Join us for VISIONS Summit NYC  - June 11
Episode 349
April 26, 2024

Pickleball and the Enthusiast Economy

The enthusiast economy drives purchasing trends in all areas of the economy—especially in sports, driving consumers to desire the same equipment as the best players. Premium pickleball apparel brand PB5Star is futureproofing by building a sustainable business model and systems during accelerating growth. Listen now!

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The enthusiast economy drives purchasing trends in all areas of the economy—especially in sports, driving consumers to desire the same equipment as the best players. Premium pickleball apparel brand PB5Star is futureproofing by building a sustainable business model and systems during accelerating growth. Listen now!

PB5star and the Pickleball Phenomenon

Key takeaways:

-  The enthusiast economy drives purchasing trends in sports, making consumers want the same equipment as the best players.

- Pickleball's rapid growth offers opportunities for brands to cater to players and enthusiasts beyond the sport itself.

- Building a brand requires patience, focus on core values, and understanding customers' needs and wants.

- PB5star aims to bring fashion, performance, and a cool vibe to pickleball while supporting players and contributing to the sport's growth.

- The sport's accessibility, community elements, and connection to wellness contribute to its rising popularity. 

- PB5star is looking to expand into wholesale distribution channels, partnering with retailers to reach a wider audience while maintaining its direct-to-consumer presence. The brand founders emphasize patience, staying focused on core values, and being prepared to pivot as necessary to navigate the challenges of building a brand in an emerging industry.

- Shaping the future of pickleball will require investing in and supporting players who can help enhance the sport's growth.

  • [00:03:36] "When you have the nerds of the sport sort of driving the outcome, a lot of the population will end up following a lot of that as they want to have the pieces of equipment that the best players are going to use and the best people in their community are going to use." — Brian
  • Excerpt 2: [00:27:09] "If you work with good people who have good common sense, they have a great personality and good values at heart. They're the sorts of people we want to work with, and they're the sorts of businesses we want to work with as well." - Chris Gallagher, Founder of PB5star

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Brian: [00:00:00] I have this whole theory about this idea of the enthusiast economy where effectively it's actually a very small set of the population that drives a lot of the purchasing of the rest of the population. People just love to push further and further, and what's going to give them that little bit of an edge to become a better player in the space? So when you have the nerds of the sport sort of driving the outcome, a lot of the population will end up following a lot of that as they want to have the pieces of equipment that the best players are going to use and the best people in their community are going to use.

Phillip: [00:00:47] Hello, and welcome to Future Commerce, the podcast at the intersection of culture and commerce. I'm Phillip.

Brian: [00:02:16] I'm Brian.

Phillip: [00:02:17] Brian, you ever played pickleball? That's the question today.

Brian: [00:02:20] I actually was born playing pickleball. {laughter}

Phillip: [00:02:24] {laughter} Were you?

Brian: [00:02:25] I'm from the Pacific Northwest as many of our audience members know. And if you didn't know, actually, pickleball was invented in the Pacific Northwest. And it was like a camp game that I played growing up. I went to camp, I played pickleball.

Phillip: [00:02:40] That's wild.

Brian: [00:02:41] I was very good at pickleball for it not being a competitive sport at the time. I was pretty competitive about it.

Phillip: [00:02:50] It's really changed probably since you were in the come-up in the Pacific Northwest, with it being a camp game.

Brian: [00:02:58] Yeah.

Phillip: [00:02:58] Obviously, pickleball is taking the world by storm. And I want to go a little deeper here today. And so I thought, Brian, you must know some people who can help us go deeper into the phenomenon and the cultural stranglehold that pickleball has become. And I thought, let's find the best people in the world to come talk about the sport, the fashion, and the competitive rise of pickleball. So, Brian, you did that, and we're going to have them on the show here today.

Brian: [00:03:27] I'm so excited. It's going to be a blast. We've got an incredible interview ahead. I cannot wait. Yeah.

