Coralie Gassama, high level sportswoman and entrepreneur



Coralie Gassama athlete

Coralie Gassama, a 24 year old entrepreneur, founded the company KEYENA in 2020. Coralie is also a high level sportswoman, indeed a 400m hurdles specialist, she has made 5 selections for the French Youth Team such as the 2014 Youth Olympic Games in China or the 2015 European Junior Championships in Sweden. Originally from Normandy, the founder of KEYENA moved to Lyon in 2015 to complete her studies in STAPS at the University Lyon1 la Doua.


Post-graduating, Coralie went to Lyon to study sports (STAPS) where in the third year she specialized in sports management. After obtaining her degree, she went on to study for a Master’s degree in Sports Organization Management. She obtained her Master 1 in 2019 and her Master 2 in Sports Organization Management in January 2021. In connection with her studies, our student has several professional experiences in the field of sports events. First of all, she worked for Lou Rugby as an events assistant, editing accreditations, managing press and customers, and then for SLD Events in the management of travel, seminars and incentives. Coralie also worked for several months at the  Couleur group as an assistant project manager with the management and organization of client travel during the 6 Nations tournament and the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. Between her professional experiences and her studies, our sportswoman is also following a specific athletic training program since her goal is to qualify for the Olympic Games.

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Coralie has been an athlete since she was a child and has been a member of the Evreux AC Athletitism (EAC) since she was 8 years old, where she trains every week under the supervision of her coach. High level sportswoman, Coralie specializes in 400m hurdles and made 5 selections for the French Youth Team. Arrived in Lyon in 2015, Coralie put the spikes at ASUL Bron Athlétism for three years, until 2018 when she decided to continue her training at DMA Décines Meyzieu Athlétism.

Coralie Gassama, athlete

Unfortunately affected by the ice wiper syndrome also called fascia lata tendonitis on the left knee, after a good winter season filled with indoor competitions in 2019, Coralie then compensates on her other leg, the right one and subsequently experiences periostitis after periostitis. It is during her training camp in April-May 2019 that these periostitis on the tibia of the right leg turn into a stress fracture. This period marks then the beginning of the fight against the weakening of this right leg. Then begins the path of patience for Coralie who will do everything to keep herself in shape and remain efficient by intensive and supervised cardio and muscular trainings while waiting to see the consolidation of her tibia.

Indoor race

So after this training camp, she decided to stop for the rest of the season and to resume training in September at the DMA  where despite the pain she tries to run. With no apparent progress and feeling more and more pain, Coralie decided to stop in January 2020. When she came out of confinement (caused by the health crisis), Coralie started running again to enjoy herself on short distances, but the fracture was still there.

Coralie, 400m hurdles

So after this training camp, she decided to stop for the rest of the season and to resume training in September at the DMA where despite the pain she tries to run. With no apparent progress and feeling more and more pain, Coralie decided to stop in January 2020. When she came out of the confinement (caused by the health crisis), Coralie started running again to enjoy herself on short distances, but the fracture was still there.

With the goal of resuming the next season at full speed, she decided to go to the European Sports Rehabilitation Center (CERS) in Capbreton in August to try to reconsolidate her tibia thanks to intensive training and personalized follow-up by the health staff, especially the physiotherapists. Fit and well trained, our athlete resumes the season in September 2020 like her colleagues. She will train until winter, unfortunately the injury is still there. Coralie decided to start a very progressive rehabilitation and will be followed by a physiotherapist and a sports coach to compensate again by cardio and muscular training as well as a precise physiotherapist follow-up. She then started running again at the end of spring, first on an anti-gravity treadmill by removing a few dozen percent of her body weight, then she ended up running at 100% of her body weight for a short period of time since the fracture was still present and painful. After 2 years with this fatigue fracture, having tried to consolidate it by an intensive rehabilitation (at the CERS) in summer 2019, then a lot of rest (confinement 2020) and to finish by a progressive rehabilitation (year 2021), the micro-cracks are still present on the tibia. Coralie then hears about the OL soccer player Ada Hegerberg also suffering from a fatigue fracture, who has performed an operation in order to consolidate her bruised tibia.

Our athlete then inquires and goes to the same surgeon who operated on the OL player. After multiple exchanges with her entourage, her coach, her physiotherapist and this surgeon, the decision is made; date of the operation, October 7, 2021. The goal of the operation: to insert a nail in the tibia from the knee and to section the fibula with the objective that the tibia consolidates at 100% and that there is no compensation on the fibula. The operation went perfectly, which we hope will allow our 400m hurdles specialist to ensure a perfect consolidation of his leg and to resume training and return to competition.


