We have this cultural image of pro athletes living for their sport, only to disappear into relative obscurity when their peak levels of fitness inevitably fade. The fact is, for a great many pro athletes, once their sporting careers are overall that mental focus and determination has to go somewhere! And more often than not it goes into business.

Whether that passion finds its way into an MLM program or if an elite athlete builds their winning business idea from the ground up, a large number of pro athletes have transferred their eye of the tiger into successful entrepreneurial ventures.

Here’s a handful of the best and brightest. 

Venus Williams

Venus Williams’ stellar career as a tennis ace places her as one of the most successful athletes of all time. She has played in thirty Grand Slam finals across singles and doubles, and has five Wimbledon singles titles to her name. She’s also an incredibly successful entrepreneur.

As CEO of her own activewear fashion label, EleVen, Williams has built a name for herself as a savvy businesswoman with a distinctive approach to quality fitness apparel. Her clothing line is available the world over, and the EleVen brand name is known both for the innovation inherent to its design philosophy and the label’s uncompromising approach to manufacturing.

Not content with attaining fashion preeminence, Venus Williams also established her own interior decoration company, V Starr Interiors. Interviewed for Forbes Magazine, Williams said, “I think as an athlete you’re always overcoming all kinds of challenges. That’s the name of sport — it’s a challenge. So definitely applying those lessons of perseverance and learning from mistakes and setting goals has definitely helped me in business.”

Dwayne Johnson

Dwayne The Rock Johnson is, to state the obvious for a moment, gifted with an amazing physique. But Johnson is equally gifted with a ton of business smarts. Building on early success as a pro wrestler, Johnson rapidly built a certain mystique around his name. Equal parts boy scout and badass, Johnson has spent a lifetime building a successful venture after a successful venture.

In 2019, The Rock made Times’ list of 100 Most Influential People. He’s at the bedrock of several wildly successful movie franchises and television series and even made successful forays as an author, his autobiography rocketing to the New York Times Best Seller List. And of course, all of this comes back to one basic truth about The Rock: he’s an amazing businessman!

Dwayne’s movie earnings alone are somewhere north of $250 billion, making him one of the most successful athlete entrepreneurs of all time.

Lebron James

Ask your average basketball pundit who can lay claim to the greatest player in basketball history, and Lebron James is going to get his fair share of mentions. He’s played in over a dozen NBA All-Star Games and holds an impressive number of all-time basketball records. He’s also paved his own way as a sporting entrepreneur, carving a unique niche in a range of sports entertainment ventures.

In 2014, James co-founded Uninterrupted, a social media company that brings sports stars and fans together. He also part-owns SpringHill Entertainment, a production company with close ties to Warner Brothers. Beyond his entrepreneurial forays into the entertainment industry, James also has signed a long list of endorsement deals, Coca-cola, McDonald’s, Nike and Beats by Dre among them.

Maria Sharapova

Maria Sharapova, a Russian professional tennis player, has been active in pro tennis since the early Noughties. She’s had stints as the World Number One female tennis player and has built a reputation as a ruthless competitor who is friendly on and off the court. Her natural charisma and big personality make her a fan favorite. If you had bet on her matches with BetOnline, you too could have made a lot of money along the way!

Naturally photogenic, Sharapova has been active through most of her sporting career as a model for a string of celebrated fashion houses. She also, perhaps quite improbably, started her own line of candy. Sugarpova is a fun and playful brand selling a range of naturally flavored snacks to her adoring public (along with folks who just dig the candy). Sealing her deal as a good sport, a portion of every candy sale goes to charity.

What’s particularly interesting about each of these athletes is that they became famous and successful in domains far removed from their sport of choice. Venus Williams built two successful businesses from her distinctive style. Dwayne Johnson built a vast empire on his badass good-guy image. Lebron James put his social media and publicity savvy to good use. Maria Sharapova followed her sweet tooth and combined it with a natural gift for business development.

What’s the take-home here? Perhaps it’s simply that passion and focus are a universal currency. If you have the will to make something work, perhaps you’ve already won half the battle.