympic team performing on a 40 city post-Olympic tour.
Miller plans to be in the thick of the action at the upcoming Olympic Games in Beijing and will find out in July exactly where she’ll be working during the Games. She has stayed connected to the event that made her a household name, appearing on MSNBC and NBC as a commentator for the 2000 Games in Sydney and the 2004 Games in Athens.
Miller says her experience in the entrepreneurship program at Bauer College, which is the #2 ranked undergraduate program in the nation, helped to lay the foundation for her career outside competitive gymnastics.
“My experience at Bauer and UH was invaluable,” she said. “It was definitely educational but also experiential. I’d been going to college part-time for so long because I was training for the Olympics, so this was the first time in my college experience that I got to be part of a class and bounce around ideas about my future. It made me hone in on the types of things I wanted to do with my life.”
By Jessica Robertson
About the University of Houston
The University of Houston, Texas’ premier metropolitan research and teaching institution, is home to more than 40 research centers and institutes and sponsors more than 300 partnerships with corporate, civic and governmental entities. UH, the most diverse research university in the country, stands at the forefront of education, research and service with more than 35,000 students.
About the Bauer College of Business
The C.T. Bauer College of Business has been in operation for more than 60 years at the University of Houston main campus. Through its five academic departments, the college offers a full-range of undergraduate, masters and doctoral degrees in business. The Bauer College is fully accredited by the AACSB International – the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. In August 2000, Houston business leader and philanthropist Charles T. (Ted) Bauer endowed the College of Business with a $40 million gift. In recognition of his generosity, the college was renamed the C.T. Bauer College of Business.