November 4, 2014 is a date that will forever be etched in the mind of Adrian Hutchins, CEO and founder of the British company REBO Wall Ltd. That was the day when he staged the first event to promote a product which he believes is unique.
REBO walls are prefabricated tennis and football practice walls. A demountable, semi-permanent fixed wall system with an angled face that creates a realistic arc to the ball and can be used in small, non-traditional spaces.
The first promotional event was held in a community centre playground in Hackney, East London with the help of the coach and TV pundit, Mark Petchey. Twenty-four children, most of whom had never even picked up a tennis racket before, enjoyed the chance to hit a ball against the wall. Hutchins could see immediately that his idea had legs.
Fast forward to September 2016 and 45-year-old Hutchins, who believes in his idea so passionately that he re-mortgaged his house to get the business off the ground, has five different innovative products and shareholders in the company. REBO has been working with the Tennis Foundation and Greenwich Leisure Ltd. to install walls and gain knowledge enabling him to develop the product range.
He has also announced the appointment of Judy Murray (pictured right) and Leon Smith as ambassadors for his business.
“The Tennis Foundation have been very supportive,” Hutchins said. ”They have taken on REBO with two of their nationwide initiatives for secondary schools and inner-city community centres.”
The inflatable ‘Speed’ REBO goes up in minutes and gives indoor community centres and school halls the opportunity to run new activities where a traditional wall cannot be permanently installed. The 3.6 metre wide permanent “Wimbledon’ REBO walls installed by the LTA in the inner city in Nottingham are being monitored by the governing body to assess the level of usage. “Initial feedback and data is looking good,” Hutchins said.
REBO has recently installed a wall on a free to use MUGA site, for Greenwich Leisure Ltd in Ridgeway Park, Chingford. Hutchins said that in the first week after installation there were 35 requests from different people asking to borrow the free rackets from the clubhouse to play on the wall. The rackets and wall cost nothing to hire and use.
REBO walls are perfect to kick a football against and for Hutchins this is a big part of his strategic thinking. “The crossover with football is a major part of the business,” he said. “I want to get tennis players playing football and football players playing tennis, even at the same time! The crossover potential is very exciting”.
With so much activity already happening what are the challenges facing the business?
Hutchins said: “Up until now we have been building relationships. We haven’t really done any sales marketing as such. But REBO is now at a point where we are able to start shouting about what REBO offers. The challenge is building awareness and changing tennis culture.”
Hutchins recently appointed Emily Wright, a former WTA executive, as communications consultant. The message they want to relay to consumers is how easy it is to hit or kick a ball against a wall.
“When I was doing my early research for the business I realised that the common thread that links a lot of tennis players is they all seem to have hit tens of thousands of shots,” he said, “I like to call it Discovery Learning. All these pros discovered their own way of hitting the ball, against a wall, with power and accuracy.”
Hutchins cites the footballers Diego Maradona, Pele, Geoff Hurst and Paul Pogba as well as the tennis players Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Bjorn Borg, and the Williams sisters, in a list of sporting greats who used a wall to hone their skills.
Hutchins wants to scale the business. He has already had interest from key European territories as well as India, Australia, the United States and South America. The REBO digital and social media channels have stimulated this interest. The product range is priced from £950 for the inflatable ‘Speed’ REBO wall to £5,950 for the astroturf covered ‘Wimbledon’ REBO wall, with lease purchase options also available from as little as £5 & VAT/week over a five year period.
Hutchins is about to sign other high profile deals too. He is keeping the details under wraps. “It’s with a very big, high-profile, so watch this space on that one,” he said.
The push for growth comes from a passion and unshakable belief in his simple idea and product design, which Hutchins says is unique. There are patents pending in the UK and the United States and nothing on the market is comparable.
For Hutchins REBO is more than just a business. “REBO had a social conscience from day one,” he said. “I had a crystal-clear vision starting out, which was to increase participation in sport in non-traditional environments.
“REBO's initial strategy is to provide a combination of innovative equipment, training and after-sales support, meaning the REBO brand will ultimately represent free-to-use, accessible, confidence-building ‘stepping-stones’ between unengaged communities and their local network of tennis clubs and providers.”
The idea that the walls can be customised, for example, is indicative of this. Hutchins says that a school that installs a wall could get its students to incorporate it into their learning with graphic design competitions to come up with unique designs for the artwork on the wall.
To facilitate further growth, in the next few months Hutchins is planning to offer further equity in the company to investors. The current valuation of the company is £2.5 million.
Adrian Hutchins CEO and Founder REBO wall Ltd
Phone: 0800 302 9292
Mobile: 07780 688822
Emily Wright Marketing, Communications & Sponsorship, REBO wall Ltd
Phone: 0800 302 9292
Mobile: 07712 671291