Privacy Policy Create Site Map

Q & ACE Interview with Tim Schnupp, Founder of The PutAway

Formally Trained PharmD-Cannabis Entrepreneur Launches East Coast Pickleball Facility

February 29 2024

Q. Tell us about your professional background prior to launching The PutAway and the origin of your entrepreneurial spirit.

A. After graduating from pharmacy school in 2013, I practiced for a couple of years before quickly realizing it’s not what I really wanted to do for the rest of my life professionally. Both my parents were in healthcare – my mom was a nurse at Johns Hopkins and my dad was Director of Pharmacy at University of Maryland before retiring – so going into the medical profession felt natural. After seeing the sacrifices my parents made for those large institutions, it kind of made me think about the life I wanted for myself, or if I wanted something different. I was always interested in opening my own small, independent retail pharmacy, but you could see where the industry was going, with insurance companies making it harder and harder to operate an actual healthcare business, so there wasn’t really a future where I could see myself doing that.

So, I look a different path. I left pharmacy to get into the cannabis industry, starting an independent testing lab that grew that into multiple sites across multiple states. I ended up selling my equity in that business last summer. While I came out ahead of where I started financially, I mostly just learned a lot. You learn things going through the entrepreneurial experience that no school or traditional education can really teach you.

After taking a little bit of a break to figure out what my next move was, pickleball popped up.

Q. After transitioning from pharmaceuticals to cannabis industries, how would you define the cross-over into opening a pickleball facility?  

A. The major crossover is that pickleball is a new industry, and there aren't set rules to play by. At the time I started in cannabis, the industry was very new, figuring it out as you go. New, emerging markets are what attract me because there aren't any predetermined notions of how things should be run -- you kind of get a blank canvas.

With cannabis, we literally got in on the ground floor. We were one of the first labs to get approved andlicensed. So yeah, definitely, a little bit of luck timing wise, and the same thing kind of happened with pickleball, where I was in a position to take a risk. I did meet a lot of people that had the same idea, but they were working full-time jobs or just didn't have the time. It seems like a simple concept on the outside, but when you’re dealing with customers every day, and thousands of people who have been through the facility, it's always more than you think. You always simplify things in your mind.


Q. How do you gauge the growth trajectory of pickleball as compared to the legalized cannabis industry – are there any parallels? 

A. I draw a lot of parallels between cannabis and pickleball industries, where everyone is making crazy projections about how much revenue the industry will generate. With cannabis, at the end of the day, you know there are only so many consumers and there are only so many people within a state that you could even have as your potential customer. To a certain degree, I think the same thing will happen with pickleball. Obviously, pickleball will be a lot more ubiquitous than medical or adult use of cannabis; but there's going be a saturation point, and I think it'll be a lot lower than a lot of people expect. So, as with any industry, I think there's a window of opportunity to get in as it’s opening and to get out of before it closes.


The PutAway: Indoor Pickleball Courts & Leagues

We opened our doors to the public August 2023. We’re going on six months now, and the growth has been good. There’s a seasonality to it. At the beginning, when we were just getting our name out there, everyone was finishing up their summer vacations and getting back into the school routine with kids, so growth was a little bit slower in September and October. But once the temperature dropped, we got really slammed. We’re really happy with the business we’re seeing from memberships and foot traffic.

We’ve had approximately 4,000 people through the facility since opening six months ago, with more than 300 club members playing on seven indoor courts across a 24,000 square-foot facility. Customers come here to not only play pickleball, but also to be surrounded by their community of pickleball players in an environment that is thoughtful and positive, and designed with intention.

We invested significantly in acoustic panel solutions to reduce the noise in the building, so customers wouldn’t have to leave the facility to have a conversation or take a call. We also splurged on pickleball-specific lighting that comes down from the sides of the court so people aren’t blinded from less expensive overhead lighting when looking up at lob shots. Interior design was very important – from furniture to lighting to fully appointed locker rooms. For members who want to play an early morning match before heading into the office, we’ve installed a remote lock system to access the facility as early as 5:00 a.m. (regular business hours are 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.) Customer experience is extremely important to us.

Tournaments:  APA’s Maryland Indoor Amateur Open at The PutAway

The PutAway hosted the APA’s Maryland Indoor Amateur Open last month. PHOTO CRED:  THE PUTAWAY

The social aspect of pickleball is really what drew me to the business model. Before I was introduced to pickleball, the majority of people I had meaningful relationships with were my co-workers and my family. I didn’t really know many people in my community until I started playing pickleball, and now I’m meeting people I normally wouldn’t have met while engaging in a healthy activity that’s reigniting the competitive itch.

APA’s Maryland Indoor Amateur Open at The PutAway was a great, well-operated tournament for approximately 124 players, with a lot of exciting, high level 4.0-5.0 players competing in more than one event – singles, doubles, and mixed doubles over the course of two days.  One of the women’s singles matches went to 22 points! The event drew players from other counties and cities, and it was awesome to see that higher level competition come into our facility and play against our members who we see every day and give them a run for their money, so-to-speak.

APA did an amazing job, starting and finishing on time. It was actually kind of unbelievable. We were all looking at the schedule that they (APA) put out, and we were like “Man..”. They didn't really account for any extra time but finished exactly as scheduled. All the matches ran smoothly. Everyone knew exactly where they needed to be. It was incredible. You could tell that they had done it before, and APA has an impressive model to follow -- it was a great experience. Everyone had a good time. 

We're looking forward to the next one.




Featured Podcasts