As a 21-time Grand Slam winner in singles and doubles combined, the trailblazing tennis champion Venus Williams is accustomed to going big on a large stage. The same ethos applies to her Florida-based firm , which since 2002 has made its name with eclectic projects that encompass everything from grand condominiums to athletic facilities and stadium décor for schools like Williams College. She’ll be extending her reach with V Starr’s latest endeavors, the luxury Miami residence Blue Lagoon and a in partnership with Airbnb (owners will be encouraged to share their units with visitors). And Williams will also be competing in the Australian Open Grand Slam tournament which starts on January 14. Here, Williams discusses her interest in design, the crossover between interiors and tennis and how she gets it all done.
When did your interest in design start?
Our parents always encouraged who we were outside of the court and I started to understand when I was a teenager that I absolutely loved design. From there, I found my passion and pursued it.
Did you design your own bedroom when you were younger?
Yeah, I had my own bedroom and I definitely designed it. It was really floral, I had this lavender carpet—I was a kid. It wasn’t that bad, actually, but I’d definitely do something different now. It would be a lot cleaner, a lot sleeker, and a lot more fun.
What made you want to take your passion for design to the next level and pursue it professionally?
It was a real requirement with my parents to do something besides tennis, so it occurred to me that I had to go to school and explore myself off the court. That’s why I took it so seriously.
But it’s different to study it and then make an amazing business out of it, what made you want to jump into it from a business perspective?
My parents also encouraged entrepreneurship and to work for yourself. Those were all things, ideals from my parents. It’s a common motif.
You started V Starr in 2002. What made you want to begin a business while you were still so busy with your athletic career?
Why not? And I think it worked out perfectly. The best way to do things is to challenge yourself and I’m always up for a challenge.
What was your first project at V Starr?
The very first project was an NBA player, his name is Carlos Boozer, and I remember when he agreed to work with us I was so excited, I was like “Yes!” Your first job is always the most exciting.
A lot of your recent projects have been full condos and not individual residences. Is that something you really wanted to be the focus of V Starr?
To have the opportunity to have a greater impact on design and people’s lives, that’s definitely unbelievable. We’ve had the chance to work on great projects like athletic stadiums and youth centers, so those things are really rewarding.
How on earth do you balance it all?
I don’t know. Sometimes I’m happy when the weekend comes! I try to support a good life balance. I don’t like to see an employee working or sending emails on the weekends. Every now and then, of course, you have a project that has you coming in on the weekend, and that comes up, but I’ve been trying to put those boundaries on myself the last three years. I will actually work, but I won’t send the email through until Monday. I work all day every day, I can’t sit still for whatever reason. But I don’t expect that from every single person at the company. I have great teams, I have great people I work with who are talented and capable and have the same attitude that I have so they would be willing to do that. But it’s just not sustainable.
Is there any overlap between your tennis and design careers?
I work very hard at both. There’s no way around hard work, no matter what you do. I’m definitely starting to realize even more that the lessons you learn on the court are just as important in business: being confident, having a winning attitude, controlling your emotions, all of that, it goes right into the office and clients, dealing with your employees, dealing with success and failures. I think I have a lot of training under my belt.