Venus Williams is continuing her wellness investing streak with an investment in Zeel, an on-demand massage business.
As part of the deal, Williams is joining the company’s board and will help Zeel roll its sports stretching and massage offerings deeper into the professional athlete community. The Zeel deal comes a few months after Williams invested in personal-care line Asutra, where she became chief brand officer. She also has her own interior design business, and an activewear line.
At Zeel, Williams will help the business integrate further with big sports organizations like the National Football League, National Basketball Association and United States Tennis Association.
“She’s going to open up that world,” said Zeel founder and chief executive officer Samer Hamadeh, who noted that sports services have become more in demand as “fitness stuff” — like Peloton and SoulCycle — become more popular. “[Massage] is becoming this health-care item,” he said.
“In order to prioritize recovery, I incorporate wellness services such as regular massage and muscle work into my regimen,” Williams said in a statement. “By strategically collaborating with the Zeel team and investing in growth of the platform, I’m excited to provide accessibility to those services for athletes and people everywhere.”
Zeel has been growing quickly, and now has over 11,000 massage therapists. This year, the company is projected to give more than 1 million massages, Hamadeh said.
While growth has been good, the company was recently the subject of a Gizmodo report that suggested Zeel may not be doing enough to protect its massage therapists from sexual harassment. Asked about the report, Zeel cofounder Alison Harmelin said that Zeel has 10 employees on its safety team and is constantly updating safety protocols, but is “not doing anything in response to that outlet,” she said, adding that Gizmodo is “not a credible journalistic outlet.” In a statement, Zeel called the story “inaccurate and misleading.”
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