Aspiring Gentlemen Q&A Questions
Ever felt like creating a business out of something you are passionate about? Steven Siebert believed that if there is a racket for advanced players, then there should be matching sophisticated sports apparel that would go with it. So he turned his enthusiasm for tennis into his very own line of luxury sportswear and shares with us exactly how to make your interests a business reality.
Q: What inspired you to create Uomo Sport?
The short of it is, as a young boy in the 70’s my brother and I were fortunate to receive clubhouse passes to The US Open in Forrest Hills New York (Westside Tennis Club); then played on grass courts. There was an aura of the coolest looking players that had the best sophisticated distinct individual style dressed predominantly in Italian made tennis apparel tailored to perfection.
I always thought the foundation of the great sport of tennis and all its history was about good sportsmanship today and has evolved into sixty-three ATP Tournaments played in six continents on four surfaces.
My two boys both played high school tennis and my younger son played USTA tournaments. The high school team was composed of some of the smartest kids in any sport who had no idea how to dress on a tennis court. I wanted to create a brand and dress the team.
Well, that took longer than I expected. I began soaking up knowledge from players, coaches, officials, agents, tournament directors all deeply rooted in the sport who all helped shape this brand. I wanted to create the ethos of an authentic heritage brand embraced by the tennis world. Brands lost sight of what they once were and steered off the path. I saw a missing space. Uomo is aimed to revitalize the prestige of the sport and bring back style.
Q: What does ‘Uomo’ stand for?
Uomo in Italian means Men. So, “Men’s Sport.” In Italian, the U is pronounced with a W and sounds like WOMOSPORTA. When we develop the sister women’s brand it will be easier to pronounce, Donna Sport.
Q: You have played tennis pretty much your whole life. At what point did you realize there was a need for change in sportswear?
When I went looking for tennis clothing to wear it all looked like gym clothing you would wear at the YMCA or in a weightlifting gym. It was all ill-fitting pretty hideous cheap wear. I was not going to put that on my body let alone play tennis in it. You have equipment brands making clothing and shoe brands making clothing. I don’t see them invested in making clothing. I was looking for clean lines comfort and style something that accentuates your athleticism.
I like Wimbledon because the players wear all white which is good because it’s an even playing field and we are not seeing these brands trying to be loud. There are so many talented designers that can lend their talents to tennis. Thom Browne likes tennis; Tom Ford loves tennis; Rafe Simons; Todd Snyder; or artists like Friedrich Kunath or Jonas Wood, all have a great eye for the sport and tennis shows up in their art. They could create some classic tennis clothing and I would love to collaborate with any of them.
The brands I loved were tennis brands, they made clothing and they made it really well and it was quality. You just buy a few good things that you love that are going to last that are timeless.
Q: Why do you believe it is important for men to have athletic wear that works on and off the court?
This space of wearing chic modern clean lines with a great fit for men does not exist today. All we see are men wearing ill-fitting cheap gym clothes.
Women on the go wear their leggings and look athletic and great whether they are athletic or not with their Hermès, Chanel purses out and about all over town in chic restaurants and private clubs or shopping and men do not have this space. As men, we also want to look fit and carry ourselves in style.
Q: You have quite a few professional tennis players wearing Uomo, how did you establish those relationships?
We work with the UCLA team and powerhouse coach Billy Martin, as well as players Clay Thompson, Gage Brymer, Karue Sell, and Mackenzie McDonald, who are truly succeeding on tour. They loved the brand. Karue, Gage, and Clay all did photoshoots for us wearing the clothing and attended the launch of the brand.
While in New York, attending the Open, I had a meeting with Henri Leconte and when I walked out, I ran into Pat Cash. He immediately got the brand, which led to a collaboration with him, and now he has his signature line with us.I also dressed The Queens Club Team One in their all-white clothes, and from that came my meeting Lewis Burton. We sponsor one of the great Brazilian tennis pros Thomaz Bellucci who reached 20th in the world.
I met Anand Amritraj, who was coaching the Davis Cup Team for India, I custom-made the team’s uniforms as their clothing sponsor. I have been approached by other countries to do their teams uniforms and I would love to dress any team USA, Canada, Spain, Italy.
Then I got into Canadian Tennis and our newest player we sponsor, Brayden Schnur. He has only been on the tour two years and has broken into the top 100. You’re going to hear about another player we really hope to bring into the company and possibly one of the top juniors in the world about to turn pro.
We will have a core of great players and we will be expanding to sponsor women as well when we introduce Donna Sport in March.
Q: How can someone take their passions and interests and turn them into their own business?
If you believe in something and work hard at it, and develop strong relationships along the way, you are more than likely going to do well, and over time possibly succeed and be profitable with it.
You can do so much today without spending tons of money because of grassroots marketing. The old business model for retail is very difficult, and I would advise against signing a retail store lease and being stuck on the hook for paying expensive rents. You can look around and see how many vacant stores there are. Doing pop-ups, even for a few weeks, and trunk shows can also raise attention.
Know who your target audience is. This is key! Build through word of mouth and stand behind your product, this will bring repeat customers. And don’t forget that the customer always comes first. This is the service business.
Q: How would you describe how creating a career out of your interests has made you successful?
If you do something you believe in and are passionate about, it’s not like working, because you love it. Uomo is my life and this is my baby. I believe that what our team is doing is special and if your team is all in, then we all drive it together.
Q: Can you list 5 steps for taking your passions and turning them into a business?
1. Market Research & Development
2. Prototypes and Samples
3. Raise capital or self-finance
4. Manufacturing in small quantities
Q: What is your advice to those who are passionate about something, but don’t know how to turn it into a full-time career?
The simple answer is to do what you love, follow your passion, and never give up.
Q: What has been the most rewarding part about creating Uomo Sport?
I love seeing people experience our clothing and wear it day in and day out. The fact that Uomo Sport is being embraced so well by the tennis world gives credibility to the brand. Icons in the sport have reacted very well to the product. Last week in Montreal, Mohamed Lahyani, the Gold-Badged chair umpire, said to the player we sponsor right after his win “it’s so refreshing to see an authentic brand that has that great classic timeless style.” Also, partnering with pros and collaborating with tennis icon, Pat Cash.
The idea of creating a space where men can find what to exercise in, play in, and look chic in was very appealing. We want to be a game-changer for this with taste and style. I felt consumers would gravitate to a more upscale brand, so I set out to create the “Rolex of Tennis Apparel” and so far, we have been received as just that.
Q: What is the biggest business lesson you learned during your journey on launching Uomo Sport?
I learned that it was important to stay true to my vision and to never compromise. I also learned that by producing the highest quality product and always innovating, customers would come to me.
Q: Where do you see Uomo Sport in five years?
I anticipate Uomo Sport to be the dominant brand men and women go to in tennis and athletics; we will have upped the game in the industry. The propensity for function and design was not out there. I wanted to give everyone an experience to look and feel great.
Steven Siebert has been playing and loving the sport of tennis since he was six years old. Now he’s taken his love for tennis and turned it into a luxury athletic wear line called Uomo Sport.