Skin in the Game
I’ve held back on writing this for some time now. Having just returned from my first trip to Southeast Asia, where we visited Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam as well as Hong Kong and Gaoming, China, a few weeks were needed to soak in everything that I had just experienced. The best words to explain the eight-day turnaround trip can be simplified down to the phrase “controlled chaos”. Potentially one of the most important trips in my life, giving my classmates and myself the opportunity to touch soil and get knee-deep with what these cities and countries had to offer.
Finishing up the last five months of the Sports Product Management Masters Program here at the University of Oregon, things are now starting to get very real. The time to jump head first in to the sports product industry is really within arm’s length. All of a sudden, there seems to finally be a light at the end of the tunnel. Internships came and went over the summer, where 12 weeks have never seemed to fly by so fast. Throughout my time in Maryland working with Under Armour, I was able to get hands on experience in merchandising and product line management. From tons of exposure and access to experienced and talented merchants, PLMs, developers, designers, and marketers, to conversations with COO Patrick Frisk and CEO Kevin Plank. The number of relationships built with my coworkers and other interns will prove to be major in the coming years as seeds are watered and relationships continue to grow. My time in Baltimore was nothing short of successful.
The main purpose of this trip to Southeast Asia in my opinion was all about getting skin in the game. This wasn’t a vacation, this was a business trip. In those eight days of travel we visited Ching Luh and Can Sports. Two major footwear factories that manufacture primarily for Nike and a number of other big brands. We were also able to spend a few hours at Pungkook, one of the leading manufactures in bags/equipment, building product for brands like Arc’Teryx, The North Face, Patagonia and Camelbak. In Gaoming, China we were able to spend a day with Esquel Textiles Company, visiting their factory and office spaces. Being the completely vertically integrated company that they are, it was eye opening to see everything from the spinning mill, the woven fabric mill, their garment operations, and all the way through to their retail showrooms. They do it all. These are the things that you can read and learn about in the classroom, but really don’t have a complete sense of until your feet are on soil in these factories across the world in Asia.
The cultural immersion of eating the different foods, visiting the Cu Chi Tunnels, the war museum, the millions of motorcycles/scooters, the sweat from the humidity, the powerful rain, the Saigon Market, the country of Vietnam left a lasting impression on myself and my perspective in both life and in this industry.
Our time in Hong Kong was so impactful, personally never having the experience of being in such an urbanized nation. Going into this country with zero expectations, I was incredibly impressed by everything from the architecture, the people, how retail is done, and the sweet and sour soup.
Touching on the retail aspect, I’ve never seen anything like it before, walking down the golden mile where brands like Rolex, Louis Vuitton, Moncler and a large number of other high-end luxury brand are fighting for space. Our time in Mongkok was spectacular. I’m pretty sure I witnessed eight adidas shops and seven Nike shops all within a two-block radius. It was really incredible to see that side of retail and how the consumer is shopping in a city across the world.
It’s starting to feel like the the beginning of the 4th quarter of a game 7 with the final 10 weeks of schooling staring us in the face. For some it may feel like the end, for myself it feels like the game is just getting started, like they’re finally going to let me off the leash. The last 18 months have been filled with literally blood, sweat, and tears. A number of lectures, business plan build-outs and product pitch presentations. Many security check-ins and baggage claims, and even more Ubers and Lyfts. Having the opportunity to get over to Europe a couple times I was able to witness my first Bayern Munich match, come in arm’s length of the Mona Lisa, walk through the Coliseum and Sistine Chapel, and take selfies in front of the Eiffel Tower. This is how it’s supposed to happen. It’s all part of the flow.
I’m excited to put my head down here in the early parts of 2019 as I prepare to enter the sports product industry and continue to develop myself into the global leader that I envision myself becoming. If it were easy, everybody would do it.
Currently reading: Originals by Adam Grant , FLOW by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Currently listening to: DiCaprio 2 by J.I.D.
Headspace Minute Update: 900 minutes meditated.