WNBA players Rebekkah Brunson, Monique Currie and Marissa Coleman are making money moves
The three are spending their offseason getting a head start on life after basketball
For WNBA players, grinding year-round is a collective trope. And since the season has ended, many of the athletes are already making moves off court. While it’s a widely known tradition for players to earn money overseas, others are pursuing business ventures that will propel them forward financially after their playing days are over.
Minnesota Lynx forward Rebekkah Brunson is expecting her first child while launching a food truck business. Washington Mystics forward Monique Currie is a real estate investor. And New York Liberty forward Marissa Coleman is running her restaurant Mellow Mushroom with former teammate and longtime friend Alana Beard.
WNBA players tend to work twice as hard because WNBA salaries aren’t grand. During the 2018 WNBA season, rookies earned between $40,000 and $50,000 while the maximum veteran salary was $115,500. The league minimum for players with three or more years of service was $56,000; two years or fewer was $41,202.
Brunson, Currie and Coleman describe their business and explain their goals and their motives behind their paths to The Undefeated.
Brunson, the only player with five WNBA championship rings, has her hands full this offseason between the launch of her Twin Cities food truck business, Sweet Gypsy Waffle, and the arrival of her and wife Bobbi Jo’s first child, Graham Matteo Lamar Brunson. Their baby boy is due on Oct. 13, and the couple is relieved the date doesn’t fall on a Friday.
The WNBA All-Star and rebounding-record holder first fell in love with Liege waffles while playing for Dexia Namur in Belgium from 2004-06. Brunson knew she had to find a way to bring them back home.
“At first I wanted a waffle stand, and then the idea grew into a truck,” Brunson said. “My wife and I have friends that also have their own food trucks, and we thought it was something we could get excited about.”
It’s been one year since Brunson and Bobbi Jo found the truck that would become the center of their business. They picked out a 1950s bread van, raised its roof and rebuilt it.
“We made it a bit harder on ourselves, but we knew what we were going for and we wanted it to be different from all the other trucks that are out there,” said the 36-year-old. “It paid off because it’s a really nice truck.”
The now bright blue truck will make its way around Minneapolis and St. Paul serving up fresh Liege waffles with sweet and savory toppings.
“We want to key in on catering and corporate events,” said Brunson. “In the summertime, Minnesotans tend to really be outside, so we want to take advantage of that. The trying thing about it is that we’re in Minnesota and it gets cold,” she said, laughing.
Brunson has a bigger vision, and it’s one that is weatherproof: a cafe.
“I think waffles are a perfect game food, so we would like to get into arenas,” she said.
Sweet Gypsy Waffle will be used as a vessel to give back. According to its website, it will “offer employment opportunities to at-risk individuals and partner with coffee roasters that work diligently to bring awareness and equality to women of the coffee industry. In this, helping support our own communities along with women partners and their surrounding communities all over the world.”
Brunson and her wife will pick local charities to receive a portion of their proceeds monthly.
“Making sure we can make an impact in our community is something that is really important to us. It’s about the food, the love, the energy that we can give, and it’s also about uplifting our environment.”
This offseason is Currie’s first year not going overseas. She spent the past five offseasons playing in South Korea and the years before that in Turkey, Romania and Spain. She will use this time to fully dive right into her interests: real estate, refereeing and journalism.
“In the past, I’ve done my real estate investing from afar because I’ve been away playing, but now that I’m not leaving, I can be more hands-on,” Currie said. “I work with investors that do all the contracting. I don’t do any of the manual labor, but I make decisions and [am] constantly looking for properties.”
The Washington, D.C., native and resident owns a real estate investing company, Currie Collective LLC. Currie, 35, has purchased and flipped four houses in Maryland and owns several rental properties that she manages.
She believes her interest in real estate stems from her mom only watching HGTV when she was growing up.
“I love HGTV, but they glamorize the process,” Currie said. “As smoothly as it goes on TV, it’s never really like that in real life. I always love to see how they can transform houses. Even with the projects that I’ve done, it’s incredible to see the transformations.”
