After Dominating the Courts for Almost Three Decades, Venus Williams Prepares to Serve Up Design Dominance.
Ombre gown, $4,995, by Monique Lhuillier at Saks Fifth Avenue, Worth Avenue; Willow Leaf earrings, $120, and hammered square link bracelet, $250, both by Harrison Morgan at palmbeachandco.com.
Don’t underestimate the soft-spoken nature of tennis ace Venus Williams. Her hard-won confidence is the result of breaking boundaries and obliterating records. Yet, as she glides her long, lean physique into the makeup room, her demeanor is surprisingly calm and approachable. She takes the time to greet everyone and make eye contact. Up close, her cheekbones are finely chiseled and her large brown eyes are full of childlike wonderment. For years, in between winning seven Grand Slam titles and four Olympic gold medals, Williams has quietly mastered the principles of spatial design, fit and form, and running a successful business. Make that two successful businesses.
While she continues to remain in the public eye for her powerful hitting style, in her Palm Beach office, Williams drives herself and her team hard to grow two iconic brands: EleVen and V Starr Interiors. Ready to go viral, the activewear and interior design worlds are getting caught up in the Venus effect.
Dress, $1,996, by Alice + Olivia, The Royal Poinciana Plaza; earrings, $15,800, by Patricia Robalino at Patricia Robalino Designs, Worth Avenue.
Like most women, you juggle a lot—three jobs: tennis player, interior designer and founder of the largest apparel line ever launched by a female athlete. What’s your day like?
I love being busy and creative. I love a challenge. Though I’m not a morning person, I get up early and am on the court for two to three hours. After that, I do some cardio and then gym training. Training is part of my job. If it’s a weekday, after my training I head straight to the office for work and meetings.
Let’s talk about your clothing line, EleVen. Where did the idea come from?
I’ve been active my whole life, so this step was pretty organic. My line is powerful, energizing and easy to wear. The brand is about being your best. Being an EleVen is better than a 10! Even though I spent so much time on the court growing up, as a little girl I was also trying to sew clothes for my Barbie doll.
Jumpsuit, $395, by Alice + Olivia, The Royal Poinciana Plaza; hammered square link necklace, $550, rope hoop earrings, $70, and large Koi Fish bracelet, $450, all by Harrison Morgan at palmbeachandco.com.
What does EleVen have in store for this summer?
We will launch our Love Leopard collection May 23. It’s about strong colorblocking: Limelight Green paired with Dove Gray in a fun animal print. With everything from a stylish bomber to a trim tank top perfect for high-intensity workouts, this collection is your best bet for any workout.
Tell us more about your interior design business, V Starr Interiors.
We do commercial design, hospitality, multifamily and institutional projects. It’s a niche business, but I find that there is a lot of creative latitude to impact people through private and communal spaces. We have projects throughout Florida, L.A., Texas, Chicago and New York.
What do you love most about the design process?
I like the hustle and bustle of a timeline. I like finding inspiration and working with developers and architects to channel their style. I also love to deliver on my word. My mom taught me from an early age to keep my word. It’s important for us to deliver on time, on budget and what we promised from a design standpoint. We always do that.
How would you describe your corporate culture? What kind of boss are you?
I think I’m probably nice. [laughs] I try to return my emails the same day. It’s important that I am responsive, and give feedback and direction. I also see our culture as one of fun and accountability. We work hard and we learn from our losses. Because just like on the court, your losses teach you how to win.
Do you have any advice for other athletes and entrepreneurs on starting a business?
Learn your business inside out. Work in the industry if possible. Have a partnership or a mentor. Learn to pivot quickly if something is not working. Give yourself a set amount of time for something to work. Test as much as possible. I also want to break down barriers for athletes. One of the toughest barriers I’ve faced is that many people see me as an athlete, and they don’t see me as anything else. At the end of the day, everyone has more than one ability. I’ve always wanted to do things off the court because, at some point, I will retire young. Finally: Keep learning. I’m always learning.
You’ve chosen to headquarter your business in Palm Beach County. You could have set up shop anywhere. Why PB?
I love Palm Beach, and I am rooting for Palm Beach. This is where I live. I want to build a large company right here so that more entrepreneurs will come. I am also very proud of my team. We are a close-knit family. They help my dreams come true on a daily basis.
Shot on location at Atlantico at Alton Luxury Apartments, an FCI Residential Community
Styled by Zlata Kotmina | Hair by Angela Meadows | Makeup by Natasha Gross, natashagrossartistry.com | Styling assistance by Irina Smirnova
Photography by: Nick Mele