For every dismissal, there was someone willing to help. A tweet sent to Caitlin Thompson, the publisher of the independent tennis magazine Racquet, led to a meeting. “We became hitting partners because I was really intrigued about the idea of new equipment in the space,” said Ms. Thompson, who has used the Furi rackets, grips and bags.
She sees Furi’s opportunity in its positioning as a beginner-friendly option for recreational players, a rare direct-to-consumer brand (think of what Casper did for mattresses) in a market steeped in pro-shop culture.
“So much of tennis is catered toward this notion of professional athletes,” Ms. Thompson said. “This is a racket that Roger Federer plays with. This is the racket that Serena Williams plays with.” She said that Mr. Federer’s racket is so heavy, most recreational players can’t lift it above their heads. Yet pro shops can’t keep it in stock because he plays with it.
The Social Component
For Mr. Mathelier, Furi is a tool to reach kids growing up in circumstances similar to his own. Junior rackets will be coming for fall. Furi is sponsoring three junior tennis players — Carter Smallwood, Olivia Medrano and Bode Vujnovich — and donates grips, strings and rackets to youth programs, including Kings County Tennis League, which began in 2010, when its founder Michael McCasland posted a sign offering free tennis lessons on a dilapidated court near the Marcy Houses in Bedford-Stuyvesant. It has since grown into a tennis program for kids living in Brooklyn public housing that serves more than 200 people.
“You can use tennis to get out,” Mr. Mathelier said. “It is really good at creating structure, building strategy. A lot of former tennis players end up becoming successful businesspeople.”
The lifestyle portion of Furi Sport draws on Ms. Spiro’s expertise. Luis Santos, a designer who has worked for Christian Lacroix, Kenzo and Paco Rabanne, created a collection of clothing that is not performance wear — that’s still in development — but speaks to tennis’s broader, off-court culture. T-shirt dresses, shirts with cutout shoulders and wide-leg, tapered khakis and cargo pants can be worn by anyone heading to a post-match drink. Or anyone who wants to be in Furi’s club.