Besides growing her real estate investing business, the 12-year veteran wants to someday become a WNBA or NBA referee. Currie knows that she has to put in the work first.
“I’ve wanted to be a basketball referee for the longest time,” said Currie. “The usual transition for players is to go into coaching, and not many former professional players go into refereeing.
“I’ll be officiating high school boys games this fall. I’m really excited about that.”
That is in part due to help from Shelley Russi, former head of referees for the WNBA.
“Shelley helped put me in touch with the right people in D.C. to get started,” Currie said. “The NBA has a referee training program that I am hoping to be a part of that someday. I’m interested to see if I’m actually good at it and if I can take the heat. I want to be around the game, and it’s a way for me to stay around basketball without having to be a coach.”
Although she’s not overseas this year, Currie has teammates and friends who are. Two years ago, Currie launched a site, womensbasketball247.com, to provide updates on overseas basketball.
“I love journalism too,” Currie said. “I try to get other players to contribute with blogs and original video. I want to work at Vice someday. I like storytelling.”
“People probably think I’m crazy, but my ultimate goal is to become the Magic Johnson of women’s basketball,” Coleman said. “He thought about his post-playing career while he was still playing. Magic went from part-owner of the Lakers to starting and building up his own investment company, Magic Johnson Enterprises.
“You don’t see a lot of minority women in business. I want to be a mentor and show the road map of mistakes not to make. It’s really important for me to get to the point where I can create the blueprint for other female athletes and women in general.”
And she’s already started the path. Coleman is forgoing overseas as of now. She will check in on her restaurant, Mellow Mushroom, which she part-owns with Beard and Tom Wallace, the father of Emery Wallace, a former college teammate at the University of Maryland.
During Coleman’s rookie year with the Washington Mystics in 2009, Beard was a veteran on the team.
“She took me under her wing immediately,” said Coleman. “We had a lot of the same interests on and off the court. We both were like-minded when it came to business and exploring the business side of things.”
Beard is in the Philippines leading basketball clinics with the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State. When she returns soon, she’ll jump into an internship with a venture capital firm in San Francisco.
Six years ago, when Coleman was scouting a franchising opportunity, it only made sense that she teamed up with Beard. It was with the help of Tom Wallace that Coleman secured the idea for a franchise.
“One day, Mr. Wallace called me, saying, ‘I know what we’re going to do, have you heard of Mellow Mushroom?’ At the time I hadn’t, but we drove to North Carolina and Atlanta to visit different Mellow Mushrooms and we just fell in love with the concept. I really liked the concept of Mellow Mushroom and how they do business and how they treat their franchisees. Don’t get me wrong, I love pizza. We were drawn to it because we were able to put our own stamp on it.”
What also drew Coleman to Mellow Mushroom is that each franchise has its own psychedelic, ’70s feel to it, but there are no two that are the same.
While Coleman and Beard are in-season playing for their respective teams, they count on Tom Wallace to oversee Mellow Mushroom.
“Alana and I don’t want to be silent owners in anything we put our money into,” said Coleman. “It was important for us to have somebody running it to be involved on a day-to-day basis.”
Besides keeping up with the business, Coleman is working on building her Rolodex and expanding her mind.
“I’m a little behind the curve in the knowledge department because I’ve been playing basketball the past 10 years. I haven’t been able to do the internships or go to business school yet. So a lot of the knowledge that I’ve gained is from our partner teaching me since we began the process to franchise the restaurant.”
But Coleman did get a chance to get back in the classroom briefly last spring. The 31-year-old attended Harvard Business School: Crossover Into Business Program, which is designed for professional athletes to cultivate their business acumen.
“It was great to be on Harvard’s campus,” said Coleman. “We broke down case studies. It was really interesting to see the way that Harvard Business School students learn there. We would talk about case studies and break them down. I learned new ways to assess problems and ask questions. It gave me a new way to look at my business ventures or problems that may arise.”
This offseason, Coleman will also have her head back in the books, prepping for the Graduate Management Admission Test. Business school is one of her next endeavors — it’s just a matter of when. She’s also contemplating opening up a second franchise soon.