Phillip: [00:03:36] Before we get there, I do want to remind everybody we have an incredible event coming up. And I don't know if we're going to pop a pickleball around it, but maybe we can twist our guests' arms to help us figure it out. But we do have our upcoming event. It is at the Museum of Modern Art, June 11th. It is VISIONS New York City. We should be saving space for Future Commerce Plus members. If you are a Future Commerce Plus member you are prioritized and we'll get you in the door as soon as the rope drops. But speaking of dropping, we're going to get the drop on pickleball here. Of course, our next guests are in this amazing meteoric rise. Today, we have with us [00:04:14] Chris Gallagher, the Founder and CEO of PB 5 Star, and Angela Caltagirone. [00:04:19] How'd I do? [00:04:21] Chief Digital and Marketing Officer at PB 5 Star. [00:04:24] Come tell us a little bit about the current state and the future of pickleball. Welcome to the show, Chris and Angela.

Chris: [00:04:32] Thanks.

Angela: [00:04:32] Thank you so much.

Chris: [00:04:33] Thanks, guys. We really appreciate being here today and being part of your show, so thank you for inviting us.

Phillip: [00:04:40] Oh, amazing. My community here in South Florida, I'm not so far from where you are, Chris. We converted, right around the pandemic, i think it was late 2020, early 2021 to a pickleball court in one of our completely unused tennis courts in my community. It revitalized our community and brought a whole new group of people. You have to reserve courts now. It's wild. Tell us about this journey and what compelled you to get into the pickleball world.

Chris: [00:05:14] Yeah. Well, like you, Phillip, I actually live in South Florida, Palm Beach Gardens/Jupiter, and I've just been watching this phenomena as well over the past few years. It's crazy. I'm part of a couple of clubs. And I play myself at the clubs. And, you know, from what I'm seeing, just the camaraderie and the fun and the fact that it's almost any age and no restrictions at all. In fact, we were just at the Naples US Open last week, and we were watching people playing competitive pickleball and wheelchairs and so on against, you know, regular competitors as well. So it's been phenomenal, and I'm actually out of the footwear industry initially. If you haven't been able to tell by now, I'm Australian, from the accent, and grew up in Australia, worked for a footwear company there for about 19 years, did just about everything I could in that company. And then I moved to the US actually back in 2008 right when the financial crisis happened, which was, you know, great. We were like, "Do we go back to Australia? Do we stay here? What do we do?" We decided to stay, and we launched a footwear brand in 2012 out of California called Vionic, which fast became a top 20 footwear brand in the US and had a phenomenal run there as well. And then I sold that brand to a public company here in the US late 2018. So supposed to be retired. {laughter} Here I am in pickleball world.

Phillip: [00:06:51] {laughter} Yes. Eevery time you think you're out, they just pull you back in.

Brian: [00:06:55] Angela, how did you meet Chris and get involved in this world as well? What's your background?

Angela: [00:07:03] Yeah. Thanks for asking, Brian. The unifying thread has been I've worked with amazing founders throughout my entire career. And I started at Williams Sonoma Inc, you know, 25 years. It was less than $200,000,000 all the way to 5,000,000,000. But, you know, an amazing moment almost 5 years ago, Chris and the Co-Founder of Vionic brought me in to lead ecommerce and marketing at Vionic where we really grew ecommerce while maintaining this amazing partnership with our retail partners as well. We've only been at this a year, which is amazing that we've stood up a brand from product to financial planning, to our branding, to full tech stack that we're really proud of, to back end ERP and so forth. And that's been the journey in the last 12 months and just proud to be working with Chris.

Brian: [00:07:56] That's so cool.

Phillip: [00:07:57] Incredible.

Brian: [00:07:58] We're seeing pickleball transformations everywhere. I also, in my little town outside of Seattle, just 5 minutes from my house, had a pickleball transformation happen. It's everywhere from the northwest to the southeast to I think it's probably the most competitive in New York, I would imagine. How did you end up saying, "We want to start a pickleball apparel and gear brand?"

