When Brian Tsao was competing against top tennis players, he thought the sport was his dream. However, his love of business would drive him to help grow the largest club sport at the University of Maryland and launch his own company.
Born in Baltimore, Tsao trained with local coaches all throughout his childhood. In middle school, Tsao commuted to the Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park, where he trained with future Division I players and future No. 14 Frances Tiafoe, who made it to the U.S. Open semifinals in 2022.
His father, a first generation immigrant, and mother, a second generation immigrant, started their own businesses while Tsao pursued tennis. Tsao said seeing his parents grow their work got him thinking about starting his own.
Tsao traveled all throughout the U.S. and across the world for tennis tournaments before moving to California to prepare for college tennis. He played tennis at the University of Louisville his freshman year but found it difficult to transition to the college level.
“I had to pivot my mindset, focus more actually on academics and finding another passion of mine,” Tsao said.
He decided to transfer to this university to pursue the physical therapy track in kinesiology. However, he said he found valuable business experience when he joined the club tennis team.
When Tsao joined, he noticed the team was primarily made up of advanced players and wasn’t accessible to beginners. As co-president during his junior year, he worked to tackle this problem.
During his leadership, the team purchased more equipment in order to make the sport more accessible. He managed the budget, structure and logistics of the club alongside co-president, Andrew Tzeng.
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Throughout the year, Tsao said the club’s membership grew to more than 320 members, a 46 percent increase in one year.
Tzeng, an alum who graduated from this university in 2019, grew close to Tsao when they became club tennis co-presidents.
Tsao’s charisma and ability to connect with others made him a leader students could follow and trust, Tzeng said.
“Anyone can list a million reasons why things won’t work,” Tzeng said. “He learned [entrepreneurship] by himself … he has that hustle in him that makes him different.”
Shortly after graduating in 2019, Tsao had time to think about a business venture during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As someone who struggled with sensitive skin, Tsao thought about pursuing a men’s skincare business.
Tsao collaborated remotely with chemists in South Korea to create skincare products for his target clientele.
His company, Talent, has four products: a cleanser, moisturizer, exfoliator and probiotic serum — all of which use vegan ingredients and are EWG and PETA certified. The serum and moisturizer use sustainable palm oil which upholds strict principles and criteria for growing and production.
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Seventy-five percent of the product packaging is made from 30 percent recycled plastics and are shipped in 100 percent recycled content and upcycled newspaper.
“I realized in the skincare industry, there’s also issues with plastics,” Tsao said. “It’s always been a personal thing for me with environment.”
Talent has collaborated with the Environmental Working Group, USTA Mid-Atlantic and Charm City Cross to grow an accessible and positive product, Tsao said.
Ryan Chang, who graduated from this university in 2018, has a history of eczema in his family and has been using Talent skincare products since it launched.
Chang met Tsao through club tennis but kept in touch after graduating. Chang said he’s always been proactive with his skincare, but found Tsao’s products to work the best.
“It feels like they’re really catered to people with sensitive skin,” Chang said. “He’s really addressing a specific need that hasn’t really been met in a similar way.
Tsao hopes to expand Talent into different marketplaces around the world and attributes his experiences at club tennis to be “pivotal” in his life.
“Being able to immerse myself in the Terp community with the opportunities and experiences that I have, it has been a surreal experience,” Tsao said.