Venus Williams has designs on decorating business
By BETH HARRIS, AP Sports Writer
November 12, 2002
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Venus Williams has designs on more than being one of the world's top tennis players. She's already looking toward the day when she puts down her racket for good.
Williams has started an interior design and decorating company called ``V Starr Interiors,'' a play on her full name of Venus Ebony Starr Williams.
``It's the way I was brought up to always plan for the future,'' she said. ``I love planning and I love putting things together. That's just what I do well.''
The Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.-based company isn't just a vanity project for the two-time Wimbledon and U.S. Open champion, who finished the season as the No. 2 player behind younger sister Serena.
As V Starr's president and chief executive officer, Williams is involved at every level.
She began a business plan in April and introduced the company Tuesday during a news conference at the Pacific Design Center.
Unlike most struggling entrepreneurs, Williams has a solid financial base, having earned more than $10 million in prize money and millions more in endorsements since turning pro in 1994.
She designed the company logo, which features a looping V, and decorated its offices. She'll earn an associate's degree in fashion design from the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale next year, and she was certified as an interior decorator this year.
She deals with the hassles as well. She stepped in when the printer messed up her business cards and she fired the company that worked on a folder given to potential clients.
``It was a whole learning curve,'' she said.
Williams has dabbled in design since 1999, doing free-lance interior decorating for friends and family and designing a line of leather and suede clothing for the Wilson's Leather chain.
As a globe-trotting tennis player, Williams developed an eye for detail and design while staying in fancy hotels, shopping at pricey stores and visiting historical places. She's learned to recognize the finer things, whether it's fabric or fashion.
``You can't fool me anymore,'' she said. ``I can tell if it's cheap.''
She decided Palm Beach Gardens and its wealthy citizenry was the perfect place to set up shop. She's going after high-end clients who will trust her company to design a home and buy and install the furnishings. V Starr already has two clients.
``Sometimes people don't have a clue what they want or they can't do it themselves. That's where I come in and I make it happen,'' she said. ``A lot of people think it is just picking the fabric or a sofa, but there's a lot more that goes into it.''
Her favorite color is green, although she favors bold colors like red and royal blue, and wouldn't dream of covering a sofa in silk if a client has pets that like to jump on the furniture.
``It's hard to say a design is wrong, but if it doesn't function correctly, then it's wrong,'' she said. ``If you place your bed in front of the window, that's wrong.''
Williams isn't going it alone. She solicited resumes on the Internet and interviewed potential design directors before hiring Bonnie Nathan, who was already running her own company in Boca Raton.
``If I don't understand something, I say I don't understand or I ask Bonnie later,'' Williams said, giggling.
``I've already learned a great deal from her,'' Nathan said. ``She is wonderful with people, knows what she wants, makes good decisions and has a passion for design.''
Nathan and others will incorporate Williams' ideas into the actual designs and do the day-to-day work when Williams is at tournaments.
While sister Serena pursues an acting career in her spare time, Venus is happy to immerse herself in books on business management and design. Initially, Williams felt comfortable with her ability to design but was uneasy interviewing furniture and fabric vendors.
``I'm the kind of person that when I get into something, I have to know exactly how it's done or I'll feel embarrassed,'' she said. ``I did feel shy because maybe I didn't know as much as the next designer, but I've gotten over it.''
V Starr Interiors
Tennis star Venus Williams (news - web sites), 22, sits in front of one of her design during a news conference to launch Williams' interior design and decorating company at the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood, Calif., Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2002. The company is called 'V Starr Interiors,' a play on her full name of Venus Ebony Starr Williams. (AP Photo/Jean-Marc Bouju)