No Sweat: Event Highlights Power of Small Business



IFA President & CEO Steve Caldeira, CFE, joined Under Armour, Inc. CEO Kevin Plank and SBA Administrator Karen Mills May 21 for the Awards Luncheon during National Small Business Week, an annual event highlighting the importance of small business and small-business lending in America. According to a new SBA report, small businesses outperformed large firms in job creation by 75 percent from 1992 through 2010.

Plank, 39, started his company in a basement down the road from the University of Maryland, where he was a special teams captain for the Terrapins football squad. Tired of having to change out of the sweat-soaked T-shirts he wore under his jersey, Plank searched for synthetic “moisture-wicking” fabrics to solve a problem he felt faced all athletes. He burned through $17,000 in cash and ran up $40,000 in credit card debt before pleading for an SBA loan to keep his dream alive from a contact of his mother’s, Kate Carr, then president of woman-owned Adams National Bank, and now CEO of Cardinal Bank.

Under Armour is now a global juggernaut with 2012 revenues estimated at $1.8 billion, up from $1.5 billion last year.

Plank talked about what motivates him and his nearly 5,000 employees. “You think you can make a shirt and slap a logo on it and have a company?  It’s so much more than that,” he said. “We’re empowering athletes and people everywhere to believe they can do anything.”

That philosophy pulled him through the tough times. “You have to believe,” he told the awards audience of 400 small-business leaders.

The SBA works with America’s 27 million small businesses and lenders represented by IFA partners such as the National Association of Government Guaranteed Lenders and the National Association of Development Companies−offering many programs that are “zero-subsidy,” meaning they don’t add to the country’s red ink despite having provided more than $30 billion in loans in just the last fiscal year.

Responding to calls to downsize the SBA to trim the nation’s budget deficit, financial pundits Bob Coleman, editor of the Coleman Report, and Chris Hurn, co-founder and CEO of Mercantile Capital, wrote in  “Efforts to end programs like these lack any foundation of sensibility. It’s the equivalent of trying to lose weight by cutting your hair.”

Caldeira talked about the benefits of franchising with CEO Plank. Nodding his head, Plank said, “We’re still working on getting the model right.”

Beth Solomon  IFA vice president, strategic initiatives & industry relations.