More Than A Housewife: Sanya Richards-Ross Talks Balance, Business And Branding

Sanya Richards-Ross is a woman of abundance.

The revered four-time Olympic gold medalist, serial entrepreneur and alum of hit reality series Real Housewives of Atlanta is a self-admitted perfectionist, and is ready to lean into the next big phase of her career.

“I’m really hard on myself and I always overthink everything,” she tells me in a follow up message a few hours after our initial interview was conducted. “I wanted to make sure my gratitude came across clearly.”

She does, indeed have a lot to be grateful for.

Born in Kingston, Jamaica, Richard-Ross’s early running talent took her and her family to the USA where she went on to help the country win relay gold at the World Championships in 2003 after becoming naturalized. She went on to do the same thing again in the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. For the next near decade she solidified her place as a globally respected athlete, which led to a high public profile she’s smartly leveraged to secure brand deals and partnerships including Wells Fargo, Nike, and wellness company TechnoGym among others. Now, she’s stepping into the world of fashion with her latest venture.

She recently announced a high-profile partnership with global casual fashion brand SHEIN for the Sanya Richards-Ross collection, a capsule line inspired by the strong women in her life in time for International Women’s Month. The collection is shoppable from now until the end of the year.

More Than A Housewife: Sanya Richards-Ross Talks Balance, Business And Branding

Alongside her mother, who is also her manager, and sister, Richards-Ross’s stylist, says the collection embodies true empowerment.

“The partnership just makes sense because they were in full support of me bringing in the most important women in my life to help bring the collection to fruition,” she says, explaining that the three of them worked hand-select the items. The size inclusive collection includes tops, jackets and dresses and pants that move with women as they navigate their lives.

More Than A Housewife: Sanya Richards-Ross Talks Balance, Business And Branding

“We wanted to ensure that women have pieces in their closet that they can wear for a morning event, breakfast, hanging out with their girlfriends, or going to dinner. We’re so complex. And I wanted the collection to reflect that we’re non-monolithic. It can touch someone from every generation.”

Her intention for creating an age-broad clothing range makes sense since the average Shein customer is female, with an average age of 35, and her annual salary is around $65,000. Additionally, she spends about $100 a month on women’s clothing.

“It’s so accessible, so affordable.”

Although the company has been lauded for its cost-friendly items, there have also been concerns raised by environmentalists about SHEIN’s sustainability efforts because of its considerable carbon footprint.

In recent years, SHEIN has made steps to reduce its environmental impact and promote fashion sustainability.

“We are paving the way for our business to continue its growth trajectory and outlining what we can do as a business to drive change,” Adam Whinston, Global Head of ESG at SHEIN said in the company’s most recent impact report. “Our Sustainability and Social Impact strategy builds on our existing programs and initiatives across our value chain. evoluSHEIN aims to guide SHEIN in the next phase of its journey toward a more desirable and sustainable future that is accessible to all. We are embarking on a long and exciting journey: that of our evolution.”

Richards-Ross said because of the company’s commitment to innovation, it was a business partnership that made sense for her, particularly at this stage in her career, nearly 10 years removed from her athletic retirement.

“Most athletes don’t talk or think about {financial viability} until they’re so far along in their career,” Richards-Ross tells ESSENCE. “I tell young athletes that it’s so important to think about your end game early in your career, because unfortunately, you’re not going to be able to be a high-level athlete forever. It’s one of those things that you give so much of your life up for. And after 20, max 30 years, you got to transition into something else. I tell young people to find other things they’re passionate about while competing at a high level. I tell them to network. When you have these incredible opportunities to be in rooms that you may not otherwise have been in, meet the other people in the room. Understand how you can contribute to society in other ways. I think that that’s one of the things that I was fortunate to start doing young in my career that allowed me to really transition out of sports in a very successful way.”

Her advice echoes a recent uptick in NIL (name, image and likeness) deals college athletes have been securing, which for some, are reaching seven figures.

“One of the things that you bring up that I think is obviously different than when I was growing up is that young people now have an opportunity to get NIL deals and start building their brands earlier and to start making money earlier. I love to see it.”

Richards-Ross’s makes its clear that she wants everyone to attain success, and for that, it’s easy to see why she keeps winning at life.

“I balance everything I have going on because I just try to come from place of gratitude,” she shares. “Being very grateful and feeling very lucky that I get to be a wife and that I get to be a mom and that I get to be an entrepreneur. Being gracious keeps everything going for me.”

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