Hoop Dreams: WNBA Goods platform boosts small business growth

WNBA Goods platform boosts small business growth

By Wendy Helfenbaum

Furhana Glass-Smith, Scents by Fay

In anticipation of the first Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) game in Canada last spring, the NBA launched WNBA Goods presented by Mastercard, a retail platform to encourage and empower 10 Canadian female entrepreneurs. The program continues the strategy employed for the NBA’s 75th Shop, which used storytelling to promote products—an initiative that built a database of engaged fans who snapped up merchandise minutes after it dropped.

“This was about living our values, celebrating women’s basketball alongside female entrepreneurs,” says Leah MacNab, NBA Canada’s senior vice-president and managing director.

“It was a fun opportunity to offer limited-edition WNBA-themed licensed products at a range of price points, tell the stories of these wonderful female entrepreneurs and drive business to them.”

The WNBA chose women-owned companies with e-commerce and low inventory runs so they could make products to order on a quick turnaround. The program ran for several weeks and was more successful than anticipated, reports MacNab.

“We had 2.3 million social media impressions, added over 11,000 new fans to the WNBA database and most products sold out,” she says.

“Several replenished within the window of our activation, which was really exciting, and we ended up converting three entrepreneurs to full-time ‘365 licensees’ for both WNBA and NBA in Canada, opening up new revenue streams for us.”

Figuring out how much inventory to commit to at the start was tricky without knowing what demand would be.

“We asked the entrepreneurs about their additional sales velocities, and once we started getting actual results, we rejigged our digital marketing to promote licensees that had inventory that week versus ones that might’ve been out of stock but back the following week,” adds MacNab.

Three companies—Makeway, Scents by Fay and The Give & Grow—became 365 licensees and part of the league’s standard offerings based on fan demand and their ability to create exciting products, says MacNab.

Makeway co-founders Shelby Weaver and Abby Albino own Canada’s only standalone women’s sneaker and streetwear boutique. “They created a signature ‘It’s Just Basketball’ jogging suit that sold out the day we launched it,” notes MacNab.

Owned by Olivia Ho, The Give & Grow offers one-of-a-kind planters made from Official Wilson WNBA Balls. “Olivia’s product takes plant culture and things associated with self-care into people’s homes,” says MacNab.

Scents by Fay—founded by Furhana Glass-Smith during the pandemic—crafts aromatic candles in cement holders featuring the WNBA logo.

“The WNBA Goods program has been a surreal part of my journey,” says Glass-Smith, who lives in Oshawa, Ont. “I knew people would want these products and be part of the experience, but I didn’t expect how successful it would be. Being part of the WNBA has brought my brand lots of recognition from people who love basketball, especially women who support each other. It’s inspired me to walk the same path to help empower other women.”

Glass-Smith has expanded her business to include home decor items and now hosts workshops. “I pinch myself every day with gratitude that I’m part of this. It’s so motivating, and I just want that feeling to keep going,” she says.

WNBA merchandise is sold at WNBACanadaGame.com and through each retailer’s website. Items range from $9 to $495, with royalties donated to the Canada Basketball Foundation for girls’ development programs.

“It was a real thrill getting to know these amazing entrepreneurs, and this is a way for us to ensure their businesses grow alongside ours,” says MacNab. “The ability to be creative while also supporting female entrepreneurs was gratifying to our team.”


Photos: NBA/WNBA; Furhana Glass-Smith
Published March 2024

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