Shoe venture moves into finals of Kevin Plank’s Cupid’s Cup competition

Author: Carol Elliott

Wolf & Shepherd, a venture founded by University of Notre Dame alumni Justin Schneider, is among just five finalists of the Cupid’s Cup 2016 entrepreneurship competition started by Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank.

Schneider, who graduated in 2011 with a degree in industrial design, will present his performance dress shoe designs before Plank and a judging panel of leaders in entrepreneurship during the competition’s final round on April 7. The event will take place at the University of Maryland in College Park and award more than $100,000 in total prizes.

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The former Notre Dame decathlete was one of 12 semifinalists who competed on Feb. 19 at Under Armour’s global headquarters in Baltimore, Maryland. A second venture with ties to Notre Dame, Ash & Anvil, made it to the semifinal round as well, beating out more than 200 original entries representing 98 colleges and universities nationwide.

Wolf & Shepherd sells classically designed dress shoes that incorporate high-quality Italian leather with a number of features designed to improve wearability, such as high-density EVA foam heels and memory foam insoles. The venture won the 2015 McCloskey Business Plan Competition, an annual event organized by the Gigot Center for Entrepreneurship at the Mendoza College of Business that awards more than $300,000 in cash and in-kind prizes.

“The semifinal round of Cupid's Cup was sheer energy,” said Karen Slaggert, the assistant director of the Gigot Center who attended the semifinal Cupid’s Cup event. “To be surrounded by such incredible young entrepreneurs representing some of the greatest universities in the country was truly inspiring.  Kevin Plank spent a great deal of time with the semifinalists, encouraging them and sharing stories related to his successes—and challenges—in launching Under Armour.”  

In addition to Plank, this year’s list of judges include 2015 Cupid’s Cup winner Christopher Gray, founder and CEO of Scholly, an app that helps students find scholarships for college; Donna Harris, co-founder of 1776, a major initiative that connects startups to the political, intellectual, social and financial capital of Washington D.C.; Chris Jeffery, co-founder and CEO of OrderUp, one of the fastest growing online and mobile food ordering and delivery marketplaces in the country; Ben Pruess, active angel investor and current senior vice president of sportswear at Under Armour; Jason Shrensky, founder and CEO of Complex Interests, a software solution for organizing and visualizing complex financial relationships; and Greg Vetter, CEO of Tessemae’s All Natural salad dressing company.

Plank launched Cupid’s Cup 10 years ago to foster the entrepreneurial spirit among college students and recent graduates who are following his example and already running their own companies. The name of the event is a nod to one of Plank’s first businesses – Cupid’s Valentine Rose Delivery – an enterprise that he started as a student at the University of Maryland to sell roses on campus. Those profits eventually became the seed money to launch Under Armour.

The 2016 competition marks the first time that Plank added a consortium of universities to the event’s longstanding partner, the University of Maryland. The consortium of 20 top universities includes Notre Dame, Harvard, Duke, the University of California – Berkeley and other equally prestigious institutions.

Cupid’s Cup aims to reach the top entrepreneurial minds in the country, and more importantly, to inspire and foster the community of college students and recent graduates who have already followed Plank’s lead and are running their own companies.

The competition was open to undergraduate and graduate students enrolled at accredited colleges and universities or recent alumni of those institutions. Applicants ensured that they are running a legal business entity that has demonstrated proof of traction. More information about the competition is available at www.cupidscup.com.

For more information about entrepreneurship at the Mendoza College of Business, contact Karen Slaggert at kslagger@nd.edu.