Based on Laurel Richie’s position as the president of the WNBA, you would think her professional experience is mostly in sports. But the league’s decision to hire Richie, who has no sports background — but decades of business and marketing experience — clues fans into the organization’s mission to become more of a major player in sports.

Richie assumed her role at the WNBA last May, bringing to the league knowledge gained from her time as the chief marketing officer of the Girl Scouts of America, her work with Big Brothers/Big Sisters, and the national advertising agency Ogilvy & Mather. She is the third president in the league’s 15-year history, and the first with no sports connection.

Laurel Richie is making history as… the first African-American to head a national sports league. With her strong ties to business and marketing, the league’s decision in choosing her for the position alludes to a hope that Richie can stabilize a group that has over the years been fraught with franchises going under, relocating teams and a shrinking roster.

What’s next for Richie?

Richie continues to oversee the WNBA and was awarded a Black Girls Rock! Award from BET last November.

A little-known fact about the WNBA…

The concept for the WNBA was approved by the NBA Board of Governors in 1996. The league began playing the following year.

For more information about the WNBA, click here.

Q: What’s next in this chapter of your life?

A: The WNBA is the longest running women’s professional sports league in the country. In addition to providing a highly competitive game and a really fun in arena experience for our fans, the WNBA is changing the way America views women and having a positive impact on the way America views professional athletes. We’re on a mission to show the world what women can be as athletes and what athletes can be as citizens.

Q: What’s a fact about you that many people don’t know?

A: I collect hearts.

Q: What’s your favorite quote?

A: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” (Gandhi)
“Begin anywhere.” (John Cage)
“Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard
work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.” (Unknown)

Q: Where do you get your inspiration?

A: My parents: As far back as I can remember, their commitment to making a positive impact on the communities in which they lived and worked was equal only to their commitment to helping my sisters, brother and me achieve our dreams.

Q: Who are/were your mentors?

A: I have been lucky to have many mentors. During my early days in advertising two men — David Mechlin at Ogilvy and Dudley Lehman at Kimberly Clark — played a critical role in my development. They helped me learn the business, promoted me within the company and helped me recognize what distinguished me from my peers.

Q: What advice would you give to anyone who wants to achieve their dreams?

A: Dream big, and stay true to yourself as you pursue your dreams.