Chris: [00:08:24] Obviously, been in the footwear business most of my life. I love to look at feet and, you know, it's part of it. And I'd go down to the pickleball courts here, and I'd see people, first of all, kind of wearing a mishmash of apparel. Shorts from the gym, t shirt from the golf, whatever it might be. But what I really noticed most of all was, besides that, the footwear that people were wearing. And, you know, a lot of the footwear that's out there that I've seen on the courts are not really designed for court wear. [00:08:55] People are just wearing their gym shoes. Maybe they're designed more for walking or running. They're not really designed for lateral movement. And so you're starting to see a lot of injury in the sport as well. People coming out who are playing for the first time, which is great. It's exciting. You get out there, start playing, and then, you know, pretty quickly you can do some damage as well. So that was sort of part of the reason. And just really, I wanted to try and create this brand that could bring a little bit more fashion into the sport as well. So something that's a little bit more coordinated. [00:09:24] So if you think of, like, a lot of the golf brands and so on, you know, when you're on the golf course, you look good, you feel good, you play good. And so that's similar to what we're trying to create here is more of a fashion style brand that has attitude that can bring technology, performance, and a cool vibe and a cool look to the sport.

Brian: [00:09:45] Very cool. And so do you feel like the positioning of PB5star is fairly differentiated from that perspective? I think there are two angles that I heard. One was that it felt like that fashion was a little bit, well, lacking in the sport, and the second thing was that it really wasn't the proper gear. It wasn't appropriate to the sport itself, and so there needs to be some more cohesion to how you get outfitted for the game.

Chris: [00:10:19] Yeah. And it's interesting because you guys would have seen on the pickleball courts, the average age of the players. And to the general public, you would think actually pickleball is maybe a slightly older sport. The actual fastest growing part of the sport is the sort of 18 to 30 year old. In fact, most of the pros are in their twenties or even earlier than that. The number one female player at the moment is, uh, 17 years old. So it's quite a young growing sport.

Phillip: [00:10:49] Wow.

Chris: [00:10:50] And obviously that's kind of where we grounded our design target was more in that sort of 25 year old. Although, we know that all customers are going to wear our apparel. All customers are going to wear our footwear and our apparel. So that's kind of like how we were thinking about it. And it was funny because as we were at the Naples US Open Pickleball Championship last week. I think there were, you know, thousands of players who were invited to play. It was fun. It was great. It was engaging. We had a lot of people come up to us and say, "Hey. What are you wearing? What is this look that you guys have got on?" So there's definitely a craving for something out there that's more unique into pickleball and also the new world of other paddle sports as well, like padel, which is very fastly growing as well.

Phillip: [00:11:40] Angela, there's a big shift in the marketing mindset around building what I would say is like a generational brand like a Williams Sonoma and the business around Williams Sonoma where the conversation about, you know, cooking, the joy of cooking, the cultural ritual of cooking is pretty well quantified, and it changes. The cultural context of cooking changes certainly over time. But you're having to reframe that story yourself and figure out what it means to a heritage brand. What is it like for you to come into something that's so fast growing that consumers don't really have a lot of education around? They're hungry for more information. And how are you using that opportunity to kind of drive the story of PB5star?

Angela: [00:12:29]  [00:12:29]We love seeing the generations playing on the court together. So you might walk onto a court and see two 18 year old guys playing, you know, with 65 year old moms. And by the way, sometimes the 65 year old moms are schooling them and winning. And so it's about telling that story, but then also on that anchor of wellness. And wellness in pickleball, it's not just the physical wellness, but mental health and that social.  [00:12:52]How many, you know, Netflix series are we watching about longevity and just that social nature? And that's what we're really proud to be a part of. It's bringing that look and feel all the way to that pillar of wellness and social and fun. And it's really unprecedented that you have a sport that's come to life like this in a way that is so inclusive in that way, especially as more and more courts get built publicly.

Brian: [00:13:22] Oh, I love that. I think you've you've actually hit on something really important here. Emerging sports seem to be cropping up in a more local, more almost grassroots sort of way, and that might be something that people are starved for. Do you feel like there's some movement back towards, you know, being outside, being connected in your community, getting off of your phone, getting your head up and looking out? Do you think that's part of the rise of the sport? And as we see the rise of esports in parallel, which are the other fastest growing sports out there, do you see any sort of convergence of digital and physical kind of coming together around pickleball?

