‘I Had to Invest In Myself’: Serena Williams Becomes First Athlete Named on World’s Richest Self-Made Women List

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Serena Williams may not yet have made history with the ever-elusive Grand Slams record, but she’s already achieved another, more profitable record.

The tennis star has become the first athlete to be included on Forbes’ annual list of the world’s richest self-made women, the finance publication announced with her cover on the June 2019 special issue.

Serena Williams
Serena Williams speaks onstage at the BoF West summit at Westfield Century City on April 26, 2019, in Century City, California. (Photo by Amy Sussman/Getty Images for The Business Of Fashion)

“Be the brand. Starting @Serena and @Serena.Ventures are just a few steps. Honored to be the first athlete on @Forbes #SelfMadeWomen list,” Williams said when she shared the cover on her Instagram page June 4.

Williams sits behind Margaret Court with 23 Grand Slam titles to her name, but she’s the female sports star who has amassed the largest net worth all on her own. Forbes reports the pro athlete has an estimated $225 million in the bank, and now she’s parlaying the gains from her athletic prowess into transforming her personal brand and venture capitalism.

“I want to be a part of it,” told the magazine of her business outlook going from being the endorser to the one behind the company. “I want to be in the infrastructure. I want to be the brand, instead of just being the face.”

Williams has done that by launching Serena Ventures in April. The brand works to fund businesses through seed investing and also is a way for Williams to invest in herself and launch companies on her own.

So far, the star has supported 34 businesses through Serena Ventures and more than three-quarters of them are early-stage funding. Among those she’s backed are Billie, which offers shaving supplies without the so-called pink tax for women’s items that men typically pay less for, and Floravere, which creates direct-to-consumer bridal gowns for less than $2,500.

“It’s fun to get in there. I don’t gamble. I don’t jump off buildings,” Williams said. “I’m the most non-taking-a-chance kind of a person, but I felt like seed was where we wanted to be.”

It hasn’t always worked out, however. Williams invested and lost
$250,000 in a startup prior to establishing Serena Ventures. However, her current early-stage investing work has resulted in her only putting $6 million into her companies, which are purposely focused mostly on those headed by women or non-white people. Serena Ventures values the portfolio at over $10 million and twice as much as the initial investment. Plus, five of her investments have increased five times as the initial allocation.

And it’s not just other companies Williams is getting behind. She’s investing in herself, too, firmly making herself the brand. When it came to her S by Serena clothing line launched in May 2018, Williams recognized she had to put her money behind her personal businesses too.

“I was thinking of this the wrong way. I had to invest in myself,” she told Forbes of initially waiting for someone to fund another company so she could get into clothing design.

Thus, the self-funded, direct-to-consumer clothing brand was born. It features a collection of tops, denim and dresses that typically sell for less than $200. There are plans to expand the line to include jewelry by the end of 2019 and next year, beauty products will be released.

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