To put a title next to Rushia Brown’s name doesn’t do her life’s work justice. She played professional basketball for 10 years in Europe and six years in the WNBA (1997-2003) and spent five years as a WNBA executive. With an MBA from George Washington University, her entrepreneurial spirit has led her to start several companies, including ServCom, a nonprofit that strives to improve communities with educational and enrichment activities for all its citizens and Young Black Entrepreneur Magazine, a quarterly publication that serves as an educational platform encouraging minorities to start their own businesses.
It feels like in the Spring of 2023 we’re at an inflection point for women’s sports. Why do you think there is so much energy around women’s sports at this moment and what are some ways to sustain this energy?
It is definitely an amazing time in women’s sports. Several headlines brought eyes to various games and situations increased visibility, even if some of the content drew negative commentary. There were instances when the conversations were negative, but it created a different attraction to women’s sports. Record numbers of fans seem to be interested in women’s sports and this will surely lead to greater support.
As someone who has been part of the WNBA as a player and executive, what do you see as the next steps needed to grow the league and increase opportunities for its athletes?
In my opinion, the only answer is EXPANSION! This season’s WNBA draft and training camp saw a number of top draft picks from this year and the past few years cut, left without a team. The level of competition in the league is higher than ever but, there aren’t enough teams to highlight the younger talent. The college game is producing some amazing talent and unfortunately, we may not be able to see them because they will have to play overseas. Another important piece to the growth of the league is more in-depth marketing of the women that play the game, giving fans the ability to connect with them on a different level. The new commissioner has done an incredible job bringing in new sponsors and supporters. The W is definitely in good hands.
You have been part of starting several companies – including the nonprofit ServCom, Young Black Entrepreneur magazine, and the Women’s Professional Basketball Alumni Association. What do you know now about being an entrepreneur that you wish you knew when you were first starting out?
I grew up in a family of entrepreneurs that didn’t have the business acumen but figured it out along the way and there is always something new to learn. I wish I knew that monetizing your passion is extremely difficult because it’s hard to put a dollar sign on the thing you would do for FREE! I’ve learned my role in companies is more about the vision and I must have more business savvy people on my team.
What are some ways that sports organizations and businesses, can address gender and racial diversity to become more inclusive and reflective of society?
The issues of gender and racial inequality are sown into the fabric of the American society. We’ve made so much progress over the years but there is so much more work to do. I’m confident that sports organizations and businesses can be at the forefront of change moving forward. Change starts at the top. It’s very important for the heads of companies to create work cultures that support gender and racial diversity. Hiring practices have to be evident on every level including their forward-facing messaging.
One of the ways you describe yourself is as a “change agent.” What does that mean to you and how would you encourage others to become change agents?
Over the years I’ve found that I’m happiest when I am being of service to others. For me, helping people find their “next best thing.” I am a master networker and knowing people is my business. I’ve been able to help people change their lives by making the right connection at just the right time. People trust me to make moves on their behalf and to have their best interest at heart. I take pride is empowering people to take the steps necessary to live their best lives. All these things help me in being a “change agent.”