More than $6 billion in tennis gear is sold each year in the U.S. — a big-volume business dominated by sporting-goods giants with huge sales forces and celebrity endorsements.
Then there’s Caryl Parker. She is a weekend tennis enthusiast in San Mateo, Calif., who spent 16 years calling on customers for International Business Machines Corp. Eventually that stopped being fun, and it was incompatible with raising four children, so she left the work force for nearly a decade. But she wanted to get back, so last year she launched a tennis-equipment company in her dining room.
Ms. Parker targeted a tiny but lucrative market: the sticky “overgrips” that some tennis players wrap around their racket handles. Overgrips cost a few cents to make, yet they retail for about $2 each. Full of naïve optimism about her prospects, Ms. Parker hoped to turn a drab-looking product into a fashion accessory that might catch the public’s fancy.