Two startups founded by ND grads to compete in Kevin Plank’s Cupid’s Cup

Author: Carol Elliott

Two entrepreneurial ventures with ties to the University of Notre Dame advanced to the semifinal round of the prestigious Cupid’s Cup 2016, a national competition started by Under Armour founder and CEO Kevin Plank. The two ventures are part of a field of just 12 semifinalists selected from more than 200 original entries representing 98 colleges and universities nationwide.

Ash & Anvil, a specialty menswear apparel designer, and Wolf & Shepherd, a designer of performance dress shoes, will present their ventures at the semifinal showcase on Feb. 19 at Under Armour’s global headquarters in Baltimore, Maryland. The top five startups advancing to the final round will compete for more than $100,000 in total prizes on April 7 at the University of Maryland in College Park.

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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.

“Nothing energizes me more than meeting passionate young innovators who have the entrepreneurial drive and conviction to take a risk and start a business,” said Plank in a statement. “I am excited to expand the Cupid’s Cup competition to include some of the world’s best thinkers and to provide even more resources to help the next generation of leaders reach their potential.”

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.

“We thrilled that these two ventures with deep ties to the McCloskey Business Plan Competition at Notre Dame will have the opportunity to represent Notre Dame at the Cupid’s Cup,” said Karen Slaggert, associate director of the Gigot Center for Entrepreneurship at the Mendoza College of Business. The Gigot Center organizes the annual McCloskey competition, which awards more than $300,000 in cash and in-kind prizes. “Justin and Eric have worked hard on their ventures, so are very excited for them, and we trust that this opportunity will open new doors for them.”

Ash & Anvil was co-founded by Eric Huang, who earned his bachelor’s degree in management-entrepreneurship from Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business in 2013, and Steven Mazur, who studied at North Carolina State University. The venture designs everyday clothes for millennial men of heights up to 5 feet 8 inches tall. The company, which launched sales online in November, aims to become the “go-to brand for shorter guys,” said Huang. Ash & Anvil also is competing in the 2016 McCloskey Business Plan Competition.

Wolf & Shepherd was founded by Justin Schneider, who earned his undergraduate degree in industrial design from Notre Dame in 2011.  The company offers classically designed dress shoes that incorporate a number of features designed to improve wearability, such as high-density EVA foam heels and memory foam insoles. Wolf & Shepherd won the McCloskey competition grand prize in 2015.

The Mendoza College of Business offers a range of resources to foster the spirit of entrepreneurship for students seeking to start their own businesses, as well as those interested in innovation in established workplaces. At both the undergraduate and graduate level, the College’s rigorous coursework provides students with critical skillsets vital to entrepreneurs, along with the opportunity to engage in internships and other outside-of-the-classroom learning experiences.

The Gigot Center for Entrepreneurship, founded in 1998 and located within Mendoza, supports entrepreneurial students through extensive networking, mentorship and hands-on learning experiences. Most notably, the Center hosts key events such as the McCloskey Business Plan Competition, which kicks off each fall and culminates in a final event in the spring. In 2014-2015, 146 teams comprised of more than 400 individuals entered the competition, and 221 judges and mentors participated in providing feedback and ultimately selecting the winning plans.

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