Angela: [00:14:12] Absolutely. I think the physical is absolutely a rise. In the last decade, we've seen how important in real life, and particularly in this particular moment, it is to have those community experiences at the local level, and so we're looking at the pillars of amateurs and pros. And in particular, you know, the area particular would be the collegiate introduction of pickleball because it's really catching on. And some universities have some 700 pickleball club members. And whether or not it becomes an NCAA sport doesn't really matter because even that young next gen is there experiencing that. And it can't be denied, they're also on their phones. And so what when [00:14:58] we're looking at it's the full ecosystem of how do we play in those local communities, be relevant, not just with the pros, but with those influencers in the individual communities. And, of course, then also apply some of the best practices in digital as well and getting the word out in terms of the whole country. [00:15:19]

Brian: [00:15:19] And that relates to how you're going to market. For your first go, you've launched a site as a direct to consumer site. Correct? And is that your initial go to market plan, or are you also rolling out in a set of physical environments as well?

Angela: [00:15:38] So first go to market plan, yes, because there is where you could develop your brand, your brand story, your aesthetic, you know, get going pretty quickly as we have and be an anchor. But Chris should chime in because part of what he built at Vionic and that I came in on the tail end of that was partnerships with more than 1500 retailers and whether they be large, and in this world could be all the way down to the community pro shop.

Chris: [00:16:05] One of the great advantages of bringing Angela in is her experience in building out the tech step as she calls it. So we've started the brand. I've done this before many times. And rather than sort of going half at it, we've really built a world class back end system. So we built the back end ERP system and everything that rolls along with that, And the idea of testing and getting the brand out there on direct to consumer, you know, allows us to test all of that functionality and so on and get some feedback from consumers. But very quickly, we'll be rolling out into, you know, what I call wholesale world where you'll start to see the product in the retail businesses as well. And I think that's from people that are talking about our product, the touch and feel is really important for them. They can feel the difference in the quality. They can they love seeing the color. They'd like to see it on. So I think [00:17:04] it's really important that as we build brands, it's not just a digital brand. It's something that will end up in potentially department stores. It will end up in the pro shops, specialty running stores, and so on. [00:17:18] So that's coming very, very, very soon.

Phillip: [00:17:21] Of course, this is right at the beginning of the market and the world's your oyster. There's so much that you could do. And the market itself has to be successful. And if the pie grows, it grows. Your slice grows and so does everybody else's. So that's like first of all, investing in the sport and making sure the sport continues to grow, and that creates more opportunity for everybody, which is really a growth industry like mechanic. Right? So being in a growth industry is really important. Are there growth industry tactics in consumer channels beyond web commerce that seem really important or interesting for you at the beginning of the journey that you're going to have to contend with. For instance, I think brand and celebrity collabs seem to be pretty big, especially around the heritage tennis brands that want a part of the pickleball action. What do you do from a strategic or a tactical perspective to kind of stay in that conversation?

Angela: [00:18:19] I totally acknowledge that. I don't think we'd say you know, we're definitely working with more up and coming pros, and that's part of our plan because we see it just like we're evolving, the sports evolving. It's that next gen that we see really taking flight, and so we want to invest in that and bringing a little extension of our team. We're talking actively with players and have them working with us and not just about representing and wearing our stuff, but how are they an extension of the team? How do we get them coaching? How do they become a pod so they have camaraderie? Because some of these young players even say it's kind of lonely. They go and compete and they're not part of a pod and so bringing that sense of belonging and camaraderie even to that element. So doing that, but it is going to be the pillars. It's not just pros and collegiate, but it could be lifestyle. Everyone like you and I are playing pickleball, and even lifestyle influencers or other athletes that may really be pushing in a particular sport also would be fun to bring them in because pickleball could be part of your workout and part of your social fun as well.

