As the Business is an adventure series prepares for its next stop in Washington D.C., we take a look at why a passion for creating change is a catalyst for so many successful entrepreneurs...
The inaugural Business is an adventure event in Los Angeles saw Richard Branson joined by Sean Rad (Tinder), Cassey Ho (Blogilates) and Miguel McKelvey (WeWork), as the entrepreneurs discussed what it takes to create and scale a global business. Yet one of the most interesting points of the afternoon came when McKelvey spoke about the drive to impact change that is behind so many start-ups.
"If you were accused of murder and you didn’t do it then you would fight forever until you were exonerated, you’d never give up. So when you’re in an industry that you believe needs to be changed then you have to have that same attitude," explained the WeWork co-founder. "If you’re never going to give up then it doesn’t matter what the competition does, you just need to keep fighting it non-stop until you win and make a positive change."
It’s this kind of thinking that will be dominating the conversation as the event series heads to the US capital for its next stop on April 26th, where Richard Branson will be joined by another set of leading entrepreneurs.
"Once upon a time, accepted thinking was that the world was flat. Not so long ago, conventional wisdom was that a horse and cart was the pinnacle of human transport. Accepted thinking is always waiting to be proved wrong - and that goes for accepted business thinking too," notes the Virgin Group founder.
"It used to be accepted thinking that businesses should focus upon their shareholders, then their customers, then their staff. We turned that the other way around at Virgin, where we know that looking after your employees means they will look after your customers, and in turn improve results for your shareholders. It used to be accepted thinking that companies should concentrate on profit above all else. Now more and more companies are realising the benefits of putting purpose people and the planet alongside profit."
There seems no better place than Washington D.C. to discuss the merits of creating change through business, with the city attracting some of America’s best talent and being home to the highest echelons of decision-making power. As such the city is a hot-bed for purpose-driven ideas, as well as businesses that look to go against conventional wisdom and impact change.
One entrepreneur who knows all about impacting change is Under Armour founder Kevin Plank, who will be joining Richard Branson on stage at the event. The sportswear brand, which was founded in D.C. back in 1996, managed to break into an industry that is notoriously hard to crack and break up the dominance of a handful of giant corporations. From starting out in his grandmother’s basement to being confirmed as the second most popular sportswear brand (overtaking Adidas) in the US, Plank went against conventional wisdom and changed the face of sportswear marketing.
"Although Under Armour has become a $1 billion brand by selling to consumers, I created it as a product for elite athletes," explains Plank.
"I tried to emphasize that if an Under Armour shirt could help these athletes improve their performance just a little bit, they’d be able to earn even more money. I positioned wearing it as a tool to help them rather than a favour to me."
Like many businesses based out of Washington, Under Armour is keen that a big emphasis is put on the brand having a positive social impact. The Give Back initiative sees Under Armour put millions of dollars into programmes to support youth, military veterans and breast cancer initiatives.
"There is no need for anybody to always go along with the accepted way of doing things. I’ve based a lot of my career on that principle" notes Branson. "Everybody is unique and has the potential to do extraordinary things. The first step is often challenging accepted thinking."
To view the livestream, check back to virgin.com at 14:00 EST on April 26th.