He began his career like most ordinary college grads: no money, no clear direction and what looked like a lifetime at a desk job as an accountant.
What transpired instead was one of the greatest stories of American entrepreneurship and a $100 billion sportswear giant. This is the story of Nike Co-founder Phil Knight, who turned his crazy idea into reality. The 78-year-old is telling the story behind Nike for the first time in his new memoir, “Shoe Dog.”
A self-described “average mid-distance runner” on the track team, Phil “Buck” Knight watched as his track coach at University of Oregon, Bill Bowerman, tinkered with athletes’ running shoes and the immediate impact it made on their performance.
Combine that with a paper he wrote at Stanford on why shoes should be manufactured out of Japan (instead of Germany), where the labor was cheaper, and his crazy idea was born.
Knight originally wanted to call the company “Dimension Six,” something he was teased about later on.
“When Jeff Johnson came up with Nike, I didn’t know if I liked it too much, but it’s better than the other names. It turned out pretty good”
After years of strong growth but with struggles to stay in the black, Knight and his team decided in December of 1980 to finally take Nike public. “We were concerned about losing control,” said Knight, who added that ultimately, it was one of the best things the company ever did.
Today, Forbes estimates his net worth at more than $25 billion, making him the 24th richest person in the United States.
Nike has more than $30 billion in sales, it represents the top athletes in the world and it has achieved a truly global footprint.
Knight’s advice to other entrepreneurs? “Be prepared for a lot of hardship and unexpected setbacks. For me, there was nothing that I would have rather done.”