If you think tennis icon Venus Williams is a force to be reckoned with on the court, just peep her game off of it. This year alone the three-time Olympic gold-medalist released her first book, Come To Win (co-authored with Kelly E. Carter), which scored number five on the New York Times bestsellers list; debuted her own videogame, Venus: The Case of the Grand Slam Queen; and teamed up with EA Sports to launch an innovative new fitness program. Consider Williams’ already mile-long list of entrepreneurial achievements—including her interior design firm, V Starr Designs; fashion line, EleVen; and part-ownership of the Miami Dolphins—and she is easily one of the most successful African American sports/businesswomen on the planet.
But the multitasking “Queen of Wimbledon,” who UNESCO recently named global “Promoter of Gender Equality,” didn’t push her brand to the forefront by being one of those celebrities who leaps at the first business opportunity to present itself. Williams tells BlackEnterprise.com that she attributes her stellar track record to her parents’ mentorship and the three guiding principles that inform any decision she makes.
“The first is preparation,” says the recent fashion design school graduate, who joined forces with former retailer Steve & Barry’s in 2007 to establish the largest clothing line ever launched by a female athlete. “How prepared am I to do this and do it well?” she says. “I [want to] be the best—whether that’s the best in the world or my personal best.”
Another major factor Williams considers is how established and reliable her business partners are. “It’s important to surround yourself with people you can trust,” shares the 30-year-old world champion, whose historic 2000 deal with sneaker giant Reebok for a record $40 million—at the time the most lucrative endorsement deal ever for a female athlete—underlies her point. “Your partners have to share your vision,” she continues. “Plus the kind of relationship you have with them depends on who you are as a person. If you’re untrustworthy, you won’t have good things gravitate toward you.”
The third rule, Williams says, is to pick projects that appeal to her inner child. “I do things I enjoy,” she says simply. The tennis titan, along with sister Serena, became the first African American females to buy a share of an NFL franchise in 2009 when they invested in the Miami Dolphins. “Between [football, my other business ventures], tennis and charity work,” she says, referring to her work with The Owl Foundation Tennis Challenge and other philanthropic endeavors, “I’m living my dreams!”
But nothing, perhaps, has been more fun for Venus than developing her own videogame and being named global brand ambassador for EA Sports Active 2 earlier this month. “I’ve partnered with [EA Sports] to help people live healthier lives,” explains Williams, who last year was named one of the “Top 100 Most Powerful Celebrities“ by Forbes magazine. “I do all the workouts you see in the program—the squats, jumps and other moves,” she says of the interactive game, available on Xbox, Playstation 3 and Wii. “It’s a new way of helping people get fit. You don’t have to go to the gym. You don’t have to count calories. You just have to be willing to get up and move. And helping other people reach their highest potential is always fun for me.”