Shoe Dog

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Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of NIKE 

The co-founder of Nike, one of the most well-known and successful sports companies in the world, Phil Knight, wrote a memoir titled Shoe Dog. 

The book describes how Knight built his company from a $50 loan from his father to a global empire by the year 1980.

He had to contend with a variety of obstacles along the road, including rival businesses, lawsuits, managing financial flow, hiring and firing staff, and juggling his personal and professional lives. The book also reveals some of the factors that contributed to Nike's success, including its ground-breaking shoe designs, famous logo, celebrity sponsorships, and its creative and risk-taking attitude.

The book is divided into 20 chapters, each covering one year of Knight's life from 1962 to 1980. After graduating from Stanford Management School, Knight embarks on a globe tour, during which he gets the inspiration to import high-end, reasonably priced running shoes from Japan. This is where the book starts.

When he went to Japan, he spoke with the management of the Japanese shoe manufacturer Onitsuka Tiger and persuaded them to let him serve as their American distributor. He started selling shoes at track events while operating his business under the moniker Blue Ribbon Sports. 

Also, he collaborated with Bill Bowerman, a former track coach at the University of Oregon who was enthusiastic about enhancing running shoe performance.

The book then traces Knight's development of his company from a modest start-up to a multimillion-dollar enterprise. His initial hires became devoted and dependable pals for him. He started out in Santa Monica, California, and later added stores everywhere. He had to compete with Adidas, Puma, and other well-known companies.

Also, he ran into problems with Onitsuka Tiger, who attempted to cut him off and monopolize his market. In honor of the Greek goddess of triumph, Nike, he made the decision to start his own shoe company. To create the Swoosh logo, he paid a graphic design student $35. To develop the tagline "Just Do It," he also recruited a marketing firm.

The book also describes some of the key moments in Nike's history, such as:
  • The invention of the waffle trainer was inspired by Bowerman's experiment of pouring rubber into a waffle iron to create better traction for runners.
  • The endorsement deals with Steve Prefontaine, a charismatic and rebellious runner who became Nike's first celebrity athlete and a cult figure among young people.
  • The lawsuit with Onitsuka Tiger ended with Knight winning the rights to use the Nike name and logo in the US.
  • The introduction of the Air technology involved inserting air-filled bags into the soles of shoes to provide cushioning and support.
  • The partnership with Michael Jordan, who became the most famous basketball player in the world and helped Nike dominate the basketball market with his signature Air Jordan shoes.
  • The IPO in 1980, made Knight and his early employees millionaires and marked Nike's transition from a scrappy startup to a public company.

The book ends with an epilogue that summarizes Knight's life after 1980. He continued to lead Nike as its CEO until 2004 and as its chairman until 2016. He also developed into a philanthropist and gave millions of dollars to numerous charities, particularly those related to sports and education. 

He considers his accomplishments and regrets, his loved ones, his heroes and mentors, as well as his passion and purpose.

For business owners, managers, leaders, athletes, and anybody else who wants to pursue their objectives with courage and conviction, Shoe Dog is a motivating and enjoyable read. It demonstrates that success is not a straight or simple road but a difficult and chaotic trip requiring perseverance, hard effort, innovation, good fortune, and trust. 

It also demonstrates that success is a process of ongoing learning, development, adaptation, and improvement rather than a final destination.


In 1962, Phil Knight, of Portland, Oregon, dreamed of opening a shoe company. He believed that Japan made great shoes, which, at the time, had yet to find their way to the United States.

Knight convinced his father, Bill, to lend him money so he could go abroad and pitch his idea to a Japanese shoe seller. Bill gave him the money, and Knight traveled to Tokyo, where he took a meeting with a company called Onitsuka.

The initial name of the company was Blue Ribbon. Knight made up this name on the fly during his meeting with Onitsuka, as he did not actually own a shoe company at the time.

The first employee of Blue Ribbon was Jeff Johnson. Johnson proved to be an excellent employee, building an extensive customer database and opening a retail location in Los Angeles.

Knight faced several challenges while building his company, including cash flow problems due to rapid expansion and competition for distribution rights from Onitsuka. Despite these challenges, Knight persevered and built Nike into a globally recognized brand.

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