Where it All Began
Lanny and Kirbi Smith are the CEO and COO of Active Faith Sports. Lanny and Kirbi met in high school in Houston, TX. They were both student athletes. Their relationship has stood the test of time and distance. Kirbi attended Spelman College located in Atlanta, GA and Lanny, formerly known as Clarence, attended college at the University of Houston located in Houston, TX. Kirbi went on to pursue a career in education in Georgia after completing her bachelor’s degree while Lanny went on to pursue a career in professional sports in the NBA.
Lanny’s professional career in sports came to an end after he experienced a serious knee injury in 2009 that he was unable to bounce back from despite the many attempts through treatment. Though discouraged, Lanny sought God for his new venture as his dreams of playing basketball on a professional level were no longer possible. Lanny was inspired to create athletic gear with Christian inspiration. He shared his dream with his longtime girlfriend, Kirbi. Once Kirbi heard what Lanny was setting out to do she felt compelled to be of as much assistance as possible. After seeking God on the matter, Kirbi made a faith move from Georgia back to her home town of Houston, TX to help make Lanny’s vision a reality.
As some of you may personally be aware, businesses are not extremely simple to launch. There are many decisions and plans to be made along with research, research and more research. That’s exactly what Lanny and Kirbi did to launch Active Faith Sports. Kirbi received her MBA and was a substitute teacher to supplement income while the business was in launching stages. Lanny shared how they began running the company from his mother’s garage in 2010.
Their initial sells were of the infamous bracelets and t-shirts which simply displayed the tag line “In Jesus Name I Play.” The tag line was birthed from a mis-spoken closing to a team huddle prayer from his time as an athlete. Lanny was always asked to pray during team huddles prior to games and one day he closed intending to say, “In Jesus name I pray” only to say, “In Jesus name I play.” While at that moment it was a mistake, God brought that back to Lanny’s remembrance while planning to launch the company and it has taken off and remains the company’s main phrase. The funds from selling the initial products helped to get things trademarked and legally in order before they made a full launch as an incorporation of the company in 2012 as a sports apparel brand.
Lanny was able to get other Christian athletes on board for the vision of Active Faith Sports. One of those being a longtime friend, Anthony Tolliver. At the time, Anthony Tolliver was on the roster for the Golden State
Warriors in Oakland, CA. Mr. Tolliver mentioned this vision to a rookie on the team, Wardell Stephen Curry II, popularly known as Steph Curry. Mr. Curry and Mr. Tolliver joined in the vision along with other Christian athletes as shareholders. Between 2012 until now the brand has grown tremendously.
There have been many athletes who have been seen in action wearing the active faith bands from James Hardin to Ray Lewis. Not only are their professionals of all genres of sports wearing the brand but others from Cornelius and Heather Lindsey to John and Aventer Gray have posted selfies on social media wearing the brand. Active Faith has been sold in over 40 countries and the company recently made a deal with Family Christian bookstores to sell their brand in 400 stores across the United States. Lanny and Kirbi also shared that in 2017 as they plan to continue to push to accomplish their dreams that they have had schools reach out to inquire about creating items for their athletic teams. The dream is that one day, Active Faith Sports, will be seen in the Christian community just as Nike or Adidas.
Work Hard, Play Hard
Lanny appreciates the way that he and Kirbi balance each other out even when it comes to Active Faith Sports. Lanny admitted that he is the creative, while Kirbi is the organizer and planner. They are both aware that they have strengths and weaknesses and accept each other for all of it.
Working as the CEO and COO of a new company can be a challenge. Lanny and Kirbi are pretty much with each other 24 hours a day because they work together and live together. When it comes to being able to separate work from their love life, it takes effort.
With Lanny and Kirbi being entrepreneurs of the same company as well as being married (since 2013) they make it a priority to set aside time where they do things together as well as with friends that has nothing to do with work. Why? Because as Kirbi stated, “It’s important to set dates whether a date night or lunch date where work is not discussed.”
Kirbi went on to explain that with she and Lanny being together while working they try not to have the typical married couple conversation about their day. There isn’t a need to discuss the day because they have spent their work day together. The extra effort comes in being able to enjoy each other without discussing work at all.
Their advice to other married couples who may be thinking about becoming entrepreneurs is to consider the pro’s and con’s. If both spouses are involved in the company it can be easy to allow the business to take over and not have any personal time for each other, children, extended family, etc. Launching a company is hard work and takes up time outside of the normal responsibilities of day to day life.