Chris: [00:20:22] And I think with the phenomenal growth within the industry, that it's also creating a lot of turmoil in terms of people are trying to figure out where they fit. And there are different leagues and acronyms that are out there that I don't even really understand what they're doing. And so we're trying to figure this out as we go. It's like, who do we partner with? Who do we team up with? In our mind, we think that we really just want to belong in the community and be part of that. And like as Angela said, we're really starting to build this. I have this vision of creating this, what I'm calling, the stellar team of people who are playing the game. And, you know, how do we support them on their journey? A lot of these players are not, it's not like pro athletes in sort of basketball or baseball where they're getting paid millions of dollars. A lot of these people who are out playing in these tournaments every week, they're paying for their own travel. They're paying for entry fees. They don't have any income coming in. So there's a lot of work to be done there in terms of how we can help these people along the way as well.

Angela: [00:21:32] I'm not sure if we said it, Chris, but, you know, PB5star, yes, you could and as Chris mentioned, it implies pickleball, Palm Beach, pickleball, padel, but also personal best is what we're anchoring on, and it's really about getting into the community and what individual's personal best could be. "Hey. I'm out there playing 3 times a week, and I have," obviously, lots of us have day jobs and so forth versus the pro. So, you know, back to that, I think, to your question, Phil, I do think, yes, we'd love to collaborate with brands that make sense that are adjacent, particularly on the wellness side, as well as working with perhaps one or two key influencers, but really think it's it'll be a brand for really the wider community.

Brian: [00:22:21] Interesting. So you're going to make a few, like, bets on larger players within the sport or celebrities that are connected to the sport. But generally, you're going to be going after, you know, micro influencers, people who are in the community, who are champions of the sport, but are not necessarily, like, in the league. And I also heard you say something, Chris, and I've seen, you know, a little bit of the mayhem out there. The leagues are in a little bit of flex. Right? And this is what happens in emerging sports. Even if you look back at the history of our largest pro sports, there were a lot of mergers and weird things that happened at the beginning of the rise of these sports. And so leagues get into fights with each other, and there's a lot of often infighting even within the league, and who knows who's going to sort of prevail. And so I think what I hear you saying is when you're in an emerging category with a lot of growth, there's going to naturally be more churn, more opportunities, and dead ends that could happen. There's more risk by placing bets on institutions. And so going after individuals is a safer bet. Do you feel like, as you start to see some of these communities emerge, are you finding that digital is a component in how people are connecting together at this more micro level, or is it more localized to specific courts or gyms or clubs?

Chris: [00:24:05] I think it's a bit of both. I think that it's amazing where a lot of... So I think one of the biggest issues with pickleball right now is there are not enough courts. There are not enough places for people to play. And so you're seeing a lot of new pickleball courts opening up. What you're also seeing is these venues opening up, which are restaurants and pickleball courts built around them. And so they are fast growing. You know, think about it as the Topgolf. This is in the pickleball world. So it's like, you know, these people are going there to have fun. They can have some food. They have a drink. They play pickleball. You know, it's great. So I think it's interesting because on the digital side, and from the player side right now, I'm not saying it's going to be like this in the future, but a lot of people don't actually know. A lot of the general public don't know who the best pickleball players are. I'm sure if I asked you guys, you know, who's the known one, you wouldn't know. Right? So that hasn't really connected in the social world yet either. And so that's going to evolve over the years. And so I think what we're looking for, one of the most important things to me is about how do we connect with good people. And I think if you work with good people who have got good common sense, they've got a great personality and good values at heart. They're the sorts of people that we want to work with, and they're the sorts of businesses we want to work with as well, and partners. Because for us, at the DNA of us, being Australian as well, my DNA is fun. I like to have fun. So whether it be fun in business, whether it be fun in any sport, I think that life is too short. Right? We've just gotta make sure that people are having fun at work, people are having fun on the court during their weekends, and just be good people in general.

