Maryland today | Kevin Plank: Be there and buy the lemonade
The next time you see a bunch of kids selling cold drinks by the side of the road, Kevin Plank ’96 urges you to stop.
“Take five minutes and stop and buy a cup of lemonade,” he said yesterday at the third annual EnTERPreneurship Conference hosted by the University of Maryland Alumni Association. “Help them also to encourage them on their journey. It is the greatest gift we have.
Plank, the founder, executive chairman and chief brand officer of sportswear manufacturer Under Armour, took part in a keynote speech with University President Darryll J. Pines at the event, which was attended by more than 250 attendees. are connected and learned from other Terp entrepreneurs during roundtables. , a networking lunch and resource fair hosted by local organizations offering business and legal advice, financing options and mentorship.
The EnTERPreneur awards were also presented to David C. Quattrone MBA ’05, co-founder and chief technology officer of Cvent, which provides technology for meetings, events and hospitality; Lauren Foundos ’06, founder and CEO of Fortë, a streaming gym service; and Pramod Raheja ’91 and Evandro Valente ’03, MS ’06, co-founders of unmanned aerial vehicle company Airgility.
Plank’s own journey from a Terp entrepreneur is the stuff of legends: As a Maryland football player, he developed sweat-wicking synthetic fabric T-shirts that were cooler, drier and more comfortable for his teammates. Since launching Under Armor in 1996 in his grandmother’s basement, he’s grown the company into a multi-billion dollar powerhouse. Here’s some other wisdom he’s gleaned over the years:
Learn the systems
One of Plank’s best experiences at the University of Maryland was seeing how to interact “with a large system,” he said. It means understanding how you fit within a bureaucracy and structure and making the most of every opportunity there.
“There are lessons in everything. It’s about going to an orientation session and not just sitting in the crowd, but thinking, “I’m going to stay behind and shake hands with this person. It’s the little things that make those connections.
Combine insight with passion
Plank despised the feel of his cotton shirts during practices and football games. “We would come in at half time and the team would spend five, 10 minutes taking off the shoulder pads, swapping T-shirts just to dry them and thinking, ‘This is crazy’ and ‘How come no one has a better alternative?’ ” he said.
Plank found one with his innovative shirts, saying, “I was lucky enough to be able to come up with an idea that matched my passion, which I could then apply to a job – more importantly, a calling or assignment that allowed me to hunt and build something.”
Adapt to change
The internet and e-commerce, not to mention the creation of “influencers” who help shape consumer behavior via social media, have seen a sea change since Under Armour’s inception, Plank said.
“The way we talk to the consumer is so different today,” he said. “There are no 60-second commercials, in general. It’s about figuring out how we can make the seven-second snack bites that will intrigue you on an Instagram story.
“It’s metabolism,” he said. “We all remain students.”
Connect with customers
Data and algorithms can have great predictive powers about what customers want, Plank said, and brands need to dictate “the pace of what’s cool.” At the same time, however, lasting loyalty for a brand like his only comes from an inviting and inspiring image that can make a little kid feel more confident when training or trying out for a team.
“It’s our job to make sure there’s a superpower,” he said. “That’s where we really won. And it’s not just a marketing story you’re making up, but it really affects us.
To be present
Despite the increased complexity and demand at a large public company since his days selling T-shirts out of the trunk of his car, Plank said the temptation to romanticize the old days was a waste of time. time: “All I can do is think about living now,” he said.
“Being present is the most important advice I can give anyone,” he said. “Wherever you are, be there. That’s good advice for a parent, it’s good advice for a boss. And build that person, build that organization that you’ve always wanted.
Find hundreds of Terp businesses in the Alumni Association’s new Terp Referral Exchange Business Directory.