Shoe Dog: A Memoir By The Creator of Nike by Phil Knight tells how Nike got started and goes through all its ups and downs. The book is mostly about how his shoe business developed. However, we also learn about the author’s life along the way. I was interested in this book because I am a runner and often wear Nike shoes. When I saw the book, I thought it would be interesting to see how Nike began.
Shoe Dog synopsis
Phil Knight begins Shoe Dog with how the idea of starting a shoe business originated. Although Phil loved to run and wanted to be a professional athlete, he was not good enough. The second best thing would be to help runners. He thought seriously about pursuing this thought of selling shoes while he was on one of his morning runs.
Phil had just come back home after attending college for seven years. While running, it just hit him to consider his crazy idea again that he wrote about in a college assignment.
He often refers to his “Crazy Idea.” He came up with it when he was doing a research paper for an entrepreneur class in college—the report was about running shoes.
“I’d written a research paper about shoes, and the paper had evolved from a run-of-the-mill assignment to an all-out obsession. Being a runner, I knew something about running shoes. Being a business buff, I knew that Japanese cameras had made deep cuts into the camera market, which had once been dominated by Germans. Thus, I argued in my paper that Japanese running shoes might do the same thing. The idea interested me, then inspired me, then captivated me. It seemed so obvious, so simple, so potentially huge.” (p. 9)
In Shoe Dog, Phil describes his adventurous tour around the world. He began his adventure to pursue his crazy idea by taking a world tour. One of the places he would visit is Japan, where he met with Mr. Miyazaki at Onitsuka Co. to discuss if their company would allow Phil to sell their Tiger Shoes in the United States. To his amazement, they said yes. Phil had to come up with a company name spontaneously. He chose Blue Ribbon Sports because he thought of all his blue ribbons hanging on his wall in his room from races that he had won. That is how it all got started.
Phil waited months, after he finished his world tour, to receive the shoes from Onitsuka. Finally, they arrived, and Phil asked his former track coach if he wanted to join him in his company as a partner. His coach, Bowerman, agreed. Phil asked a few other people if they would be interested in selling the shoes. They sold a lot of shoes. Furthermore, they made recommendations to Onitsuka to improve the shoe.
Shoe Dog continues with how the business teetered on failing. They sold many shoes, but the financial books were always in the red because all the money they made had to be used for payroll and to purchase new shoes.
While building his company, Phil worked as an accountant to pay his expenses. Later on, he became a Professor at a local college, where he met his wife. Phil did not start paying himself a salary until seven years after the business started.
Eventually, Nike was born. Phil and some of his employees came up with a new name and a logo for the new company. They needed a new company name to go along with a contract they signed with a different factory to design the Nike shoe.
A local artist designed the new logo. Phil and his team all decided on which logo to choose.
“Gradually we inched toward a consensus. We liked . . . this one . . . slightly more than the others.
It looks like a wing, one of us said.
It looks like a whoosh of air, another said.
It looks like something a runner might leave in his or her wake.
We all agreed it looked new, fresh, and yet somehow – ancient. Timeless.” (p. 181)
Someone else came up with the name Nike in a dream.
“He says he sat bolt upright in bed in the middle of the night and saw the name before him.” (p. 183)
It took many years to get to this point. As you know, the business became a big success. It took a lot of work, but Phil never quit. He kept following his dream.
my analysis of shoe dog
I enjoyed the Shoe Dog. Phil Knight wrote about all the struggles he had to keep the business afloat. It took a lot of work. I liked the little insights he gave about his family. He didn’t talk about them much, but it was enough to know what Phil did when he was not working long hours on his business. It also showed his personality.
I have a lot of respect for Phil. Every time I see the Nike logo, I am reminded of this book. It puts a smile on my face.