After graduating, Knight leaves to pursue an MBA at Stanford, while Bowerman continues to coach and tinker with athletic shoe design. Five years later, Knight concludes a market research paper by asserting that low-priced, high-tech, well-merchandised shoes from Japan could end Germany's domination of the U.S. athletic shoe industry. After receiving his MBA, Knight takes a world tour. Stopping in Japan, he contacts the Onitsuka Tiger company, manufacturer of quality athletic shoes, and convinces it of great marketing opportunities in the U.S. When asked who he represents, Knight makes up a name, giving birth to 'Blue Ribbon Sports.' the forerunner of Nike.
In 1962. Mr. and Mrs. Knights garage receives the first Tiger Shipment. Their son and Bowerman each contribute $500, shake hands and make BRS a formal enterprise: the sole U.S. distributor of Tiger shoes. As Bowerman improves the shoe, Knight looks after the business. Their blows against the status quo pay off: The Bowerman-modified Cortez becomes Tigers bestselling shoe in 1968 while Knight lays the financial groundwork for growth. Frustrated by local credit limits, Knight initiates import letters of credit in 1971 with Nissho Lwai, a Japanese trading company. With these, BPS contracts the manufacturing of its own shoe line, spelling the end of the BPS/Tiger partnership. Revenues climb horn $8,000 $1.96 million, employees go from zero to 45 in six years, and the first BPS retail store opens in Santa Monica, California.
Amid legal wangling, BRS breaks with Tiger and emerges a brash, young, enterpreneurial company named after Nike, the Greek Goddess of Victory. The 72 Olympic Trials in Eugene mark the company's debut. Knight and his wife print Nike "T-shirts and pass them out at the meet. Most observers ask, Who's Mike? Meanwhile, Knight continues his creative financing in 1973 with the introduction of 'futures.' By allowing retailers to pre-order inventory, Knight streamlines the entire product process and creates a soon-to-be industry standard. By 1979, Nike clains 50 percent of the U.S. running market. In 1980, the 2,700 employee company goes public.
In its first years as a public company, Nike leads the Industry. NIKE International Ltd. is formed to service a growing foreign market that coven more than 40 countries. Revenue doubles to an all-time high of $919.8 million in 1984. But adolescence is awkward and Nike is no exception. As employee numbers and shoe sales transform Nike from a small to a large company, the growing pains hit in 1985, Nike's first year of reduced earnings. The next year is better. The year after that is worse. By 1988, the company is older, wiser and better. Nike distribution centers are overhauled to supply retailers with more responsive service. Nike sales reps are brought in-house to increase their product expertise. And, most importantly, Nikes technical supremacy is re-established with advances in Nike-Air cushioning. Nike ends the decade with more than $2 billion in revenue, becoming the only company in the industry to be No. 1, then No. 2. then No. 1 again - all in a five year period.