Bill Bowerman and Phil Knight founded Nike Inc. as Blue Ribbon Sports with a handshake and only $1,000 in capital in 1964. The partners first began their relationship at the University of Oregon where Bowerman was Knight’s track and field coach. While attending Stanford University, Knight wrote a paper about breaking Germany's domination of the U.S. domestic athletic shoe industry by distributing low-cost, high-quality Japanese athletic shoes to American consumers. In an attempt to realize his theory, Knight visited Japan and built an agreement with the Onitsuka Tiger company, a manufacturer of quality athletic shoes, to sell Tiger shoes in the United States. Since Bowerman and Knight each had full-time jobs, they needed someone to manage the growing requirements of Blue Ribbon Sports. Jeff Johnson, a runner himself, became the first full-time employee of Blue Ribbon Sports in 1965, and quickly became an indispensable man for the start-up company. Knight sold Tiger’s shoes at local track meets grossing $8,000 of sales in their first year. In 1966, Bowerman, who had designed shoes for his university athletes in the past, worked with Tiger and designed the Cortez running shoe. The shoe was a worldwide success for the Onitsuka Tiger Company and was sold at the first Blue Ribbon Sports store. The company’s profits grew quickly. During the same year, BRS (Blue Ribbon Sports) also opened its first retail store, located on Pico Boulevard in Santa Monica, California. 1970s
In 1971, BRS, with some creditor’s support, started manufacturing its own line of shoes, and therefore its relationship with Onitsuka Tiger started to fall apart. Knight and Bowerman were ready to make the jump from being a footwear distributor to designing and manufacturing their own brand of athletic shoes. The first BRS’ shoe was a soccer shoe that bore the Nike brand name, referring to the Greek Goddess of Victory, and the Swoosh trademark, which was designed by a...