Brian: [00:26:13] Oh, I love that. So coming alongside and supporting the people that you want to see successful in the sport and lead the way, to help empower those people, to be the more visible ones. Because I think in some ways, even though you're an emerging brand, in an emerging sport, you have the ability to kind of, and I hate to put it so crudely, but kind of crown some winners in some ways. [00:26:44] You have the ability to shape the sport. And so people that are going to get paid are going to be the ones that play more and are going to have the opportunity to get better and train further and faster, and so this puts you in a unique position of being able to shape the future of the sport. Who you place bets on will potentially guide the future of the whole industry or could help guide it. [00:27:09]

Chris: [00:27:09] Definitely feel the responsibility of that, and it's key. And I think, you know, one of the things that attracts me so much to this is I go down to the course, I'm sure you guys have played as well. In fact, my son came down from up north, and he played his first game with myself and his girlfriend just a couple of months ago. They'd never played before. Within 5 minutes, they're playing, they're having fun, they're smiling, they're rallying. It's that type of energy that, you know, you can play it and you can take some paddles with you and play it on the beach. You don't need to be on a court. You can play it in your driveway if you want to. I know people are setting it up in their offices and when you get some downtime or you need to create some energy, just grab the paddles out and start hitting the ball around. It's that type of energy that I think, and I think you talked about it early on, Brian, which was is this a connection, you know, sort of coming out of COVID? Why is the sport growing so fast? I think these are all things that we're thinking about and we're witnessing and we're seeing.

Angela: [00:28:16] Yeah, Chris. And I think the intention we were just looking at some of those numbers yesterday that just for you guys, I think there's, like, 36,000,000 that have tried pickleball. Like, 9,000,000 US folks who are playing it more than 8 times a month. But then it was more about the intent. If you ask, 45 to 50% say they absolutely plan to play more. How do they engage more? And with that, I think it goes back to those wellness or self care. Yeah. It's a big part of that. It's a big part of that.

Chris: [00:28:49] It's accessible as well. Some sports are expensive. To go out there and to get into a sport can be quite expensive. Pickleball is accessible to pretty much just about anybody, and I think that's what we love about it as well.

Phillip: [00:29:04] So our audience is a bunch of, you know, dyed in the wool marketers and brand leaders, and they love to hear the founding journey. Maybe we could take a peek under the hood a little bit and talk about what you think the opportunity is for the market in the next few years because I think that's one thing that all of these brands have to contend with. It doesn't matter what industry you're in. Being culturally relevant is your job. And so there is an angle, like a cultural angle to understanding this phenomenon and how other brands can take part in it and be part of the story or at least synthesize how their customers might be thinking about their brands in context of their life around pickleball. So I'm curious as you're building the brand, what are some of the things that are, you know, maybe in your pitch deck or in your mind as the market opportunity and some of where's the peak of the brand building phase? What does that window look like for you and others that are building in the space right now?

Chris: [00:30:13] I think [00:30:13] the common thing I would say for people who are in this position of trying to build a brand or have done it in the past is patience, particularly in this area. Because it's not like you're investing a dollar here and you're getting even a dollar back. It's a lot of money going into the sport with very little return, so the burn is high. So I think patience is really critical, and I think staying focused on what your core values are for the brand and the sport as well. [00:30:47] I think we are navigating it. We'll probably pivot along the way and move and be ready to do that. I think the for us, from what I'm seeing out there at the moment, I do think that the opportunity in the footwear space is potentially larger than the apparel, potentially. Some of the markets are very saturated. Like the paddle market, it's low bar inventory. So we're not a paddle company, although we have a couple of paddles. We're really more focused in apparel and and footwear. So something that we can add to benefit the sport in terms of not just look and feel, but also potentially performance and enhancing performance in the future as well.

Angela: [00:33:39] We're going to have two or three great paddles at a sharper price point than the top end, not the Amazon paddle, and have people enter the brand and really come with that edited point of view versus the noise. Along with that, I think we've been talking a lot about pivoting with the consumer and with how the sport is emerging. And it really is about even building some of this content that will help us stand out. I think, you know, Phil, you were alluding to, well, what's under the covers? You know, part of it, how do you start? It's hard to be a startup, but what we're striving to be is not as an afterthought to tennis or to another sport. And a lot of our apparel competitors that you would think of, you know, they're really across it all. And, yes, they might tag on to pickleball or a paddle sport because that's in, but what we're trying to do is really bring that focus and be able... A lot of times Chris and I will talk about, well, we're running back to what we know best, which is creating... [00:34:44] If you have amazing product and listen to the customer, then all else we can pivot. And you could have the funnel of marketing and try all the different channels. [00:34:54]

