Five-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova partnered with the Wall Street Journal to discuss her business ventures both during her professional tennis career, and what she plans on doing in retirement.
Having hung up her tennis racquets for good earlier this year, Maria Sharapova showcased her business acumen in an online webinar in partnership with the Wall Street Journal.
The WSJ Future of Everything Festival, held annually in the spring, typically offers attendees the opportunity to attend in-person workshops and question-and-answer sessions with celebrities, business leaders and other movers and shakers in the space.
Due to the global coronavirus pandemic, this year’s presentations are being held completely virtually, for free, and Sharapova joined WSJ sports columnist Jason Gay for the inaugural interview and Q&A session of the webinar series on Tuesday.
The Russian spoke about some of her current and future business ventures, and how they have been affected by the current climate. She discussed her corporate partnerships as an athlete, her candy company Sugarpova, and her aspirations of working in architecture, and in wellness facilities at hotels, resorts and spas.
“In hindsight, [my retirement] was great timing, because I’d be sitting here saying, ‘When do I train?’, ‘What do I train for?’ There are so many question marks around sport in general,” Sharapova said.
“From my perspective… it’s been really nice to have this moment of reflection, to look back at the 28 years of playing this one little sport, and what it meant to me, and recollecting, and also having the chance to form the foundation of the future.
“As I think of the past and how long it took me to become a champion in my sport — it took me well over 10 years just to play a first professional tournament — so whatever I might choose to do next… it will take time, and I’m using this time at home to work on that and build on that.
“I always carry a big-picture frame of mind because when I was growing up and I’d have tough losses, my father would say, ‘It’s not a sprint. It’s a marathon.’ and although I knew what my life and my schedule would look like in sport, your trajectory is never predicted.
“You can work as hard as you can, you can be a very talented athlete, but you take one wrong turn, and you end up at the end of you career. I know what it’s like to go through those peaks and valleys.
“As I was looking to my future and realizing as a female, even though when I was a little girl, I wanted to play this sport for the rest of my life… I realized, probably in my late teens, that there would be other things in my life that I would have an interest in.
“I was always working towards what the future after tennis might look like.”
Discussing the evolution of her personal brand, the five-time Grand Slam champion discussed her career partnerships with Nike, highlighting how it began when she was 11 years old, and her decade-long association with Evian.
“The relationship-building is one of the most incredible assets that I’ve gained along this journey,” she said.
“The relationship aspect has been incredibly valuable, and I continue to do that with the new partnerships I’ve gained and investments that I’ve made at this point in my career. The building of that is so important.
“I’ve grown and I’ve learned, and I’ve really gotten an MBA on the job… I love it. I love the challenge of it. I think there are a lot of elements of my sport that I take into the world of business, and I’m still learning every single day.”
Sharapova also discussed how she started her candy line, Sugarpova, seven years ago, and how the brand has expanded from exclusively gummy candies to include chocolate offerings, and a new line of all-natural gummy candies that were released last year.
“When I had shoulder surgery when I was 21 years old… I really wanted to spend my time growing something in a category that I was passionate about,” she said.
“I grew up in my grandmother’s kitchen. I enjoyed a sweet treat when I had a good practice, it was the first thing that I would ask my parents for.
“It is slightly strange, but I think I’ve had a good understanding of what it means to be diligent and professional, taking care of your body and having a healthy lifestyle.
“But I have a saying that I use in my life: moderation in moderation. Just the right amount. just a little bit of this, not too much of that. That’s kind of how I see sweets and how I see indulgence and treating yourself.”
Ultimately, Sharapova revealed how the characteristics that took her to success on the court have led to opportunities that educated her off of it, and set her up for success in her post-tennis life.
“I was always the best when I woke up and I had one single priority that I knew I had to accomplish during the day,” she said.
“When I would come off the court, that was the time when I couldn’t commit any more mental or physical effort… for that time after I prioritized that, and gave out all the physical movements and intensity that I could, I was very eager to learn and be curious about other things.
“I didn’t know where it would take me, and I didn’t exactly know what my other passions would be, but it was important to me because it kept my mind fresh when I’d be back on the court.
“I think if I spent 24 hours hearing, listening and watching everything about the game, that maybe would’ve put a little more pressure [on me], but because I had other interests and curiosities, I think it really helped me be better focused when I went on the court every single day.”