You might recall a story a few years back about the first African-American woman and mother from Memphis who was on the USA Bob-sledding team.
Sable Otey was and still is a real American Hero(ine). Only now she’s on a different team, playing a different game but the strategy and mindset are the same: Work hard and push your way to greatness.
The wife, mother of three, and entrepreneur hung up her bobsled suit after a not-so-great finish at the 2018 Winter Olympic games and returned to Memphis to finish out the school year as a physical education (PE) teacher at Lowrance Elementary.
“She was an amazing teacher,” said Kelvin Bates, Lowrance principal. “We were so sad to see her go, but it was clear she had a purpose to fulfill beyond our four walls and so we let her go knowing she’d do amazing work in our community.
“And she continues to come back and support the Lowrance community.”
Otey said Bates was extremely supportive of her and her Olympic career, even saving her spot when she returned and providing space for her to conduct community workshops, even after she transitioned from teaching back into her family business.
Otey and her husband of 17 years, Rueben, had started a business, Making Multi-Millionaires, or the Triple M Agency, in 2016 that she was remotely involved in until after her bobsledding and teaching careers ended. The firm helps families learn about financial literacy.
“We are trying to close the generational wealth gap, by helping people get life insurance with living benefits and other financial products families need to be successful,” Otey said.
She wishes her family had a safety net to catch her when her family faced two debilitating tragedies four months apart.
“When I was bobsledding, someone broke my son’s thigh bone playing sports and then my husband was hit by an 18-wheeler.”
The near fatal accidents left her family in serious financial trouble. Plus, add the fact that bobsledding was self-funded until friends and supporters helped her find sponsors.
“We were about to lose everything. I had to keep my game face on.”
Even though her husband was unable to work after his accident, Otey got busy and started making moves.
The 35-year-old mother of three sons, produced a license to conduct business as an insurance broker and single-handedly ran the business until her husband was able to return to work.
Then COVID-19 pandemic hit.
“When COVID first hit, we were scared. We were in our first building, had two mortgages and had to decide to “mildew or barbeque” as they say. And we decided we were NOT mildewing!”
They pushed forward, worked even harder and used the promise of helping others achieve their dreams to motivate them.
“We saw that dreams can actually come true. We were helping people learn how to start saving, how to start retirement funds – we can actually bring back that Black Wall Street.”
Over the last few years, the Oteys didn’t let the fact that they don’t have a large family (which could have provided assistance) deter them from their path to greatness.
“We did what we needed to do. God has blessed me with people outside of my family to help. The only thing I know is to work hard. And if you’re scared, go even harder.
Her time as an athlete taught her valuable lessons that shape her mindset for growth today.
“Being an athlete gives you an opportunity to push past the pain. Even if things aren’t going as well as you’d like for them to, you just keep going. Even those who are successful now, they have lost a few times.
“It’s not always about being the best but about using what God has given you and you doing your best with what you’ve been given.”
Otey’s time being part of a team has also shaped how she approaches her work today.
“You want others to be successful, too. I really want to see [our clients] win. I’m so thankful for having support over the years and now I can be that support for someone else.”
Speaking of support, Otey’s husband is one of her greatest motivating factors.
“Honestly, I don’t give him enough props, but my husband and my children also push me. My husband has always been there and has supported everything I’ve ever done.”
The couple also works together to teach soft skills to other couples who work together.
In Otey’s “spare time,” she’s also Solar Sally, a TVA superhero who instructs children about solar power. And she’s the President of the West Tennessee Women’s Political Caucus.