Friday, October 8, 2020, the day after the surgery


It was the moment to seize my last chance to find my passion, the one that allowed me to run, to overcome obstacles and to blossom. For three years, this fatigue fracture has prevented me from regaining the pleasure of training and my level in competition.
So this summer, in agreement with my staff, I decided to have surgery on my tibia. The operation went very well. Although it was painful when I woke up, I am happy to be able to put the support on and I am impatient to get back to training. But before that, it’s time for rest and rehabilitation. 



We are Monday, January 15, 2018 in room 203 during the entrepreneurship course of the Master 1 Management of Sports Organizations, and there, comes something to Coralie’s head… An idea is just born. An idea is just born.                                                                                               

As a 400m hurdles specialist, she was regularly confronted with problems in her practice related to track and field spikes. Indeed, during training or competition, track and field spikes bring constraints related to off-track walking and comfort. During her entrepreneurship exam, she decided to present an innovative product that would address the above issues. During this course, she presents a business plan and explains the usefulness of this innovation. The professors were amazed by the idea and decided to push Coralie in the direction of this product. Our student then decided to go to the INPI (National Institute of Industrial Property) to present the idea to them, and then to file the idea in a Soleau envelope, a solution which allows to constitute a proof of creation and to give a certain date to the idea and thus to protect the author. In a third step, the INPI encourages Coralie to make a prototype. She then turned to a design office in Saint Etienne called AGCAD, equipped with a complete and precise set of specifications. She then finances with her own savings, a first technical and financial feasibility study to determine if this project had a future.

Coralie, founder of Keyena

In September 2019 Coralie makes her first funding request, a student loan of 21,000€ is granted which can then launch the design. Several prototypes are produced and it will take two years of research and development to create the KEY ONE of today. Our entrepreneur then created her company in January 2020, KEYENA SAS with a share capital of 12 100€. KEYENA means %22Why not%22 in Senegalese Wolof, referring to the Senegalese origins of the founder. The creation of the company marks the leap into the unknown and especially the beginning of an adventure.

The year 2020 is then marked by market studies, sourcing, but also by the legal protection of the steps with the drafting of a confidentiality agreement and the filing of the Patent. This year is also highlighted by a market study, by the search for suppliers for the closing system, by the search for financing (application to the French Tech grant of the BPI to receive an envelope of 30 000€) and the request for integration in the Manufactory incubator of La Doua. At the end of the year, our entrepreneur raised 30 000€ in love money.

In 2021, after having been accepted at the incubator, Coralie will benefit from the premises and the support provided by the Lyon Entrepreneurship Center. The team is growing as it welcomes a freelance in charge of marketing and communication, two interns for three months and a trainee in charge of commercial prospecting. The brand will be launched in February 2021: communication on different channels (press, social networks, through ambassadors), marketing of pre-ordered KEY ONE to end consumers, BtoB prospecting and a constant search for financing. Moreover, by calling upon her network, Coralie manages to find two new investors and realizes a second fund raising, this time at 120 000€.


Leading a dual project since a young age, this has allowed her to develop certain qualities such as diligencé, perseverance, winning and self-sacrifice. Female entrepreneurs are born sportswomen because they have to find solutions while waiting to make a name for themselves, such as learning to get financing, being able to make a living from their business properly, creating a network, self-persuasion to reach their goal and passion; thus, they reap assets to become a business owner from the beginning of their career. With the aim of optimizing the perpetual performance of her high level career and her personality, Coralie seeks through this project to contribute to the performance of athletes through the creation of a product in their favor. For Coralie, it will be the opportunity to undertake and change an idea into a concept.


Indeed, Coralie being a high level athlete in the 400m hurdles discipline, she faces these problems since she wears spikes, but it is a problem encountered by all athletes wearing spikes. Indeed, the spikes are the central object of performance, the goal is not to damage them but also to facilitate the life of athletes (passage to the toilet, call room, weather conditions) and to protect their belongings, especially in the training bag. The concept is to ensure comfortable off-trail walking, reduced wear and tear on spikes, easier daily life, and protection of belongings during transport.



It takes passion, determination, humility, discipline and a willingness to go beyond your own limits to make your project a success. Entrepreneurship is a source of motivation, self-esteem and daily pride because of the constant learning and the creation of a network. But it is also a time of doubt and a life with few resources. 



Coralie Gassama, the founder


The most difficult part of this adventure is not knowing if the innovation will work, if all the work done will pay off because I am dependent on the market and the environment in general. But in any case this adventure enriches me and allows me to grow no matter what the outcome. Moreover, I also think that the positive analysis of the indicators allows me to continue, but I will know how to stop if it does not work. In the meantime I continue.