As pickleball continues to grow and flourish in the States, an influx of companies are jumping on the bandwagon and taking notice of the limited apparel options that are specific to pickleball. With the pandemic spiking its popularity from 2020 onward, pickleball is no longer a sport reserved for the retirement village; pickleball has gone mainstream! This booming industry has resulted in fierce competition in the market as existing brands shift their offerings toward the growing pickleball player population. But while the “corporate” brands try to capture the market, a brand new group of start-up companies are dedicating 100% of their efforts to pickleball. The difference in philosophy is clear; while the corporate brands focus on profits and market share, the start-ups are motivated by their love of the game. Among the new companies of this type is dink.pro, founded in 2022 by John and Karen Whitaker.
As Karen explains, “We love this game and wanted a line of apparel that made it clear that we were part of the pickleball ‘tribe’…I’ve made so many new friends based solely on the taglines on our apparel!” Pickleball has literally tripled in terms of participants in the last three years, so the existing pickleball apparel in 2020 was, in Karen’s words, “seriously lacking.” It started to become more apparent as the couple participated in camps, tournaments, and league play; according to John “the giveaways we would receive were cheap, uncomfortable, and generic. We looked at each other and knew immediately, ‘We can do better than this’” That’s when the process of starting a new business began in earnest. “Our biggest initial challenge was with supply-chain issues”, Karen continues “but in a way it was a blessing, we had the extra time to refine our brand, find the right business partners and designers, all the while continuing to play a LOT of pickleball.”
What began as a makeshift game in an empty parking lot (“We were bored, lol.” says John) quickly became a passion for the couple. “We were playing for hours and hours during the pandemic and soon found more and more people were also discovering the game.” Now, Karen sits on the advisory board of the local pickleball club in their hometown – the membership already exceeds 700 people – and she takes any opportunity she can find to evangelize the greatness of pickleball; “I love this game, I love the people I meet, I love the competition, I love the accessibility…I can’t stop talking about it!”
The Whitakers hope to continue to grow alongside the sport. Choosing clothes that balance comfort and functionality is the right way to ensure you get the most fun out of pickleball. The duo’s pickleball brand has everything you need for your next game and ticks all the right boxes. It is fashionable, fun, and functional pickleball wear. The one-stop shop offers a wide selection of short sleeve t-shirts, tanks, and long-sleeve pickleball shirts. Follow Karen and John Whitaker to learn more about their goals!
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