Finding profit in pickleball

Kamloops entrepreneur hopes to cash in on growing popularity of racket sport

Competition? Brooke Siver doesn't fear it on the squash court - or in the fast-moving business of supplying the growing sport of pickleball.

The Kamloops owner of Manta World Sport has quietly grown his everything-squash manufacturing business since purchasing what was then Manta Squash, operating out of Calgary and Victoria, in 2006.

His distributorships have expanded to 13 countries worldwide.

Siver's entry into racket sports began in the early 1990s, when he played squash professionally. Today he owns Manta World, coaches squash and also owns and operates one of nine all-glass squash courts in the world.

This month the glass unit, which travels in a semi-trailer, was in Niagara Falls, Ont. It has been set up in locations as varied as Cayman Islands and New York City's Grand Central Station.

Siver's deep involvement in squash has led him to the emerging game of pickleball, what he calls a "gentler sport" that is growing fast and is ideal for aging North Americans.

"I was asked to be involved by some Canadian distributors to see if we could start making rackets."

Because pickleball is so new, racket supply today is dominated by a handful of small American companies with the products typically manufactured at home.

Siver believes he is one of the first manufacturers to outsource manufacturing to China, where he has
traditionally gone for his squash supply.

In November, he took possession of the first lot of 600 pickleball rackets, the result of a year's worth of development effort.

Those rackets are nearly sold out.

"American manufacturers can't keep up with demand. We're one of the first in the world to mass produce in China."

While there are business opportunities in the fast-growing sport, there is also growing competition. Wilson Sporting Goods is beginning to get its marketing machine behind pickleball and some U.S. manufacturers are trying to slow the import of rackets made in Asia, Siver said.

Another complicating fact is there are a number of associations across the globe that purport to be official and stipulate racket construction, for example. But Siver, who called it a "split community," said those standards are not yet settled.

Siver believes the sport will continue to grow. With contacts around the world and a staff of three in the city, he said Manta World is well positioned for the future.

"I welcome the competition. It's like squash - people are brand-dedicated."

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