By most accounts, FURI Sport co-founder Erick Mathelier should never have become a tennis player. The son of a Haitian immigrant, brought up during a time of racial tension in the late 1980s New York City, he wasn’t exactly the country club demographic.
Baseball was his first love, and he dreamed of one day playing in the Major Leagues. But those dreams ended with a jolt in 1989 when Yusef Hawkins, an African-American teenager, was killed by a group of White kids just a few miles from Erick’s Brooklyn home. The murder triggered protests throughout the neighborhood, and as one of only two Black boys playing on his local little league team, his family feared for his safety.
He was forced to quit the team—and the sport he loved. He couldn’t have known then that the decision would change the trajectory of his life.
Needing something else to occupy his fierce, youthful energy, he decided to try his hand at tennis. Ten-year-old Erick took to the Yellow Pages (the thick telephone directory that existed before Google), found a club not far from his home, and started playing once a week. He was immediately hooked. By the age of 13, his game had improved dramatically, and by 14, he was boarding a plane for the first time to play a tournament in Bermuda.
Tennis introduced him to a world of opportunities that would never have been available to him. The sport eventually earned him a Division 1 scholarship to college, a Masters in Urban Policy and Management, and an entrepreneurial drive fueled by the discipline of the game.
Born in Queens, NY, co-founder Michelle Spiro didn’t grow up playing tennis, but she developed an early love of the sport’s rich heritage, and the styles it influenced. A 30-year fashion executive with a background in brand building and a Masters in Organizational Psychology, she worked with global brands like Calvin Klein, Donna Karan, and Ralph Lauren. In contrast to her experience in luxury and contemporary fashion, since the ‘90s, streetwear has resonated with Michelle because of its inherent inclusivity. It inspired her entrepreneurial dreams to build a new brand from the ground-up.
Erick and Michelle met in the summer of 2014, bonding over a common passion for tennis, business, fashion, and community building. As they talked, they started to envision a place where sport and city life meet. Beginning with a technologically advanced, but inclusively priced tennis racket, they reimagined a world where there are no barriers to play. They designed bags that are both functional and fashionable, synonymous with city style. And they pictured a new generation of young people with access to a more equitable future, just as Erick had, through partnerships with urban sports programs in under-privileged neighborhoods.
FURI Sport was born—and tennis is just the beginning.