Erika Bond, founder of All-Love Racquet Club. (Zon D’Amour/L.A. Sentinel)

Recently tennis coach and entrepreneur Erika Bond produced her inaugural “All-Love + Fortune Pop-Up Series” tennis clinic sponsored by Wilson. Rain showers didn’t detour nearly 150 people of various ages, races, and backgrounds from attending Bond’s event which took place at the El Dorado Tennis Center in Long Beach.

More than just a traditional tennis clinic to learn basic strokes, Bond curated what many referred to as a “tennis festival” which combined professional drills and competitive play with live music, food, and beverage vendors as well as an ingenious way to recycle old tennis balls by using them as planters.

Having played tennis since the age of eight, and later as a D1 college athlete at Prairie View A&M University, Bond witnessed the racial inequities within the sport, as the cost of quality racquets, private lessons, and entrance fees into tournaments can be upwards of $1,000 or more per month, an expense not always feasible for those in Black and brown communities.

“Once I got to the age of realizing that my access to tennis wasn’t typical, you feel isolated,” Bond shared with The Sentinel.

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“Sports are supposed to be about community yet you’re doing something that’s a solo sport and you feel even more alienated when you’re the only Black person doing it” she added.

DJ Jasmine Solana, tennis coach and All-Love founder Erika Bond, Wilson representative Alex Ring, and Emmanuel Fortune, founder of Fortune Tennis attend the All-Love + Fortune Pop-Up event at El Dorado Tennis Center in Long Beach. (Zon D’Amour/L.A. Sentinel)

Even as an adult and tennis coach, Bond found herself as the minority at many private racquet clubs.

“I was being stared at as if I didn’t belong. I realized that there needed to be a space where people like me could walk in and feel comfortable playing this sport because if you ask anyone to name professional tennis players, Venus and Serena Williams come to mind, so why don’t we have spaces in Los Angeles that reflect the true diversity of the population that’s interested in tennis?”

This revelation inspired Bond to establish her passion project, All-Love Racquet Club. “I want to change the experience of tennis for Black and brown boys and girls. What if Venus and Serena Williams or Coco Gauff had been detoured because they were the only [Black player]? I want people to feel like anything is possible and it’s not gate kept by any sort of elite society.”

Initially, Bond was in search of a facility to create the first Black woman-owned tennis club in Los Angeles. She spent a year researching and crafting the perfect pitch for prospective investors. Soon after, Bond was introduced to a venture capital firm based in London.

She shared, “They loved the idea and thought it would be a great lifestyle brand. They said the way to take it to market is through a series of proof-of-concept pop-up events that test whether people will come to a space that’s inclusive, has vendors, food, mixes culture and tennis?”

Winners of competition play surrounding ALRC founder Erika Bond, center. (Tae Nichol Photography)

The VC firm also facilitated Bond’s introduction to Wilson, the world’s leading sporting goods brand. During her event, the synergy between All-Love and Wilson was visible as the renowned brand dressed all the coaches, provided all the equipment, including tennis balls and carts, as well as contributed to the swag bags.

“The All-Love launch was the proof of concept and now we have such rich data demonstrating what I believe the tennis industry should actually look like: all ages, all colors, all sizes, having fun,” said Bond.

When asked what’s next for the All-Love brand, Bond shared that she’s currently designing a flagship clothing collection, which will be followed by more activations, tournaments, and charity events.

Passionate about utilizing her experiences to introduce tennis to the next generation Bond said, “As I continue to build the All-Love brand, the goal is to also establish a foundation where proceeds from the for-profit side go directly into the mission of accessibility for the community and that could look like building courts, partnering with schools to make sure they have education and providing the scholarship for Black and brown students to attend tennis academies.”

 To learn more about Erika Bond and the next All-Love Racquet Club events follow @AllLoveRacquetClub on Instagram.