Young fresh out of business school Phil Knight borrowed fifty dollars from his father and launched a company with one simple mission. Import high quality, low cost running shoes from Japan. Selling the shoes from the trunk of his Plymouth automobile, Knight grossed eight thousand dollars that first year, in 1963.
Today Nike’s annual sales top $30 billion. In the age of start ups Knight’s – Nike is the gold standard, and his Swoosh is more than a logo. A symbol of grace and greatness. It’s one of the few icons instantly recognised in every corner of the world. But Knight’s, the man behind the Swoosh has always been a mystery. Now in a memoir that’ s surprising humble, unfiltered, funny and beautifully crafted, he tells his story at last. It all began with a classic crossroads moment. Twenty four years old, backpacking through Asia, Europe and Africa, wrestling with life’s great questions. Knight decides the unconventional path is the only one for him. Rather than work for a big corporation he will create something new, dynamic and different.
Knight details the many terrifying risks he encountered along the way, the crushing setbacks, the countless doubters and haters and hostile bankers, as well as his many thrilling triumphs and narrow escapes. Above all he recalls the foundation relationships that formed the heart and soul of Nike.
In 1970, former college track athlete Phil ‘Buck’ Knight had to fly to Japan once again to protect his then fledgling athletic shoe importing company. Blue Ribbon Sport’s which was successfully selling the Tiger brand – Japanese track shoes made by The Onitsuka Company but with special style modifications to the American market.
During this period of time Knights thoughts started to think about building another athletic shoe brand. Designer Carolyn Davidson invented the famous Swoosh logo – for which she was paid just US $35.
Bob Johnson who was the East Coast – USA sales representative for Blue Ribbon Sports came up with the name of Nike – after the Greek goddess of victory.
Phil Knight was not crazy about the logo or the brand name but settled.
Famous Last Words !
Then there was one other fateful development, they become inspired by the gridded pattern on waffle irons. Knight saw this as a new kind of sole for Nike Shoes.
The Rest Is History …
With his former track coach the charismatic Bill Bowerman and with his first employees, a ragtag group of misfits who quickly became a band of Swoosh crazed brothers.
I’ve known Phil Knight since I was a kid, but I didn’t really know him until I opened this beautiful startling, intimate book. The same goes for Nike, I have worn the gear with pride, but I didn’t realise the remarkable saga of innovation and survival and triumph that stood behind every Swoosh. – Andre Agassi / New York Times Bestseller – Author of Open.
This is an edited extract from Shoe Dog by Phil Knight published by Simon & Schuster Australia available in stores.