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Life & Work with Claudia Gaviria

Today we’d like to introduce you to Claudia Gaviria.

Hi Claudia, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today?

Funny enough, I have no immediate background in sports. Growing up, my mom encouraged me to do ballet, tap dance, piano, and art classes but I was never encouraged nor had an interest in playing sports other than tetherball during recess! I also never considered myself athletic which inhibited me from wanting to even explore playing a sport. This all changed when I found tennis.

The first time I played, I was 16. My little brother Paul, who was always very athletic, made me get on the court because he wanted someone to hit the ball with.

I stepped on the court and wasn’t great or even good, but I was hooked and determined to master the sport. The great thing about that experience was how playful he made it. I remember him hitting drop shots at my legs, talking trash and making me laugh the entire time. We just went out there and had the best time. That moment is where the spirit of Tenez was born.

TENEZ’s early beginnings started as a platform to share my aesthetic, which was different from what I saw in the tennis industry,both past and present. Tenez started off as a blog and Instagram account where I could share picture edits of both past and present players and tennis gear.

My following started to grow as did my ideas for expanding my brand. It made me want to take tennis back to my roots. I started Tenez out of my love for the sport and I wanted to bring this love back to the community. Tenez The Tourney started as a monthly tournament/gathering for local players to come out and enjoy a day full of tennis designed in a way to be a fun, friendly and competitive atmosphere for all skill levels.

Fast forward a year and the Tourney has grown bigger than I could’ve ever imagined. We are heading into our 8th sold-out Tourney. We’ve grown our network to over 150+ players and 30+ incredible sponsors spanning from local and national small businesses to more established brands as well, such as Sergio Tachinni, Wilson and Body Armor.

We like to mix it up and find creative ways to engage players and spectators at the Tourneys. My goal is to make everyone feel like they’re winners so we do our version of a participation trophy called the participation bag, where we get to introduce innovative brands like OFFFIELD, Weedsport, AT*HUMANS, Weltpocket etc. For the actual Champions, we do Trophy bags with bigger ticket prizes such as racquets, eau de toilette, sunglasses, etc., from disruptive brands like Furi Sport, Vacation Inc., and Krewe amongst others.

The ethos of my brand inspired my approach to curating a playful but competitively fun vibe where the tournament extends further from simply tennis. Our sponsors are court-side offering their products to our players. We have a DJ spinning tunes, courtesy of DASH radio. We offer plenty of food options, including LA Original Tacos rolling up court-side in their taco truck or catering from local favorite La Antica Pizzeria Da Michelle to keep you well-fed. There are also drinks available from new companies like Open Water and Barcode to keep players hydrated. Our local coffee shop, ilCaffe is also on the sidelines fueling that extra pep in our step!

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?

Starting a company from nothing is never easy and growing a company organically demands a lot of work. I found attracting players and sponsors to play at my tournaments came from my relentless grassroots approach. I used tactics such as cold calling vendors to handing out flyers to players at the local tennis parks.

Running a company without any additional help or funding hasn’t been easy. I’ve bootstrapped Tenez alone by putting together tournaments that now attract 100+ players and spectators. Blood, sweat, and tears? Yes to all three but I am aware that it’s all a part of the process of creating a lifestyle brand that speaks to everyone.

Tenez’s next step – Merchandise.

Being able to launch into apparel and clothing gives Tenez another vertical to expand our love of the sport. Currently launching our first collection consisting of a sweat set that can be worn on and off the court. Everyone can feel like they are part of Team Tenez. At TENEZ, I want every person to feel like they made the team.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?

My career was in fashion as a makeup artist for almost 20 years, but I always felt there was something more out there for me. I loved the client-facing side of my career but what I enjoyed the most was putting teams together for photoshoots, commercial productions, fashion shows, etc. So when I started playing tennis, it was natural for me to get everyone around me to play or participate in some way.

I know that my artistic background helps bring a different visual & cultural aspect to the game and how I share visuals of the sport to appeal to a different audience, maybe one that otherwise wouldn’t be interested in tennis.

I hope because of my Latin upbringing that I am able to bring a more festive, joyful and passionate approach to tennis. I think part of the reason tennis is so mentally stressful for some is because people believe they have to look a certain way or act a certain way when they play. There is a lot of pressure there. I just want people to relax and have fun. It’s only a game at the end of the day and another way to play along with others!

How do you think about happiness?

Building partnerships with new brands and creating meaningful relationships with the people behind them has really made me feel that I have found my purpose. Being an avenue to bridge the gap between these unique brands and tennis players, and also being able to grow and build together and being of service.

Watching people play and overcome challenges and making sure that people feel included. Most of our players have never played competitively, some haven’t even played in matches. They arrive nervous and shy and I live for watching them break out of their comfort zone, become engaged in the game, and make new friends. This is why it was so important for me to create a safe space for people to compete. I also love the mentorship aspect of our stronger players taking our novice players under their wing to take a chance at winning the game. I created the Tourneys to inspire people to be better players and people on and off the court. And I hope that everyone leaves with a bit of inspiration to do just that.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Julian D. Mercado @juliandmercado

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