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Maria Sharapova Aims for the Sweet Spot

Published: April 30, 2013 (Issue # 1757)



  • Sharapova blowing a kiss in a marketing photo for her Sugarpova line of candies. The tennis pro wants to share her love of candy with the world.
    Photo: for spt

For her first truly independent venture outside of a tennis court, Maria Sharapova is relying on familiar tools: high heels, her cover-girl lips and neon green tennis balls.

But she’s not starting a designer shoe or lipstick brand, nor is she opening a tennis school. Instead, the budding entrepreneur and four-time Grand Slam winner has turned these parts of her golden image into shapes for a line of premium, bite-sized chewy candy.

For someone known for her punishing groundstrokes on the tennis court and elegant style on the red carpet, candy was not an obvious choice for a first foray into business. But all the pieces came together.

“When I moved to the United States, I was about 7 years old, and I went to a movie theater and found a huge collection of gummy candies,” Sharapova told The St. Petersburg Times in a phone interview, speaking from Los Angeles on Saturday, the day after her 26th birthday. “I’d never seen anything like it in Russia. I was fascinated by the idea, and the first thing I thought was: ‘I can’t wait for my friends to see something like this!’”

“When the name Sugarpova came about in a meeting a few years ago, I felt like it was fun and young,” she said. “Then I put candy and that together, and that’s kind of how it started.”

Colorful packages of the sweets, which come in 12 varieties including Flirty (pieces shaped like sets of full, pursed lips), Chic (gummy handbags and high-heeled shoes), and Spooky Sour (sugar-coated spiders), first went on sale in the U.S. last year and have since entered stores in five other countries, including Britain and Japan. Sharapova was due to visit Moscow on Monday for an event at the high-end Lotte Plaza shopping mall to mark the start of sales in Russia.

Born in the Siberian town of Nyagan, Sharapova spent her early childhood in Sochi, which she described as “the most beautiful place in the world.” She has relatives who still live in Russia and said the local market was on her radar for Sugarpova from the outset.

“I think Russians appreciate quality very much,” Sharapova said. “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.”

Sharapova spoke in English with the faintest of Russian accents but with the openness and geniality Americans are known for.

As a Sochi native and a Russian Olympian — at the 2012 Summer Games in London, she became the first female flag-bearer for the Russian squad and won the silver medal in women’s singles — she is particularly excited about the 2014 Winter Games, and not just because she’s proud that they’ll be in her hometown.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Sunday, Oct. 26


Zenit St. Petersburg returns home for the first time in nearly a month as they host Mordovia Saransk in a Russian Premier League game. Currently at the top of the league thanks to their undefeated start to the season, the northern club hopes to extend the gap between them and second-place CSKA Moscow and win the title for the first time in three years. Tickets are available at the stadium box office or on the club’s website.



Monday, Oct. 27


Today marks the end of the art exhibit “Neophobia” at the Erarta Museum. Artists Alexey Semichov and Andrei Kuzmin took a neo-modernist approach to represent the array of fears that are ever-present throughout our lives. Tickets are 200 rubles ($4.90).



Tuesday, Oct. 28


The Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel plays host to SPIBA’s Marketing and Communications Committee’s round table discussion on “Government Relations Practices in Russia” this morning. The discussion starts at 9:30 a.m. and participation must be confirmed by Oct. 24.



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