Serena Williams’ impact on the tennis court has been undeniable. The 37-year-old tennis star has long been hailed as a sport’s feminist icon, who has found unrelenting success — even in the face of sexist and racist criticisms about her body and personality.
Now, the 23-time Grand Slam winner is seeking to expand her influence by investing in women of color. Williams told Adweek that she is looking to invest more in female entrepreneurs, who receive less than 2 percent of funds raised by venture capitalists, specifically focusing on promising Black businesswomen.
“If I can introduce these women with great companies to other people, I feel like, wow, we can make a little bit more noise,” she said. “There are so many African-American people who have great ideas [who are overlooked] because of the color of our skin.”
Prominent brands, such as Nike, Gatorade, and Weight Watchers, have previously endorsed Williams, and as a venture capitalist she currently has almost 30 companies in her portfolio.
The athlete traced her business savviness to her father Richard Williams, who helped her think critically about finances since the age of 14 when he took her to negotiate her first major business contract with Puma. “He wanted me to be in on the negotiations and know the ins and outs of business to understand how things operate and how to be successful in business,” she recalled about that meeting.
Williams launched an independent 12-piece fashion collection called Serena this year in May with the intention of empowering women. But beyond her entrepreneurial success, Williams says she is simply drawn to helping people.
The Williams Sister Fund, which was co-founded with Venus Williams, donates money and resources to the sisters’ hometown of Compton, CA. Williams also serves as UNICEF international goodwill ambassador and raises awareness about maternal mortality.
“I’ve always stuck up for the downtrodden or the people that aren’t in as fortunate of a position,” the new mom told AdWeek. “I feel like the vessel for that, for whatever reason, and I’m going to continue to create that awareness and try to create true equality for everyone."