Sisters Serving Up Tennis Gear
Have tennis in your blood? If so, you’ll likely get along well with Candice Carlin Kolins and Kristen Carlin Vogelbacher.
The sisters from Moorestown, N.J. became avid tennis players in their youngest years, competing throughout the junior circuit and with their family. Later in life, Candice and Kristen took their love for tennis and turned it into an inspirational family business Cruise Control Gear that continues to grow.
These days, they’re targeting that business to serve tennis players of all ages and backgrounds.
“My dad introduced me to the wonderful sport of tennis when I was 6,” said Candice, who co-owns the clothing company Cruise Control Gear with Kristen. “I grew up watching Kristen play USTA Tournaments, and played in my first Middle States Tournament when I was 9. We were so blessed to play in tournaments and have the opportunity to travel throughout the country to compete.”
The experience of traveling, competing and grinding out matches built determination, a hard work ethic and an appreciation for the sport. It also led them both to becoming (really, really, really) good players — eventually playing high-level college tennis at Villanova University (Candice) and Princeton University (Kristen). Both were stars on their respective teams.
But the post-college move for the sisters is perhaps their most memorable. The duo created the Cruise Control brand shortly after Candice graduated from Villanova, and the company quickly began building recognition in the tennis community. Walking around USTA League championships each summer, it’s common to see players sporting the brand’s “LIVE FOR IT” tagline on their clothing.
“I knew I wanted to start my own business during my senior year of college, right before graduation,” Candice said. “I was inspired by my dad having his own business and wanted to pursue my passion for both tennis and fashion, combining those two loves. I can say confidently that tennis taught me to keep focused on one point at a time and to stay positive regardless of the shots made. It’s a way for me to clear my head and focus solely on the ball, and hitting the next shot, and to help block out any other distractions.
“Running a business is certainly not easy and has challenges, but I believe tennis prepared both me and Kristen for the obstacles.”
Like it was for so many others, 2020 was full of challenges for Candice, her family and her business. That’s where tennis came in.
“When all the local gyms were closed, I played tennis with my mom and a few other friends, and started our own clinic,” she said. “Even when it was 25 degrees outside, we were playing at our local courts in Ocean City, N.J. We played through the entire winter even with our hats and mittens on. It was a perfect sport for social distance and It was amazing being able to breathe the fresh air, just hit the ball and clear our head as the craziness of the pandemic was upon us.”
Candice’s daughter and Kristen’s son are only three months apart, and as toddlers, they are beginning to discover their own fun on the tennis court. Candice and Kristen expect this to grow throughout the summer. And while the kids may not be old enough to join a team yet, Candice does have some advice for young people beginning to play.
“Tennis is such a great way to learn discipline, instill confidence and begin to work on goal setting,” she said. “Being on the tennis team is a great way to make friends and have a wonderful community.”
Throughout 2021, Cruise Control Gear is partnering with USTA Middle States to share inspiring stories about local women in tennis. The goal is to showcase some of the many incredible women who are connected to tennis in USTA Middle States, helping to grow the sport and give back to the community. Expect to see these spotlights posted on usta.com, along with on the USTA Middle States Facebook and Instagram accounts throughout the rest of the year.