Phillip: [00:34:55] And unencumbered too with past decisions that are limiting your future growth which is, you know, I think  [00:35:03]the patience component on building a brand and the fundamentals around building the systems, whether that's people systems or technology systems, are the things that most companies, while they're in their meteoric growth phase, are not investing in, and then they spend the next 4 or 5, 6 years just trying to get out of their own way because they've created all kinds of things that aren't easily hot swapped. [00:35:30] It's a really interesting insight here without having to talk specifically about what your tech stack looks in April of 2024. Thinking about the future proof opportunity and how can you make future Chris and future Angela happy is a really important piece of building a brand that is often overlooked.

Angela: [00:35:52] I'll just say on the tech stack, we are imploring, we started off, you needed to, the buzzword of AI, but using tools not from starting SEO and getting ready for Google SGE all the way to content development using some of the tools and training in our own ChatGPT with our voice and our branding and gaining some of those efficiencies, but it's always back to the people side and all the way to the customer experience. I think I'll even say even a tool like Narvar which most giant retailers, it's usually the bigger players that have a tool like that that we've brought in early to be able to ensure the full customer journey even when the customer has to return something.

Brian: [00:36:38] It's smart planning ahead for the growth because you're in a high growth industry. And I think to Phillip's point, that planning ahead is going to make your life so much easier as you scale with the sport. Speaking of scaling with sport, acquisition's a huge part of what's happening in pickleball right now. It's more about becoming a player, and by becoming a player, you become a fan. But also, y'all can acquire customers even beyond pickleball players potentially. So are you looking at the cultural impact of pickleball as a larger trend within society? And just like a lot of people who don't play tennis, wear tennis shoes, do you see the opportunity to grow the pie beyond players?

Chris: [00:37:32]  [00:37:32]I think we've kind of grounded ourselves in pickleball because I think we can cut through here. Our message can cut through pretty quickly. But, you know, in terms of our product, really, it can be worn whether you're playing tennis or going to the gym, or even going out casually, and the same is going to be for the footwear. So we do see that eventually will be expanding that message into other sports. But for right now, we thought, well, let's focus here. Let's learn. Let's make sure our consumers are super happy and everything works before we go out and expand any further. So a lot of people who are wearing the products now are posting about it really in the fitness world, and that tends to be, I think, where a lot of influencers and people that are talking about the brand are coming from as well out of that whole fitness world. [00:38:23]

Brian: [00:38:23] I really like that. No. I have this whole theory about this idea of the enthusiast economy where effectively it's actually a very small set of the population that drives a lot of the purchasing of the rest of the population. People just love to push further and further and into what's the next best shoe. What's going to give them that little bit of an edge to become a better player in the space, and whether or not, you know, the shoe is actually, like, 5% better or 0.5% better, they're going to go out and immediately buy it even if it's just a little bit better. And so when you have the nerds of the sport sort of driving the outcome, a lot of the population wind up following a lot of that as they want to have the pieces of equipment that the best players are going to use and the best people in their community are going to use. And so I love that approach of focusing on the core sport.

Phillip: [00:39:32] I would take the other side, Chris, before you weigh in. I don't want to make you have to respond to me. Respond to Brian. But I'll also add that these enthusiast economies are irrational consumers that will always buy more than they'll ever need and always buy more premium than ever really could service them or return to them in their enjoyment in the sport.

Brian: [00:39:53] Correct.

Phillip: [00:39:53] You see it in music. You see it in technology.

Brian: [00:39:55] Exactly.

Phillip: [00:39:56] You see it in any other hobby, and especially around these areas of sports and endurance sports too. So sorry. Now you can go ahead, Chris. It was a little digression there.

Brian: [00:40:08] Good addendum.

