Entrepreneur Profile: Kevin Plank of Under Armour

I truly believe that no other entrepreneur has a better story than Kevin Plank. Plank is the founder of Under Armour sports equipment and truly created his business out of nothing.

A walk on football player at the University of Maryland, Plank rose through the ranks and became a captain of the Special Teams Unit. Before and during games, players were given cotton shirts to wear under their pads. These shirts would get soaked and would have to be replaced after warmups, prior to kick-off, and during halftime. The cotton shirts were not effective in keeping players cool and the removal of the shirts was difficult as the shirts would stick to the shoulder pads which removed precious time from meetings during halftime. Plank, known as the “sweaty guy,” saw that this issue didn’t occur with his compression shorts, which were made of a synthetic material. He decided to buy several orders of the synthetic material and went to a tailor and asked for it to be made into shirts. He was able to obtain a handful of shirts and gave them to his teammates who were best fit to make the NFL so that they can be cooler come game time and have an advantage over opponents. They loved the tight, cooling shirts and Plank decided to make more of them. After graduating in 1996, Plank had a check for $5,000 that he took to Atlantic City to gamble. This was every dollar in his name and he needed $15,000 for capital and to buy a small factory where the shirts could be made. He lost it all while gambling and had to plead with the toll workers to get from region to region. He didn’t even have money in his spare change tray in his car. He went back home to Baltimore defeated, until the Georgia Tech Football program made an order for shirts. With the money at hand he was able to make the shirt and send them over to Georgia Tech where they made a team order. Plank soon found himself affording the small factory and expanding, as through word of mouth, the brand spread to several major college football programs.

Fast forward to today, Under Armour is now the third best-selling athletic apparel brand and is worth $2.3 billion. I admire Kevin Plank as he found a simple problem that required a simple solution and was able to put so much faith into his product that he risked his life’s earnings. That is an entrepreneur who deserved success and found it.