By Amy Rosen,
President & CEO, NFTE
As entrepreneurial success stories go, Kevin Plank’s is a pretty good one.
As a college football player he saw a need for better performing athletic clothing. Starting with a small savings and an idea for a wicking t-shirt that would keep players dry through an entire game, he developed that idea into a great product and then a brand widely seen as the best in active wear. Starting from the trunk of his car and his grandmother’s basement, Kevin turned Under Armour into a multi-billion dollar company.
It’s the story those of us who inspire and teach future entrepreneurs like to tell.
By ‘those of who inspire and teach future entrepreneurs’ I mean our amazing team and teachers at the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship who have helped spark the entrepreneurship mindset in more than 500,000 young people worldwide since 1987.
And I am also talking about Kevin Plank, and Diana Davis Spencer who was honored as well.
In 2006, Kevin launched the Cupid's Cup Business and Innovation Competition and Showcase, in which young entrepreneurs compete to build their businesses. Encouraging and nurturing the next crop of entrepreneurs is a passion of Kevin’s.
In 1996, Diana, an entrepreneur from an early age who sold eggs from her family farm, so many that her parents had to buy theirs from the store, found NFTE. That year, we touched the lives of 12,000 young people. This year, thanks to her guidance and the significant investment she and her family have made in NFTE, we will bring the power of entrepreneurship to at least 70,000 young people.
Which is why they were a great choice to be receive NFTE’s Entrepreneurial Spirit Award at our annual gala celebration last month in Washington, D.C. Kevin and Diana were recognized for their entrepreneurial leadership in front of more than 1,000 supporters, teachers, students and friends from around the world.
In addition to sharing his moving success story, Kevin said, “We all have an obligation to foster the development of the next generation and empower them to realize that anything is possible when you have the will and determination to succeed." Kevin was not only calling the audience to action, but directly speaking to Diana’s commitment to NFTE.
Nothing could be clearer.
The truth is there are future Kevin Planks out there right now – looking to make their mark – selling their products and ideas from car trunks and at trade shows, in flea markets and from food trucks.
And there are even more young people who have never considered being an entrepreneur, but can be. To get there, they need the mindset, the right tools and the encouragement to break out and make their dreams real. For Kevin and those like him, it is, as he said, an “obligation” to develop and empower them.
Not just because it’s the right thing to do but because we’re all going to sink or swim based on their successes or setbacks. As the worldwide economy becomes more interconnected, today’s high school students in NFTE classrooms – whether they are in Chile or Chicago, India or Ireland – will create the jobs and drive the economy 5, 10 and 20 years from today.
Few things are more important.
It’s why we work at it every day – opening doors and minds to the power of entrepreneurship and economic self-determination.
While the work goes on, we set aside a special evening last month to recognize and toast our collective successes and celebrate some outstanding student entrepreneurs. They are the proof that this works.
To quote Kevin Plank again from the NFTE Gala, "We all win when we celebrate entrepreneurship."
I hope you’ll join NFTE, Kevin, Diana, our volunteers and our partners in celebrating entrepreneurship. Because we keep working at it and recognizing it, we’ll have many more success stories like Kevin’s to share and celebrate.
Click to see photos of the 2014 NFTE Global Gala.