London | Serena Williams expands her business portfolio

Serena Williams is expanding her business interests by investing more than $1 million in a British sports venture, OpenSponsorship, and joining a consortium bidding to become the new owners of Chelsea Football Club.

There has never been a shortage of brilliance in Black America; only limits to the access and opportunities extended to our community. Serena Williams

OpenSponsorship, which was founded by Ishveen Jolly, is a website that helps athletes to find sponsors.

According to reports, Williams aims to do big things through her company, Serena Ventures, which she established some 9 years ago.

“The only way that people can get funding is if people like me, women and people of colour, are actually writing the checks,” the former World No 1 said recently. “Otherwise it’s going to be the same boys’ club, except not for a lot of Black people.”

Williams is a 23-time Grand Slam singles title holder, who says she has developed a thick skin over the years, but still she loves proving the doubters wrong.

“Whether it’s venture people saying that I shouldn’t be doing it, or it’s tennis when people said I’ll never be good at it, I do think there’s a part of me that always will enjoy proving people wrong,” Williams said.

“And sometimes you just need something to feed the fire, right?

“I’m like, ‘Oh that’s what I needed to hear. You’re going to regret what you just said’. But that’s me, and growing up behind Venus, I had to have that personality.”

OpenSponsorship founder Jolly told The Mail on Sunday: “I thought, why is there not an efficient Airbnb-style company that helps sponsorship?

“We have a lot of athletes who are Olympians, but they want to be influencers as well.

“We had a company retreat recently in Miami, and Serena spoke to the whole team.

“A big thing for her was championing the athletes who previously haven’t had access to sponsorship.

“We’re seeing a huge increase in coverage of women’s sport, but sponsorship has lagged behind that.”

Williams is also joining forces with an American startup to support current and aspiring Black engineers.

The interviewing company Karat, based in Seattle, said in a recent press release that Williams has invested in its Brilliant Black Minds program, which ‘improves access and inclusion across the technology industry’.

Williams will also serve as the program’s ‘Champion of Brilliance’.

Karat launched the program to close what it calls the ‘interview access gap’ among Black software engineers and overcome the numerous systemic and socioeconomic barriers they face when trying to break into the industry, the release said.

Some of those barriers, according to the release, include:

  • a lack of access to knowledge of how the engineering industry hires candidates
  • fewer professional connections within the industry
  • fewer opportunities to practice technical interviews

“The technology industry is focused on solving some of the world’s biggest challenges,” Williams states in the release. “My focus is ensuring the solutions to those challenges are developed by all of us.”

Karat and Williams aim to add more than 100,000 Black engineers to the tech industry in the next 10 years.

“There has never been a shortage of brilliance in Black America; only limits to the access and opportunities extended to our community,” Williams adds in the release.

Lewis Hamilton is joining Serena Williams as a member of the consortium bidding to buy Chelsea Football Club

© Remy Steiner/Getty Images for IWC

Her latest venture sees Williams joining Sir Lewis Hamilton as members of a consortium bidding to take over Chelsea FC, which is being fronted by Sir Martin Broughton, the former British Airways and Liverpool FC chairman, and Sir Sebastian Coe, the World Athletics President.

According to Sky News: “Hamilton and Williams – the highest-profile members of any of the three remaining consortia – had pledged an estimated £10m each to the bid.”

A long-standing fan of Arsenal, Hamilton has seized the chance to invest in its London rival as the 3 bidders try to buy the Premier League club from sanctioned Russian owner Roman Abramovich.

The 7-time F1 champion and Williams have joined together to raise millions of pounds, although the exact amount has yet to be revealed, but a spokesperson for Hamilton has said that his reported £10 million ($13 million) investment was ‘not accurate’.

Hamilton and Williams are expected to play a formal role in Chelsea FC’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts should their bid be successful.

Williams and Hamilton are part of a consortium that also features proposed investment from Josh Harris and David Blitzer, the owners of the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers, who would have to sell their stakes in Premier League club Crystal Palace to buy Chelsea.

A New York-based merchant bank, the Raine Group, has been overseeing the sale process that was announced last month by owner Abramovich following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Chelsea has been up for sale since February when Abramovich was sanctioned by the UK Government and the EU while also having his assets frozen and, as a result, the club is not allowed to do any day-to-day operations, including the sale of transfers, merchandise and match tickets.



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