New startup highlights Black-owned businesses in tennis
There’s more to tennis fashion than stylish skirts and tops. There are also bags to consider.
After playing league tennis for several years, Dana Davis decided her tennis bag was in need of a serious upgrade. The other women on her team in Douglasville, Ga., a suburb in metro Atlanta, agreed they wanted to up the style game on their bags, as well.
So Davis had a prototype, high-end bag built. As she recalled, her teammates told her to make more.
“I am a software engineer. That is my day job,” Davis said via a virtual interview. “And I am somewhat known on the tennis court for my fashion sense.”
Now her eye for style has turned into an online tennis bag business, SamLouise.com. “I picked out the name before I even had a business. It’s named for my parents, Sam and Louise. I am a strong believer in family,” the USTA member said.
Fittingly, her tennis connection similarly had its beginnings with family. About 10 years ago, Davis signed up her son for a beginning tennis lesson. “But it was for adults,” she said, so she ended up taking her son’s place. “I had never played tennis before but I really loved it.”
Soon, Davis joined league teams at Tributary Tennis Center in Lithia Springs, Ga., advancing to an Atlanta Lawn Tennis Association city final soon thereafter. While playing, “I was looking for a fashionable bag and never found exactly what I was looking for,” Davis said. “I figured, ‘I will have to create one.’ ”
So she did just that. Then, using the extra time afforded by the COVID-19 pandemic, she began envisioning selling her upscale tennis bag designs online.
After going through a six-month process of working with overseas manufacturers and reviewing materials, designs and colors, SamLouise.com was launched.
Davis’ site is now selling two bags: the London 77, in tan and blue for $219.99, and the West Side 72, in black for $199.99. The London 77 includes a change wallet and a covered water bottle and can be carried with a strap or as a tote. The West Side 72 is a backpack.
Noting the price point is on the high side, Davis said, “Yes, they are not the cheapest, but not the most expensive.”
So far, consumers have responded favorably. She has sold about 40 bags, mostly to teammates and friends. And she also had space for her bags in the Atlanta Open store during the ATP 250 tournament last month.
What’s the next step for SamLouise.com? “I want to have bags with more colors: red, pink and white,” Davis said.
She is also focused on a three-year plan, during which she aims to make her buyers look spectacular on court.
CHUCK’S & MIKE’S TENNIS SHOP
Charles Ellis has owned Louisville, Ky.’s Chuck & Mike’s Tennis Shop for 18 years.
Interviewed on the USTA Southern podcast Talking Tennis Southern Style last year, Ellis talked about his love of serving tennis players. “Everybody here is my friend. I know the tennis community and know these people well. I would rather be doing this than cutting the grass. I’m never going to retire,” he said.
It’s all about location and the shop in Westport Village is near four tennis facilities. Putting the shop here “was the best decision I ever made.”
Ellis worked in the tennis business for decades before starting the shop. He recounted a customer saying, “Chuck, you used to work on my daddy’s racquets.”
He also commented on being a minority-owned business.
“I’ve backed my way into this by loving tennis. A lot of people come in and I tell them I’m the ower and they say, “You’re the owner?” Because a lot of the time you don’t expect a Black man to own a tennis shop. It throws people a little bit but it’s no difference than owning another business.”