I really like Under Armour (UA) clothes. You know, everyone has certain clothes and shoes they like to wear. Maybe it’s because of the way they fit. It could be it’s just that certain style they are going for. For me, certain UA shirts fit me really well as do their hats. The bonus is how good those items look. Not necessarily on me (ha, ha), but just the fact that their products generally look good.
Very Humble Beginnings
Kevin Plank is the founder and executive chairman of Under Armour. Growing up in Kensington, Maryland, Kevin is the son of a prominent land developer. His mother is a former mayor of Kensington and also served under President Reagan directing the Office of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs.
He grew up playing football and, after graduating high school, played at Fork Union Military Academy for a year. His plan was to get attention from NCAA Division I schools, and it didn’t work. I would say that getting attention from big schools while playing for a smaller school is a pretty tough gig. However, he did walk onto the team at the University of Maryland, College Park, and played there until he graduated in 1996. Kevin graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business administration (which pays off for him… read on).
While at U of M, Plank ran a business called Cupid’s Valentine to earn money. Obviously a seasonal business, he raised enough money through it to come up with $3000 and used it for seed money for his new business, which would become none other than Under Armour.
Ideas Can Come At Any Time
I often wonder where, when, or even how ideas for certain things come about. Kevin Plank’s new business idea was inspired by, well, him. When he realized he was the “sweatiest guy on the football field”, and was frustrated by his cotton T-shirts failure to keep him dry, it was time for a change. He began searching for a material that would wick the moisture away from his body. Trying several different prototypes, Plank finally landed on the material that worked.
Using all of his resources available, he launched this new business, which he ran from his grandmother’s house initially. With the help of his former teammates using the clothing (and liking it), Kevin was able to quickly grow the business.
Success for Kevin and his new brand, Under Armour, came quickly. It didn’t come without risk, though; Plank used almost all of UA’s money in 1999 to buy an ad in ESPN The Magazine for $25,000.
Remarkably, it worked well as the ad resulted in $1 million in direct sales the following year. Just a short ten years later, Under Armour had reached the $1 billion mark. Business has been good.
Good for Business, Good for Others
We all have the ability to do good for others. The means by which we are able to do good can differ drastically, though. Some of us have only ourselves and our humble resources available to help us to do good for others, and that is perfectly fine.
Others, like Kevin Plank and Under Armour, have been blessed with more financial and tangible resources to use for good. Take a look at their website, and you’ll quickly find there is no shortage of good being done by this corporate giant.
The leadership and employees at Under Armour have hearts for others. The company is involved in many different charities and organizations around the world. Working to make communities better is their main focus.
They have identified four main areas of investment: education, mentorship, activity, and service. Through these areas of investment, UA is doing good for youth programs, health care workers, veterans, and fighting hunger, among many others.
I would say that it would be really easy to focus only on making a profit and providing for those that work for you in a company this size. That is what I call the ‘easy road’. Thankfully, Under Armour started off from humble beginnings, and Kevin Plank has never lost sight of that.
I’m thinking the next time I purchase a product from Under Armour I’ll most likely think of the good that will be done with the money I am spending. Yes, I know they are making money off of me.
What’s even better is they are making life good for someone somewhere in the world with a portion of my purchase. Feels good to think I’m helping someone with their help, someone I probably could not help otherwise. Under Armour is a company that is doing good!