As a fellow entrepreneur, I often find it inspiring that sometimes the most successful global business started out as small personal enterprises. And, with some hard work and dedication, they’ve become a household name. That’s why I’m starting a new segment on our blog called: From Side Hustle to Empire. First up, is Under Armour.
Under Armour, Inc. is an American company, started by Kevin Plank, that manufactures footwear, sports, and casual apparel. It is one of the best selling sports apparel companies in the world and has a revenue of $5.2 billion. So how exactly did this multi-billion dollar company start?
Out of necessity.
In 1996, Kevin Plank was a 23 year old special teams captain for the University of Maryland football team and was constantly frustrated with wearing heavy, sweaty shirts under his jersey. He got the idea for the brand after noticing the difference between his shirt and compression shorts, that he wore during practice and on game days. He sought out to design an athletic shirt that would stay dry under the toughest conditions right from his grandmother’s basement.
He began selling his protype to other athletes out of his car, and used his contacts in the NFL, like former Tennessee Titans tight end Frank Wycheck, to create buzz. Pretty soon word got around to big names like Deion Sanders who bought four shirts from him. Soon after, Plank went from making individual sales to team sales to Georgia Tech and North Carolina State for $17,000.
In 1998, Under Armour signed its first league-level deal, becoming an official supplier to NFL Europe. By 2001 deals were struck with the NHL, MLB and USA Baseball to make Under Armour an official supplier for the organizations. And in 2014, Under Armour topped $3 billion in annual sales, and overtook Adidas to become the second biggest sports brand in the U.S.
Talk about hustling all the way to the top! Today, Under Armour offers a wide variety of clothing and apparel for men and women, while of course, staying true to their roots offering plenty of moisture-wicking gear as well.