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Venus Williams’s Secret to Success Is Building a Solid Team

The athlete is a powerhouse on and off the court.

Venus Williams might have gotten her start in tennis, but the seven-time Grand Slam champion has transformed her on-court passion into a flourishing career as an entrepreneur. Not only is she still in the game, but the 2005 SI Swimsuit model has founded and helms the activewear line EleVen, the interior design firm V Starr Interiors, and plant-based protein company Happy Viking. Plus, along with sister Serena Williams, she's a minority owner of the Miami Dolphins (the duo were the first Black women to gain an ownership share in an NFL franchise). And along the way, she’s furiously advocated for equal pay in her sport and beyond.

If that hasn’t kept her busy enough, in the last year Williams was involved in the production of the Oscar-winning film King Richard about her family, and she entered a long-term partnership with online mattress retailer GhostBed. A collection of performance mattresses intricately designed by the tennis pro is now hitting the market, crafted for recovery and performance. We chatted with Williams to learn more about her latest venture and about how the sport of tennis has helped to shape her business endeavors.

Why is sleep so important to you?

“Sleep is absolutely essential to health and success. If you don’t get the rest you need, you can’t perform well. Eight to 10 hours is my sweet spot and what I aim for. I really do notice a difference if I haven’t gotten a good night’s sleep. It affects my energy, attitude, motivation, and how I play. So it’s a non-negotiable! Through this collection, I wanted to make a good night's sleep more accessible.”

What elements did you include in your line that you couldn’t find anywhere else?

“Our first two products in the collection are the Legend mattress and the Legend Hybrid mattress. The hybrid is a little plusher and springier, but they both were designed to help with performance and recovery. Both mattresses have our Venus Layer, a layer of gel memory foam infused with special minerals. Those minerals actually interact with your body heat and reflect far-infrared light back to you. Many athletes are familiar with far-infrared therapy, and this mattress makes it more accessible, so I'm excited about that.”

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How will the line expand?

“The line will absolutely expand! Our first two mattresses – the Legend and the Legend Hybrid – are available on GhostBed.com, but we also have a wholesale lineup that you’ll be able to get at local retailers across the country. We’re also working on expanding the line by adding items like pillows, bedding and more, with plans to add a smart bed option. So there’s definitely more to come.”

What lessons have you taken from tennis and applied to your entrepreneurship?

“Over the years I’ve taken some hard-earned lessons from the court and

translated those to my business endeavors. In tennis, you’re out there all by yourself without anyone else’s help. But when you’re on a team, you get to learn and grow with others, which is something I very much value and enjoy. Of course, there are times when I have to make final decisions, which I don’t mind doing, but I like to make sure people are empowered to make their own calls. Something else tennis has taught me is the importance of drive and commitment. I’m extremely competitive, and I want to be the best in business. I will always put in the work it takes to succeed.”

What has been the biggest learning lesson in building your portfolio?

“Getting the right people on your team is so important. Not only does it make everyday decisions easier, but also you can learn so much from other people’s perspectives. Partnering with GhostBed is a great example of this. I knew I was interested in creating products to help people get the sleep they need, and GhostBed helped make that a reality. The team there has been making comfortable and high-quality mattresses for decades, and they really know what they’re doing. The first time I laid down on the Legend mattress, I almost fell asleep right there in front of everyone. That’s how I knew I picked the right team."

What advice would you give to other women who are entrepreneurs?

“I think as women, we can sometimes get caught up in paying too much attention to other people’s overwhelming expectations of us – and that’s something that can ultimately cloud our vision. It’s important not to focus on what everyone else thinks you should do and cast aside other people’s opinions of what they think you should want. Once you do that, you can go after what you truly want.”