There is more than $6 billion dollars generated from tennis equipment and gear sales each year. The market is controlled by industry tycoons like Babolat, Nike, Wilson and many more that are equipped with large sales forces as well as pro endorsements. Although the odds were unlikely, recreational tennis player, Caryl Parker, created a lucrative business making tennis grips despite the fierce competition by the large companies .
Caryl Parker, from San Mateo, California, spent 16 years working for International Business Machines Corp., but that proved incompatible with her second job; a mother of four. She decided to leave the job that she had for 16 years to be a stay-at-home mom and after a decade, she decided she wanted to get back into the work force. She built a tennis grip business out of her home which earns the mother and entrepreneur about $15,000 a month with operating costs being around half that.
At first, Caryl Parker wanted to design tennis clothing but didn`t think she would be successful in such an aggressive market. She also tried wallpaper designs but she said, “Nothing really grabbed me.” When she came up with Hawaiian style flower designs she realized she had something. It led to the creation of “HipGrips,” her Hawaiian inspired tennis grips.
Although her company, HipGrips, is extremely successful now, it didn`t come easy. Parker ran into a few “bumps in the road” while getting her business started. She bought thousands of tennis grips from a Taiwanese supplier that were too slick, a $900 cell phone bill from all the international calls and disgruntled employees consisting of her husband and four kids.
To lessen her family`s workload, Caryl Parker took on a partner, Bobbi Giudicelli, who enjoyed dealing with the financial aspects of the company. Ms. Giudicelli also got HipGrips trademarked and copywrited the designs so they wouldn`t have to worry about other companies creating similar tennis grips.
Wilson Sporting Goods eventually got wind of the new tennis grips and contacted Giudicelli. They proposed a deal where they would handle the manufacturing and distribution of HipGrips. Bobbi Giudicelli liked the idea but Caryl Parker was hesitant.
After thinking it over, Parker decided an alliance with Wilson Sporting Goods would be a good idea seeing that she wouldn`t have to hire full-time employees, get a distribution center that wasn’t in her dining room and they would be better equipped to deal with bigger tennis grip competition.
Although it`s not easy having your own business as it calls for long hours and Caryl Parker didn’t earn as much making tennis grips as she did when she worked for IBM, she loves having something she can call her own.
“When you work for your own company, you’re so much more passionate about what you do,” Ms. Parker says. “At a big company like IBM, you just sell what they tell you to sell. Here, we’re always thinking about ways to improve every aspect of what we’ve made.”