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Effortlessly sinking a basketball into the net at a busy West London court, Sian Sutherland, cofounder and chief executive of Mama Mio, looks more like a sinewy teenager than a time-pressed executive. The secret to her lithe form? For the past 15 years, Sutherland has played as part of the Badabings, an all-female basketball team that meets weekly at London’s Little Venice Sports Center.
This story first appeared in the September 7, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
For Sutherland, the “total mental break” from life as an entrepreneur first drew her to the sport. “You have to focus 100 percent. You run around, think about something totally different and at the end of that hour, everything feels more manageable,” she says.
Sutherland and makeup artist Louise Constad dreamed up the team after becoming frustrated by the lack of group sports for women. While neither Constad (who stands at five foot two) nor Sutherland (at five foot eight) had ever played hoops before, on her frequent trips to New York, Sutherland was captivated by games at the West 4th Street courts in Greenwich Village. “I’d walk past and think, Isn’t it the coolest game?” she muses.
Back in London, the duo recruited a band of women, whose members come and go as their lifestyles demand. The team also has its own coach, Delroy Hall. “When we play, we’re quite serious. We have a laugh, but we want to get better, and learn and improve,” says Sutherland, whose teammates include pharmacists, doctors and fellow entrepreneurs.
That ethos spills over into her ceo role. “[At work] I’m about putting together a team of really great people and bringing out their best,” says Sutherland, who, since cofounding Mama Mio, has helped build up the brand into 3,000 doors in eight countries and overseen its expansion into facial skin-care and body-care products for use outside of pregnancy. “That’s exactly the same approach as in a team sport. It’s not about individual success, it’s about the team. And it’s about everybody having a great time.”
Sutherland is passionate about recruiting more women for the Badabings, which recently received government funding as part of an initiative to attract more Brits to sports. She believes basketball’s fitness benefits are secondary to the emotional payoffs — just as she sees her success in the beauty industry as being a by-product of “loving what I do. You’re at work, loving what you’re doing, making a bit of a difference. You’re building a great team, nurturing them…and, oh — maybe making some money!” she laughs.