Matchpoint! The Small Businesses Courting Wimbledon For Commercial Success

7 min read
Victoria Hoyle

Wimbledon and summer go together like strawberries and cream. And as the world’s elite tennis players vie for tennis glory on Centre Court, the business opportunities surrounding this national spectacle are as numerous as the ball boys and girls keeping the famed tournament in play since 1877.

It’s clear to even a casual observer that the annual All England Lawn Tennis Championships, just like Royal Ascot earlier in the summer calendar of sporting events, is a magnet for business. Smaller companies look to Wimbledon for creative ways to grow their online presence and drive their bottom lines.

Poppy’s Cupcakes

Who doesn’t like a good cupcake? Inspired by her daughter Poppy’s love of the popular confection and the encouragement of family and friends, Wendy Conway took a leap of faith back in 2013, launching Poppy’s Cupcakes. As baker and owner, Wendy is always on the lookout for event-inspired themes, and Wimbledon is right up her street.

Delicious Wimbledon-themed cupcakes complement Strawberries & Cream, a seasonal favourite

“Having a clear idea about key events and trends can really boost sales and show that your business is fresh and connected to what's going on”, Wendy says. “Wimbledon will certainly boost sales for us and show people that we are a vibrant presence in London.”

The Poppy’s Cupcakes website has been central to the growth of the business. “Increasing visibility is one of the major factors that makes having a website important to us,” she says. Using an online DIY builder, it was easy to set up and design her company site.

It’s onwards and upwards for Wendy and her business, a previous winner of the Theo Paphitis Small Business Sunday award. The goal is to increase brand awareness and double revenue in the next 12 months.

For now, the focus is on Wimbledon. And if one thing is for sure with Poppy’s Cupcakes, there’s always room for a second serve.

Rufus the Hawk

A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. This couldn’t be truer for Rufus of Wimbledon, possibly the most famous Harris’s Hawk in Britain. Rufus is so celebrated he even has his own Wikipedia entry, Twitter account, and starred in a Stella Artois ad. As far as hawks go, this is one cool bird.

What’s so special about Rufus? He’s the pigeon-scarer-in-chief for Wimbledon no less, visiting the courts early each day during the two-week event to make sure the pigeons give spectators and players a wide berth.  Westminster Abbey is another stomping ground of his.

Daniel Mason, who took over the family business from his father six years ago, says he grew up surrounded by birds. And he’s taking the commercial challenge seriously. The Rufus franchise is spreading its wings and launching a merchandise line.

“For the first year we have released our limited edition T-shirts and jumpers, which is very exciting”, Daniel explains. The Rufus of Wimbledon website is proving key for promoting the new merchandise. “Having an online presence helps to validate the brand and build your reputation and also keep overheads low”.

If anyone knows how to hawk merchandise, Rufus does

At least now we know what to buy for the hawk that has it all. A T-shirt with his name on it.

Alie Street

Have tickets for centre court and need to look your best? Do not fear, Alie Street is here.

Alie Street is a British occasion wear label with a following that includes the likes of Scottish tennis coach Judy Murray (mother of Andy) , BBC journalist Kate Silverton, and TV presenter Susanna Reid.

And the label is going from strength to strength. The company was recently approached by the organizers of the Aspall Tennis Classic at The Hurlingham Club to dress hostesses and presenters at the event in Alie Street apparel.

Dressed for success both on and off the court

“We see this collaboration as a natural brand fit and are delighted to be part of something so valuable and steeped in British history”, said Tiffany London, Founder.

The Alie Street brand was launched in 2015, fourteen years after the inception of the company’s first fashion label, Tiffany Rose Maternity.

“Everyone loved the designs we were offering for pregnant women and were asking for dresses that didn’t cater for a bump.  It was at that point that Alie Street was born, and we haven’t looked back since.”

Vicky says the website is “crucial” to the success of the business. “Almost 80% of our sales are international and we expect this percentage to grow further still”.

The company, which won its second Queen’s Award for Export this year, offers local language websites in countries like France and Germany as well as international next-day shipping.

“We are planning to enter new markets and to continue to expand our offering in the womenswear sector”, Vicky says of the year ahead.  “It’s exciting times for us and for British manufacturing.”

Granny’s Secret UK

Serbia may have produced its fair share of international tennis stars, but homemade Serbian fruit juices have yet to make their way to the Wimbledon courts. That might be about to change if Snezana Milanovic, managing director and founder of Granny’s Secret UK, has anything to do with it.

Snezana, who is hoping to take part in the 2019 bid to supply juices to Wimbledon, founded her company in 2012 in response to a growing nostalgia for the homeland tastes of her native Serbia.

“I was craving Ajvar – roasted red peppers that I was weaned on - and succulent apricot juice as well as sour cherry preserve”. says Snezana, an engineer by trade, who came to Britain from Belgrade in 1989 and worked in aviation for more than two decades.

“As my youngest third child was about to start school, that was the time for a big decision: to quit my corporate job and start looking at importing my childhood flavours from Serbia”, she explains.

Snezana’s authentic Serbian products are going from strength to strength, available at such retailers as Selfridges, Holland & Barrett, and online seller Ocado. She is talking with manor house spas and country hotels about stocking her juices, and she has high-end gyms in her sights.

From Serbia with love

“I have identified a gap in the market for true to taste fruit juices, made of freshly squeezed, cold pressed fruit, with no added sugar,” Snezana says.

It’s clear that Serbian “deuce” and Wimbledon were meant for each other.

Little Miss London

Wimbledon may be close to the hearts of many, but not many can say they are holding a candle for the event.

Enter Little Miss London, a maker and purveyor of candles inspired by different neighborhoods of the UK capital.

Started in 2016, the Little Miss London brand is driving for international recognition, and what better way to reach an overseas crowd than Wimbledon. It’s offering a 10% discount on its Little Miss Wimbledon candles to coincide with the two-week event.

“Without doubt our website is instrumental in selling direct to our target market,” the company’s Clare Lee says. “We are at present diversifying into other products to add to our brand. We are aiming towards more of a lifestyle brand focusing on mothers and baby”.

Little Miss Wimbledon is the perfect accompaniment to a night in watching the day’s matchplay.

Driving On

Whoever takes the coveted prizes on Centre Court this weekend will have displayed tenacity, skill, and a go-getting attitude. They will have shown a healthy outlook to risk and demonstrated the ability to take their chances.

No different really to the plucky band of small business owners and solopreneurs who wake up every day working out how to advance their business one step at a time. For these people, every day is a new match and every week a fresh tournament. More power to your elbow, we say.