I have to say, even though I knew generally how the story would turn out, it was riveting. Most people know that Nike is a juggernaut in the footwear and apparel business. But I'm not sure how many people know they almost never made it. In fact there were numerous times that they almost folded. Incredible.
The book opens in 1962 with the 24-year-old, Knight, a recent college grad pondering his future. He decides to take a shot at selling athletic shoes imported from Japan. At the time they were a less expensive option to imported German shoes such as Adidas. This was all in a paper he wrote while studying for his MBA at Stanford Business School.
While on a trip around the world he made a stop in Japan and visited the Onitsuka shoe company in Kobe. There he met with some executives and convinced them to send some samples to him in the U.S. where he told them he would be their distributor. When asked the name of the company he was representing he quickly came up with the name Blue Ribbon (having won some as a runner through the years).
Upon his return to the States, Knight had to wait until early 1964 before his samples came. Excited, he sent 2 of the 12 pairs of Tigers he received to his University of Oregon track coach, Bill Bowerman, hoping to drum up sales. Knight got more than he bargained for. Bowerman was so impressed with the shoes he requested to be partners with Knight. Thus the journey begins.
The book journals the many ups and downs, victories and defeats the young company endured. Many times they were on the very precipice of defeat, but against insurmountable odds, rose from the ashes. You couldn't make this stuff up.
The push that turned Blue Ribbon into Nike was the betrayal of the company they were trying so hard to promote in the U.S.. A blessing in disguise that almost did them in. Behind their backs Onitsuka was trying to find another U.S. distributor.
This forced Blue Ribbon to not only to look for a new supplier, but instead, go further. The decided to look for a company that would manufacture shoes they designed instead of selling someone else's. They found this in a Mexican company named, oddly enough, Canada.
The book also details how Knight met his wife, Penny. She was one of his students when he taught accounting at Portland State University. It also mentions the birth of his first and second sons, Matthew and Trevor. But, very strangely, makes no mention of their daughter Christina.
Nike is currently a multi-billion dollar company. Their shoes and clothes are in 5,000 stores worldwide and they have 10,000 employees. After 40 years at Nike Phil Knight has stepped down as CEO, but has stayed on as chairman. He is worth upwards of $10 billion.