By Niovie Constantinou, Contributor
In the 20th century, women were underrepresented in the sports industry, while the idea of female entrepreneurship would seem ambitious at best; what about female athletes as entrepreneurs? Unheard of. In the last fifty years female athleticism has challenged gender norms but female athletes were still measured by their physical appearance and portrayed in roles that reaffirm their femininity, as wives and mothers.
In spite of all the adversities, female athletes have started breaking free from these social constraints and through all the discrimination and gender inequality, female athlete entrepreneurs have started their rise to fame. Indeed, the amount of female business owners has increased by 114% in the last 20 years and currently around 252 million women globally are entrepreneurs, while another 153 million run well-established businesses. Female athletes, realizing that their potential goes beyond the field, are now venturing successfully into the business world:
- Former WNBA basketball player Michelle Brooke-Marciniak, known as one of the most outstanding point guards and leaders in women’s basketball, is the co-founder of SHEEX, a high-performance bedding and sleepwear brand that is said to offer “the world’s first athletic-performance sheets” and focuses on the science of sleep and recovery.
- Tennis pro Maria Sharapova has built a marketing empire, partnering with companies such as Nike and Porsche. In 2013, she launched candy business Sugarpova, while striking distribution deals with the biggest grocery chain and the world’s biggest convenience store. Recently she has announced her investment in tech wellness brand Therabody where she also serves as a strategic advisor.
- American professional soccer player Alex Morgan, who has co-captained the United States women’s national soccer team from 2018 to 2020 is also an author of children’s book series “The Kicks”. The book series, later turned into an animated video series, focuses on empowering young girls through themes like leadership and perseverance. To tackle the issue of inadequate media coverage for female athletes as opposed to their male counterparts, she has also launched a media and commerce company called TOGETHXR, which aims to “shatter the often narrow depictions of women in the media with content featuring a diverse and inclusive community of game-changers, culture-shapers, thought leaders and barrier breakers”.
- 23-time Grand Slam winner Serena Williams, is undoubtedly one of the greatest athletes of all time. At the same time, she is an icon beyond tennis; from e-commerce and fashion to food and health, she has plans to grow her business exponentially. She has her own jewelry line and launched the first collection of her sustainable clothing line “S by Serena” in 2019, with the aim to highlight body inclusivity. She also has a capital firm known as Serena Ventures and is a member of the board of directors of Poshmark and SurveyMonkey and has investments in Indonesian coffee-line Kopi Kenangan, the American football team Miami Dolphins and the UFC.
Evidently, female athletes are making an enormous effort to be present in the world of entrepreneurship. Yet, the number of female athlete entrepreneurs is falling behind their male counterparts. Equality among men and women is essential for the development of society and female entrepreneurship is an important pillar in women achieving financial independence. There is still a long way to go, but the impact of female entrepreneurship has so far been remarkable and, unquestionably, female athlete entrepreneurship will continue to grow as female presence in the world of business becomes the norm.
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