Chris: [00:40:08] Yeah. I think what was kind of going through my head as you guys were talking then was it reminded me about when I was, you know, 16, 17 years old and even in my early days of footwear. There's a difference between, you know, sort of leading a footwear company and actually working on the sales floor, putting the shoes on the customer, like, really being at the coalface with the customer. And I think, you know, it kind of gives me goosebumps, but the last few months, it's like taking a step back in time, starting up a new company as a founder, and I'm at the games. I'm watching these people play. Literally afterwards, I'm saying, Can I take photos of your shoes? What did you think of the apparel? How did it wear? How did it fit? Do you feel like you can play well on it? Does it enhance your game?" So it's like getting back to those grassroots. There's something inside me at the moment that is really enjoying that. And, you know, at first, I thought I wanted to retire, and I couldn't wait to retire. But now I'm just, like, super enthusiastic about getting out there. And part of building a brand is really trying to understand, you know, what are your chosen consumers needs? You know, what do they need, and what do they want? And so if we can provide a bit of both to those, then I think we'll win. And, look, let's have some fun along the way because at the end of the day, if we don't win, at least we had some fun. Right?

Brian: [00:41:47] Good. That's maybe true for pickleball as well. I think that's how a lot of people see pickleball.

Phillip: [00:41:54] {laughter}

Brian: [00:41:55] Yeah. Love it.

Phillip: [00:41:56] I love it. I love it. This has been such a wonderful time. I do have to ask, is there a future? What does the near future and the long term future look like outside of just the growth of the sport? But what is the next thing you have to build, um, you know, in the business? What does the future of commerce look like for PB5star?

Chris: [00:42:19] We're actually in the process of implementing our wholesale retail system, so that's going to be critical. So we can deal with some of the bigger retailers in terms of product and delivery. I think we're going to... So for me, anyway, it's about building people, about building the culture, about building this stellar team of players and people that work in the business and sort of navigating and learning along the way.

Angela: [00:42:48] Well, we both were going to answer with wholesale because we spent these last 10 months standing up the DTC side, and certainly, we have to be fast follow getting in there with our wholesalers. And, again, the team is so critical as Chris points out as well. And as we go forward, it's really going to be about painting that vision for what's next in terms of the other emerging sports and knowing we're going to focus on pickleball, but knowing when to allude to some of those other sports as well and just ensure that we're bringing the community together, the local, along with all those pillars in digital that could give us the reach, but really getting down to the local communities.

Phillip: [00:43:32] I love that. I love that. And  [00:43:35]it sounds like so much of that is applicable no matter what you're in and the way you think about problem-solving in the abstract is that building a solid brand has less to do with the industry. I think a lot more to do with the leadership. [00:43:49]

Angela: [00:43:50] Yeah.

Phillip: [00:43:50] Thank you so much for bringing all of this incredible insight into our audience. And where do we go? PB5star. How do we find you?

Chris: [00:44:00] {laughter}

Phillip: [00:44:01] There you go.

Chris: [00:44:03] Social @myPB5star.

Angela: [00:44:05] Yeah. Chris, I think it's fine to even put out superstars code. We'll leave it on for the next few weeks.

Phillip: [00:44:14] Hey.

Angela: [00:44:14] Next month. So that'll give you a nice, uh, percent off. So "superstars."

Brian: [00:44:19] Nice.

Phillip: [00:44:19] I love that. Thank you so much to the both of you for coming on to the show. And thank you all for listening. We hope to see you in New York. Maybe we'll put a little pickleball tournament together. I don't know. That might be something, Brian.

Brian: [00:44:30] I know. I know.

Phillip: [00:44:31] I know. I know. Maybe. And we hope to see you there June 11th, uh, at the moment. And we also want you to subscribe. You know where you can subscribe? The best place to subscribe right now, Brian, is on YouTube. All the good stuff's happening on YouTube. So YouTube, Future Commerce over on YouTube, but, of course, we're available everywhere podcasts found. You want to support the podcast, you can join our membership. You get ad free episodes, and so much more. All the benefits that you could possibly want, plus a private GPT. It's, or why don't you just leave us our own 5 star on your favorite podcast player, and enjoy you can be a superstar too for Future Commerce.

Angela: [00:45:09] I like that.

Phillip: [00:45:09] Thank you so much. Remember commerce is culture, and I will see you on the next episode of Future Commerce.

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