On May 19, 2006 the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship hosted the first Cupids Cup business competition for student-run startups at the Robert H. Smith School of Business. Under Armour Chief Executive Kevin Plank, a 1996 Smith graduate, put up the $10,000 prize and helped pick the winner of this years competition North Star Games (www.northstargames.com).
The board game company, founded by 2004 MBA graduates Dominic Crapuchettes and Satish Pillalamarri, incubated in the Dingman Center and has grown to sell thousands of copies of award-winning original games Cluzzle and Wits and Wagers. The duo hopes to have the next blockbuster board game. The $10,000 prize will help the company add a card game called Secret Signs to its product line.
This event has given us a significant amount of exposure and will help pique professional investors interest in our company, Crapuchettes said.
The final round of the competition included five finalist teams, narrowed from a field of 20 applicants. Each team had eight minutes to present their business plans before five judges and a sizable crowd in Van Munching Halls Frank Auditorium.
Other finalists in the closely decided competition were Crooked Monkey (www.crookedmonkey.com), a t-shirt company targeting high-school and college students; Geocentric (www.geocentric.com), a software company that engineers interactive Web maps for destination marketing organizations; Hook & Ladder Brewing Company (www.hookandladderbeer.com), a microbrewery that produces wheat and brown ales; and Dayna Designs (www.daynau.com), a designer jewelry company cashing in on the collegiate mid-price jewelry market.
Eligible contestants had to be enrolled students or recent alumni of the university and operating companies that had generated at least $5,000 and no more than $500,000 in revenue prior to entry.
The Cupids Cup competition grew out of a lunch conversation between Plank and Dingman Center Director Asher Epstein. The competitions name refers to one of Planks early ventures as a student at the Smith School a rose delivery business he called Cupids Valentine. In school, Planks entrepreneurial spirit inspired the Pitch Dingman program for students to get feedback from successful entrepreneurs and center staff on their business plans.
Kevin's entrepreneurial success offers a great example for every company in the competition and countless other would-be entrepreneurs, Epstein said. With passion and drive like his, one of the finalists could have the next Under Armour.
After the business plan presentations, Plank spoke about entrepreneurship and his business endeavors, then presented an over-sized $10,000 check and trophy cup to North Star Games.
Plank encouraged the entrepreneurs to set big goals and go after them full force. He founded his athletic apparel company Under Armour in his grandmothers basement while still a Smith student and has grown it into a successful publicly traded company.
Crapuchettes called Planks story awe-inspiring and could draw parallels to his own young company. While the foundation of both companies derives from superior product development, the success of each company rests firmly upon an ability to create a strong brand based around those products, he said.
Plank, a former Terps football player, compared running a business to being on a sports team where every player is on the field at the same time, all going after a win. Its about passion; its about energy; its about drive, he said. He said he keeps four rules for building his company and encouraged the entrepreneurs to do the same:
- Build a great product
- Tell a great story communicate the message of the company
- Service business attract and retain customers through good service
- Build a great team find people with complimentary skills
Plank recounted a recent business meeting in China where he pitched Under Armour to one of the leading footwear manufacturers. The owner admired Planks drive as an entrepreneur and agreed to the business deal. Plank said his passion for his products, his vision for the company and the people he has working with him are the essential components of an entrepreneur.
He encouraged Cupids Cup finalists to determine their passions, create a vision for their companies and assemble great people to build their startups into highly successful businesses.
You've got to keep your business going, whatever it takes, Plank said.
▓ Carrie Taschner, Office of Marketing Communications
Media Relations Manager
About the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business
The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and flex MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, business master’s, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.