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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 shes 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. Id never seen anything like it in Russia. I was fascinated by the idea, and the first thing I thought was: I cant 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 thats 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 theyre very good at differentiating whats a good product and whats 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 womens singles she is particularly excited about the 2014 Winter Games, and not just because shes proud that theyll be in her hometown.

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