Dany Garcia, First Woman to Own a Pro Sports League, Inspires Female Entrepreneurs Everywhere

Native Business Executive Editor Carmen Davis (Makah/Chippewa-Cree/Yakama) celebrates women business owners and leaders in our weekly “From the Editor.”

Dany Garcia is the first woman to own a professional sports league. Last month, Garcia and her ex-husband/business partner Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, with the help of RedBird Capital Partners, purchased the XFL for $15 million. “This is one of the icon moments for me, I would call it,” Garcia, a proud Latina, told PEOPLE. “It’s an icon moment.” 

When the deal closed on August 3rd, headlines gave far more press to Johnson than Garcia. But this statement from The Rock set the record straight: 

“I have the pleasure to illuminate this huge milestone in sports history. My XFL partner, Dany Garcia becomes the first woman to own an entire professional sports league. She was the architect in our strategic acquisition of the XFL and now we proudly and humbly go to work with our partners – all for the love of football,” Johnson wrote on social media. “Congrats Dany! Let’s get to work.” 

Garcia’s vision and successful architecting of the acquisition of a professional American football league blazes trails for women everywhere. 

With “the keys” to the XFL handed over to Garcia and Johnson, diversity and inclusion will be “a relevant and accountable conversation” throughout the league, she says. Garcia’s typical experience in business is an unfortunate reality most female entrepreneurs know well. “I am usually one of the few, if not the only woman in the room,” says Garcia, the chairwoman of The Garcia Companies. “It’s not a unique position for me.” 

A former Merrill Lynch VP, Garcia manages the careers of Johnson and Henry Cavill via The Garcia Companies. She is the co-founder of Seven Bucks Production, a full-service production company launched in partnership with Johnson — and she finds time to compete as a professional bodybuilder on the side. 

Whenever a woman accomplishes a first or makes any significant stride on her own terms, it empowers women across the board. Garcia’s groundbreaking purchase reminds me of some impressive milestones achieved by Indigenous women entrepreneurs. 

Take Teara Fraser, for instance, founder of the first-ever Indigenous woman-owned airline. She built Iskwew Air (pronounced ISS-KWAY-YO), which launched out of Vancouver International Airport on March 12, 2019, on International Women’s Day. Today Iskwew operates a charter service and short-term flights to specific destinations. 

Iskwew is the Cree word for woman, reflecting one of her airline’s core values: celebrating women and those who uplift women. Iskwew represents “an intentional act of the reclamation of womanhood, matriarchal leadership, and language,” the company states.

READ MORE: Iskwew Air, Dedicated to Indigenous Women, Gets Ready to Take Flight

Iskwew Air CEO Teara Fraser Named one of Canada’s Most Powerful Women 

Meanwhile in the Southwest, Amy Yeung, Diné, is protecting and empowering her people by leveraging her business, Orenda Tribe, as a vehicle to deliver critical pandemic aid to the hardest hit Nation in the United States, the Navajo Nation. Orenda Tribe has contributed close to a quarter of a million in aid via food and PPE donations to Dinétah residents since March. But Yeung doesn’t do it alone, and she’s quick to credit all the Matriarchs on the ground helping her cause. “Women are the grassroots leaders of this pandemic aid,” Yeung tells Native Business. “That’s what women do; we work together.” 

READ MORE: Diné Founder of Orenda Tribe Translates Her Entrepreneurial Mind to Pandemic Aid

Yet another Native woman-owned business (among many) is succeeding on a national scale. And it all started from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota in 2007. Native Business recently published a Q&A with Karlene Hunter, Lakota, about how she and her business partner Mark Tilsen capitalized the launch of Native American Natural Foods (NANF) through commercial, SBA and BIA loans. 

Today NANF’s famous TANKA products are sold at more than 8,000 retailers, including Amazon, Whole Foods, REI and Costco. For a small, reservation-based business, that sort of rise to prestige is a venerable feat — and one I’d like to witness more often. 

READ MORE: Hunter Leveraged Her Experience to Grow Tanka Bar Into its Namesake: ‘Larger Than Life’

To top it off, the Lakota-owned business raised its first multi-million-dollar capital investment in July. The funds will support the company in reclaiming its position as the original maker of the award-winning bison and berry snack bar that replicates a time-honored Lakota recipe. 

READ MORE: Native American Natural Foods / TANKA Bar Closes on Multi-Million-Dollar Equity Capital Investment

As a Native woman entrepreneur for 20-plus years, I can attest to the strength required to stay the course through the ups and downs of business, and the joys of accomplishing your dreams. I am the founder, publisher and executive editor of Native Business, president of Davis Strategy Group and owner of the Native Style clothing brand. Launching, operating and growing each one of these businesses has required my full devotion, continuous professional development and honing of my skill sets. Every opportunity from hosting my first-ever national business event, the Native Business Summit, to consulting major brands on business partnerships, marketing and communications through Davis Strategy Group, has allowed me to take another step in the direction of my purpose. Innovation is the lifeblood of entrepreneurship, and that’s something that endlessly motivates and propels me forward.  

READ MORE: Native Business Summit Inspired Attendees ‘to Conquer & Keep Conquering Our Dreams’ 

At Native Business, I curate content  with intention, shining a light on sustainable roads to build and grow businesses. One of the greatest rewards in owning and operating Native Business has come by way of providing a platform to showcase the brilliance and guidance of female Indigenous entrepreneurs. And we do it with every chance possible in order to uplift them as leaders and visionaries and importantly demonstrate to women across Indian Country that self-determination, self-sovereignty and financial independence are attainable and yours for the taking. 

Here’s to women supporting women, collaborating and continuous progress and success. 

Onward! 

Carmen Davis is a proud Native American woman and member of the Makah Nation and also from the Chippewa-Cree and Yakama Tribes. She is extremely devoted to her culture and has spent her professional and personal life impacting Native communities across North America. Carmen is the Founder, Publisher and Executive Editor of Native Business Magazine, president of Davis Strategy Group and owner of the Native Style clothing brand.
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