MARIA SHARAPOVA is "known for her punishing ground strokes on the tennis court and elegant style on the red carpet," but candy "was not an obvious choice for a first foray into business," according to Ezekiel Pfeifer of the MOSCOW TIMES. However, "all the pieces came together." Sharapova spoke to the Moscow Times before she "arrives in Moscow on Monday for an event at the high-end Lotte Plaza shopping mall" to mark the start of sales in Russia for her candy, Sugarpova.
Q: Why did you choose candy for your first business?
Maria Sharapova: Over the course of many years, I've been really fortunate to work with and be a part of many collaborations, whether it's creating a collection for Nike or working with Cole Haan on shoes and bags or working on marketing ideas with TAG Heuer. So I've played a very small part in brands’ overall performance. But I realized that I wanted to own something where, in the end, I was the one making the decisions that came with a little pressure, or, not a little, but a lot. And I really wanted to own something that was financially mine as well.
Q: Are you able to harness your grit and determination from the tennis court in the business world?
Sharapova:There are very different kinds of businesses, and the one similarity between the candy company and tennis is the competitiveness. I want this to be the best gummy brand in the world. When I thought about the idea, I did a lot of Internet research on candies, and I asked my friends: "What's your favorite gummy candy?" They would never mention a brand name. They would only name, for instance, the shape, like "Oh, that round one" or "bears" or "little worms." I thought that was really interesting, because not one person told me a specific brand of candy, and I felt like there was a huge opportunity there.
Q: What advice would you give to someone wanting to do business in Russia?
Sharapova: We first launched Sugarpova in the States, but Russia was a big target of mine. I think Russians appreciate quality very much. We all know that they like brands and they like names, but at the end of the day, I think they’re very good at differentiating what’s a good product and what’s not a good product. Maybe they’ll buy it once when it’s not a good product, but they realize it, and they’re not going to be repeat customers.
Q: What advice would you give to young Russians interested in starting a business?
Sharapova: For me, it was important to create a story that was mine about my brand and what I wanted it to stand for, the qualities it represented. I think that’s really important, because when you have an idea and you bring it into the world, you get many people’s opinions on it, and it can represent different things in their eyes (MOSCOW TIMES, 4/25).