Severna Park resident Edward Giard has an innate desire to solve problems and build things. In college, he increased his cycling speed for triathlon competitions by developing aerodynamic handlebars. The product success exploded, and he started his first company with a college friend in 1987, the same year Giard graduated from Clemson University. The rapid growth, however, caught the duo off guard.
“[We were] two 23-year-olds who didn't know what the heck they’re doing,” Giard said. “That’s where we learned a lot of great lessons, and a lot of it came from mentors and friends … who took us under their wings.”
Five years later, Giard branched out on his own to launch a new mountain bike company until accepting a director’s position in 1996 with Trek Bikes. No longer working hands-on to invent new products, Giard was concerned whether or not he’d find fulfillment. He discovered he was learning how to manage people by mentoring a staff that did the creating, a welcomed surprise.
“As I was stepping back from the frontline, of what I thought was the fulfilling component of business to me,” Giard said, “it was actually six giant steps forward because now, all of a sudden, I had a team of 12 [creators] plus an engineering team.”
Giard refined his mentoring style and, in 1999, accepted a senior vice president position with Burton Snowboards. As Giard cross-pollinated ideas from the bicycle industry and became an avid snowboarder, his staff shifted to the director level. His broadened perspective landed him a final stint with Under Armour in 2008 before retiring in 2013. Early retirement symbolized what Giard describes as a new starting line for his family.
“In the process of deciding to step away from the corporate world,” Giard said, “…one of the things that was very clear to us is that we were very blessed. Why were we given that opportunity?”
Wanting to give back, Giard soon found himself head of outreach at his startup church, Revolution Annapolis, where he stumbled into yet another angle of mentoring: nonprofit. Without overlooking the difference in mission, Giard realized his business experience was helpful in his new role.
“They’re not unlike one another … there’s so much overlap,” Giard said. “They’re different entities, but I bet they overlap 60%.”
Today, Giard is focused on nonprofit outreach and one-on-one mentorships with entrepreneurs in all stages of business. He mentors dozens of entrepreneurs through the bumpy terrain and long list of brick walls facing business start-up. Topics include product development, market research, and licensing, as well as the importance of humility, communication and authenticity. Giard is committed to supporting friends, family and colleagues but also serves on entrepreneurial leadership boards for Clemson University and Liberty University. He said he tries to glean wisdom his mentors passed down to him by not bringing answers to the table, but questions.
“[I’m] never telling them what to do,” Giard shared, “but through my experience, hopefully [I’m] helping them navigate some of the pitfalls that I may have stumbled on … so they learn from my mistakes, and make their own and learn other lessons.”