Financing

The Sports Bra wins growth investment from Serena Williams' husband

With women's sports on fire, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian's 776 Foundation is stepping in to help expand this Portland, Oregon-based concept that has sparked a new generation of sports bars dedicated to female athletes.
Alexis Ohanian (left) and Jenny Nguyen plan to multiply The Sports Bra nationwide. |Photo courtesy of FSI Social.

Women’s sports are in the spotlight this year and a bar in Portland, Oregon—cleverly called The Sports Bra—is poised to take advantage.

The Sports Bra, which is dedicated to female athletes and the sports they play, on Monday announced an undisclosed investment designed to help the concept expand with franchising.

The investment, which was not characterized, comes from 776 Foundation, a venture firm founded in 2022 by Alexis Ohanian, a co-founder of Reddit, who is also a principal owner of Angel City Football Club and Los Angeles Golf Club. He is also married to tennis champion Serena Williams.

Founded two years ago in Portland, The Sports Bra is among the first to exclusively televise women’s sports, but similar concepts have been popping up across the country.

Last month, A Bar of Their Own opened in Minneapolis, for example. Rough & Tumble opened in late 2022 in Seattle.  Watch Me Sports Bar is hosting popups in Southern California with the goal of opening this summer in Long Beach. In New York, a sports bar inspired by Althea Gibson, the first Black athlete in women’s tennis, is reportedly coming in the fall. In Denver, the 99ers Sports Bar is also in the works.

The Sports Bra founder and CEO Jenny Nguyen appears to have struck a chord at a time when female athletes are breaking records.

Viewership of the 2024 NCAA women’s basketball tournament reached 18.7 million, eclipsing the men’s tournament and outpacing the 2023 World Series and NBA Finals, the foundation said.

Former Iowa Hawkeye Caitlin Clark, who was recently drafted by the Indiana Fever in the WNBA, was an all-time scoring leader in college basketball history and on Tuesday was the first to win for the second time the James E. Sullivan Award given to most outstanding college players.

Last year, the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team broke viewership records for the FIFA Women’s World Cup.

Nguyen, in a statement, said, “When I first opened The Sports Bra two years ago this month, I had no idea the impact it would have on so many so quickly. Now I can see we’re just getting started.”

The investment will support the concept’s growth, but also “to advance future generations of women athletes,” but exactly how is unclear.

The bar has a full menu with starters like baby back ribs and Aunt Tina’s Vietna-Wings, salads and a lineup of burgers and sandwiches. There’s also a kid’s menu, and desserts.

Drinks include signature and specialty cocktails, as well as zero-proof options, and, of course, beer and wine and other non-alcohol options.

Nguyen in an email said it's not clear yet where the concept will grow, but the application process will open within the next couple months. The bar is working with iFranchise to assist the process, and Nguyen hopes to open another location in Portland. 

“This is an exhilarating time for women’s sports, and The Sports Bra has proven the strong need for more places to celebrate them,” Nguyen said in the statement. “I envision a future full of Sports Bras everywhere doing what we do best: supporting women.”

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