At 29, Louis Foreman was a retired millionaire. Only one problem: "Basically, I got bored," he says. So five months after selling his NASCAR-apparel business in August 1997, he took the job as president of Parker Athletic Products LLC in Charlotte.
He's overseeing marketing of the first product sold under the Parker label. Called First Shield, it's a custom-fit, fiberglass shinguard for young soccer players, on the market since March. The guards begin as lightweight foam padding. Players wet them and mold them to their shins. They dry and harden, resulting in a tailored guard, one Foreman touts as better protection. The $14.99 price tag is a couple of dollars more than regular shinguards.
Majority owner Bruce Parker - Foreman, now 31, has a stake, too - patented the hardening process 12 years ago for use in casts for broken bones. In 1995 he transferred it to his athletic-products business, then part of his Parker Medical Associates LP. He began supplying shinguards to Nike and Adidas, which offer them under their own labels to adults, including pros such as Alexi Lalas.
It's now Foreman's job to make Parker a household name. The guards got a plug in Time magazine in August, and Foreman says sales so far have exceeded his expectations. The 19-employee business had revenues just under $1 million last year. He hopes they'll hit $7 million in three years.
A Chicago native...