BEFORE SHE STARTED playing pickleball and staying out of the kitchen, you could say that Marlo Dwelle was decorating the kitchen: The entrepreneur, 40, sold vintage silverware and home decor items on Etsy, where she had an online retail store. But when she discovered pickleball in 2015 and later started playing regularly (sometimes even twice a day), her passion for the game inspired her to open Dink Dink Smash, featuring more than 320 different pickleball-themed products ranging from paddle bags to wine charms. And it keeps growing—the mother of four has since expanded to custom-designing apparel for pickleball clubs and tournaments across the country.
AFTER FIRST WORKING for a cruise ship company in Hawaii and then as a zookeeper in Colorado, Dwelle earned a degree in medical transcription. But when a family friend suddenly obtained crates of vintage silverware, Dwelle, now the mother of small children, decided to start a business from home. Her first Etsy shop, now closed, sold items like spoons stamped with the words Cereal Killer, which incorporated both her creativity and humor.
DISCOVERING PICKLEBALL changed Dwelle’s life. Though she had played softball growing up and racquetball, she says pickleball “felt like home. Ninety-five percent of the pickleball players you meet embrace you. They want to know you and be friends with you. You can go anywhere and find three new friends to play with.”
AS SHE WAS LEARNING the sport, Dwelle noticed how everyone was wearing shirts with funny phrases around pickleball and decided to start Dink Dink Smash. “I’m able to customize most things, so people can get exactly what they want,” says Dwelle. Bottle stoppers, leggings, and mini bag tags are her hottest sellers, along with shirts, sweatshirts, visors, car decals, and bags.
PLAYING AT TOURNAMENTS is good for marketing, says Dwelle: “I wear my shirts and visors, and people ask me where I got them.” Dwelle also coordinates a seasonal league. “It’s been especially wonderful because of how many people I’ve met who are just as obsessed with this crazy game as I am,” she says. “I love all my customers—new and repeat—who have allowed me to contribute to my family’s well-being. I will never take their business for granted.”
Marlo Dwelle, the founder of Dink Dink Smash, plays pickleball, sometimes twice a day, at various parks near her home