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UnderArmor CEO, Kevin Plank, held a speaking engagement at Huntsman to discuss his company and Credit: Alex Remnick

It all started because of a sticky, sweaty T-shirt.

For Kevin Plank, a bit of perspiration was what it took to get the ball rolling on a soon-to-be $1-billion enterprise.

Plank, the 38-year-old founder and chief executive officer of Under Armour, spoke about the creation, evolution and future of his company at Huntsman Hall on Thursday evening. The event, which drew a crowd of more than 250, was part of the Wharton School’s Leadership Lectures series.

Plank, who earlier this year was ranked 15th on Fortune’s “40 Under 40” list, spoke about his days as a special teams captain with the University of Maryland football team. It was around this time that — right in his grandmother’s basement — Plank’s grand project began.

“Years ago, there were just two options for athletes: either a short-sleeve cotton T-shirt or a long-sleeve flannel shirt under a uniform,” Plank said. “I knew that there had to be a better way.”

This sense of frustration with “a lack of diversity in athletic apparel,” Plank said, was what initially led him to pursue his idea.

Fifteen years, thousands of employees and millions of dollars later, Under Armour’s success has skyrocketed to a level rivaling that of competitors like Nike and Adidas.

For attendees on Thursday, this rapid growth — a fact that the young entrepreneur attributes to “passion, vision and people” — struck a particular chord.

“It’s neat to hear the history of [Under Armour] and see how quickly an idea can develop,” Wharton sophomore Chloe Heckman said. “I think it shows the value of building a company with a basis of teamwork and passionate employees.”

Like Heckman, Wharton sophomore Rich McAteer said that he enjoyed listening to Plank recount his company’s evolution in the world of sports marketing.

“It’s a nice story of a young, scrapping entrepreneur coming out on top,” McAteer said. “He’s built a brand that’s now globally recognized, and it’s a cool thing to see.”

Plank, who said that he looks at schools like Wharton as “the breeding ground for the next generation,” finished his talk by encouraging students to take their ideas to the next level.

“You have to will it to happen,” Plank said. “It’s all about believing. There’s no reason why the next big thing can’t come from you.”

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