Rebekka Gustafson from HUMAN ATHLETE

April 15, 2024

BY Nina Lyhne

Photo: Jonas Togo

Meet Rebekka:

  • Founder of HUMAN ATHLETE and the podcast Bag Eliten, where she interviews top athletes about the human being behind the athlete

  • Former swimmer and top athlete

  • Studies Psychology at Aarhus University and has a bachelor’s degree from CBS

  • Founded the podcast Bag Eliten in 2022

How did the idea of becoming an entrepreneur arise?

I ended my career as a swimmer and top athlete when I was 17 years old, because the psychological environment put too much pressure on my mental health. After that, I gained success in the business world and worked for PwC and Tryg, where I quickly climbed up the ranks. But after Corona hit, I realized that I didn’t thrive in that type of corporate job. I began to think about what really makes me happy. I have always been driven by my curiosity, and as a child, I dreamed about becoming a writer. But I also realized that I missed the elite sports world. At that time, there was a burgeoning movement around top athletes’ mental health within the Olympics. I didn’t think it got the attention it deserved, and this is when the idea for my podcast was born.

How did you get started with your entrepreneurial journey?

When I got the idea for the podcast, I started doing some research on how to pitch it for radio. I drew on my network and set up a lot of meetings – and I was lucky to land a deal with a radio station. Because of my own background as an athlete and the fact that I have been open about my own mental health, I have managed to create a safe space, where the athletes have been open to participate and share their personal stories with me and the listeners.

What has been the biggest challenge in the process?

How to make money on the podcast. There is not that much money in the podcast world, so it has been a challenge creating a stable income, for instance through having a main sponsor.

What does a typical workweek look like for you in relation to combining your startup with your studies?

Planning and discipline are key. At Psychology, we have a very thorough study plan, which makes it possible for me to plan ahead from the beginning of a semester. I look into the requirements for my courses and study with those in mind. I make sure to plot my reading into my calendar, and I have figured out ways to study that works effectively for me – for instance reading on the train and using pen and paper for note-taking.

Besides that, my studies have also been a nice opportunity for me to take a break once in a while and engage in a completely normal student life with running clubs and Friday bars.

How do you use your academic skills as an entrepreneur?

My studies give me a professional foundation and integrity that I find very important, especially in the interviews with top athletes, who share some vulnerable and very personal stories with me.

Where is your startup today, and what are your dreams for the future?

We are at a very exciting point – on the verge of a new chapter with a broader scope that will not only be about the podcast. I believe we face a steep acceleration curve for the next six months, and I look forward to seeing what the future will bring.

I dream about creating a life filled with adventures and great experiences where I get to work with cool and inspiring people. A meaningful and sustainable (working) life that makes me happy, and where I have time to take care of my physical and mental health as well. To me, HUMAN ATHLETE is a lifestyle, not just a company.

I also hope that we will make a difference for top athletes, entrepreneurs and other people who want to face their challenges and get the most out of life. Last but not least, I hope that I can inspire others to follow their dreams by showing that success comes in different shapes and that there are many ways of being an entrepreneur.

Your best advice for other students who are considering becoming entrepreneurs?

To spend some time at the beginning of your journey, where you get to know yourself: your strengths and weaknesses, what drives you and what stresses you out. I explored these things about myself early on. This has provided me with a lot of tools to help me tackle the challenges I meet as an entrepreneur – and the certainty that I am able to overcome them.

Another piece of advice is to share your journey and be open about what you dream about. My experience is that this will make your brand stronger and open up doors for you. Whether you do it on social media or in a community isn’t important – find a way that suits you and do it in your own way.