Tennis superstar Maria Sharapova says when she first got the idea to launch her candy brand, Sugarpova, she was focused on the brand’s packaging but now, six years in, she’s all about the ingredients.
“In the last four to five years, you’ve seen this trend in health and wellness and taking care of yourself and your body and being very aware of what you put into your body,” Sharapova tells FOX Business. “So with our gummies when we launched five years ago to where we are now, we’re in research and development of making our gummies organic and making our gummies all natural as well.”
The five-time Grand Slam star says her company aims to launch the products during the first quarter of 2019 and adds that its premium chocolate line is already made with all-natural ingredients and is non-GMO.
“When the trend started a few years ago, you saw companies going through that cycle and I’ve been through that process as well, saying, ‘OK, what mistakes have they done? And where can we improve our flavor from what they’re doing?’ I feel like I’ve let them make mistakes first.”
Sharapova admits there have been a lot of “great learning curves” for her since first getting the idea to launch her own company at the age of 22.
“When I first got the idea and started following through with all my ideas and planning, I didn't really know what the time frame was going to be or what success would look like. I don’t know if being successful in a year is good or being successful in six years is good,” she says. “Plus, I went into a business that I wasn’t very familiar with, which is the food sector. So, I feel like there’s been a lot of learning curves for me as well, personally.”
However, despite the lack of knowledge in both the industry and in launching a company, Sharapova’s $500,000 investment has turned it into a $20 million business in just six years, according to Forbes.
The 31-year-old, who went pro in 2001 at the age of 14, says part of the company’s success has actually been her lack of food experience and overall competitive spirit.
“I feel that I bring a lot of fresh perspective and I don’t make the conventional decisions that an expert from the food business would make. My expertise is in a field of traveling the world and seeing lots of thing and having a taste for particular things,” she says. “I’m also very competitive and it’s important for me to be involved every step of the way.”
And that is one of the reasons the brand recently partnered with travel retailer Hudson Group and Los Angeles-based luxury hotel group SBE, putting the tennis prodigy’s candies into hotels and airports in 22 countries.
As for the future of the brand, Sharapova says distribution is key and hints that the company could transform into other retail sectors, turning it into a full-fledged lifestyle brand.
“In terms of [variety of candy], we’re still not where we want to be with that. There’s definitely other categories that I’m interested in pursuing but that takes time and I’d say that maybe once I’m finished [with] my career, I’ll think about Sugarpova 2.0 and different categories, but for now it’s going to [have] to stay in the candy sector.”