One of the many benefits of Inc.'s annual search for America's 500 fastest-growing privately held companies is that it generates leads that we can explore more deeply and write about in future issues. Such is the case with the story of Under Armour Performance Apparel--a seven-year-old business based in Baltimore and the subject of a new regular feature we are launching this month, entitled "How I Did It" (page 102). I first noticed the Under Armour brand in gyms and hockey locker rooms several years ago. I even bought a pair of Under Armour shorts. But Kevin Plank's company remained undiscovered by the business press until our research staff determined it was going to land in the No. 2 spot on our list. (We profiled the No. 1 company, American Biophysics, at length in this fall's Inc. 500 issue.) Plank played football at the University of Maryland but discovered that entrepreneurship was what really got his adrenaline flowing. Following graduation, he started Under Armour in his grandmother's home and built it into a company that amassed revenue of $50.7 million in 2002 and a five-year growth rate of 12,573%. This year, Plank expects revenue to surpass $110 million. The 31-year-old still has a long way to go before his company topples Nike, but he clearly has already done more than a few things right. That's why we asked him to share some of his secrets with our readers in our first "How I Did It"--a forum for company builders to pass along, in their own words, the wisdom they have acquired. Actionable advice will be a top priority in this monthly feature, but we also recognize that business success requires emotional savvy. Thus, "How I Did It" will also delve into the life experiences of business owners and examine the struggles they've had, the doubts they've overcome, and the relationships they've built. In the end, we hope you'll find this concise feature both useful and inspiring. Incidentally, applications for next year's 500 will be available at Inc.com as of Dec. 1.ÃŠWho knows, perhaps "How I Did It" will one day showcase you and your company.
Jon Gertner, a long time New York business writer, was impressed by the close-knit quality of the Philadelphia entrepreneurial community he researched for his article "The Ultimate Investment Club." Previous to his freelance career, he worked as senior editor at American Lawyer and Money magazines. His writing has also appeared in The New York Times Magazine and Inc., focusing primarily, he says, "on business owners who take their role in society seriously."
Martin Mayer first interviewed factoring experts in 1955 for his book Wall Street, Men & Money. Since then, he has written 32 other volumes on finance, media, and opera (including one with Luciano Pavarotti). The Bankers was a Book-of-the-Month Club selection; 12 of his books have been published in Chinese. He is a guest scholar at the Brookings Institute.
Mark Hyman has been a business journalist for 15 years, 10 of which he spent as an enterprise, investigative, and sports reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He became aware of Under Armour ["How I Did It"] when his two sons began wearing the company's shirts home from football practice.
Michelle Leder has worked as a reporter and editor at daily newspapers in New York, Florida, and Connecticut, and as a personal finance columnist for Lifetime TV.com. The Society of Business Editors and Writers recognized Leder with the Best in Business Award. Her book Financial Fine Print: Uncovering a Company's True Value shows how to spot unethical companies.