Entrepreneurial Spirit / May 7, 2007

Under Armour's Kevin Plank Awards Second Annual Cupid's Cup

The second annual Cupids Cup competition was held Friday, May 4, 2007, at the Robert H. Smith School of Business in College Park, MD. The Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship hosted the business competition for student- and alumni-run startups. Under Armour Chief Executive Kevin Plank, a 1996 Smith graduate, put up $22,500 in prize money and helped pick the winner of this years competition Goozex Inc. (www.goozex.com), an award-winning, peer-to-multi-peer video game trading company headquartered in College Park.

This competition was really inspired by Kevin Planks entrepreneurship, said Asher Epstein, managing director of the Dingman Center. I looked around and realized many other students have great ideas and share Kevins passion and we really want to foster that to help outstanding ventures thrive.

Goozex designed and developed an innovative online system that connects members and builds a user community across North America, allowing them to trade games with each other. Goozex operates on a point-based system that allows its users to retain the real market value of their used video games when trading for other games. The company is run by Smith MBA 2006 graduate Valerio Zanini and features a team of recent Smith MBA and undergraduate students. Goozex took home $15,000 for their innovation.

Goozex plans to use its share of the prize money to expand the Web sites community features. Zanini hopes his company will achieve continued growth and hopefully see the kind of success Kevin Plank has realized with his company. He said he owes some of the credit to the Dingman Center.

I came to Maryland for my MBA because of the Dingman Center, and it was at Dingman that I met the Goozex guys, said Zanini, who came to Smith from Italy. The Dingman Center has really been the cornerstone of my MBA and my American experience.

Cupid's Cup got its name from one of Kevin Plank's early entrepreneurial ventures, a rose sale business called Cupid's Valentine that sold roses to University of Maryland students on Valentine's Day. This small business earned him over $20,000 during his four years at UM and helped fund his ultimate entrepreneurial venture, Under Armour.

Eligible contestants must have been enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate program at the University of Maryland. Alumni of the University of Maryland, graduating with an undergraduate or graduate degree between May 2002 and December 2006 also were eligible for the competition. All entrants must have had an operating company that generated at least $5,000 in revenue prior to the date of entry. Companies that generated more than $500,000 in revenue were not eligible to compete in Cupid's Cup.

The 2006 winners of the first Cupids Cup competition, North Star Games founders Dominic Crapuchettes and Satish Pillalamarri, both 2004 MBA graduates and former Dingman Center scholars, shared the ups and downs of their board game company in the past year. They reported that the $10,000 prize they won last year helped keep their company on the path to success this year realized with their game Wits and Wagers picked up by major retailers Target and Barnes and Noble.

Judges for this years competition included Plank, executives from Under Armour -- Matthew Mirchin, VP of North American Sales; Jody Giles, Chief Information Officer; and Alex Miyamoto, director of investor relations -- along with venture capitalists Dingman Entrepreneur-in-Residence Tien Wong and Matt Brock of CD Ventures.

The final round of the competition included five finalist teams, narrowed from a field of more than 20 applicants. Each team had eight minutes to present their business plans before judges and a sizable crowd in Van Munching Halls Frank Auditorium. Finalists included Geocentric, Gill Grilling Company, Sunscreen Mist, and Workscited4U.

  • Geocentric is a specialty software and services company dedicated to improving Internet mapping and local search by enabling Destination Marketing Organizations, such as business improvement districts and tourism destinations, to self-manage and self-publish high-quality interactive maps and location driven content within their existing Web sites.
  • Gill Grilling Company is the long established preference for fraternity and sorority meal service at the University of Maryland. Gill Grilling Company contracts with the Greek organizations to provide lunch and dinner every day, assuming the responsibilities of hiring the chefs, planning the menu and cooking the food. They provide all the benefits of private chefs with the resources of a company specializing in the industry.
  • Sunscreen Mist is the exclusive distributor of the Sun Treatment Center. The company's state-of-the-art booth mists users with FDA approved, Allevea sunscreens and sun care products. The booth is easy for small children to operate, accepts a variety of payment options and requires no attendant, no plumbing, and a minimal amount of space around pools, beaches, marinas, and water parks.
  • WorksCited4U can take information from any source an encyclopedia, a book with multiple authors, a historical document, a sports documentary, or even a work of music and automatically process the individual formats into a bibliography, adhering to the MLA style formatting.

After the business plan presentations, Plank spoke about entrepreneurship and his business endeavors, then presented an over-sized $15,000 check and trophy cup to Goozex and a $7,500 check to second-place winner Sunscreen Mist.

Spend wisely with that money, Plank joked before announcing the winners. Im telling you, its a lot of money what I would have given for it when I was in your situation.

Plank turned down a well-paying job in the financial services industry when he graduated from the Smith School in 1996 to follow his dream of starting Under Armour. He founded his athletic apparel company in his grandmothers basement and has grown it into a successful publicly traded company.

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

Zanini said Planks ideals about entrepreneurship and running a company align very much with Goozex's strategy especially Planks points about servicing the customer and building a good team. Goozex plans to continue to work on both.

We are five guys now, but we are working like we are 15, Zanini said.

Plank said events like Cupids Cup really give young entrepreneurs the edge, because there is increasing global competition, which means only is America just is not true anymore, he said. We need you to keep coming up with great ideas and keep developing those ideas, Plank told the entrepreneurs. Above all, he pushed entrepreneurs to stay passionate, stay positive and stay focused to achieve success.

Carrie Taschner, Susannah Campbell, Office of Marketing Communications; Photos by Alissa Arford-Leyl

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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.

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