Nike Blog 2: How the billion dollar sportswear company nearly went bankrupt

October 19, 2021
TEAM UPSTREET

Last week, we looked at Nike’s origins. The company originally operated as a distributor of the Japanese brand ‘Onitsuka Tiger’, where the duo made sales at track meets out of the trunks of their own cars. Despite Knight and Bowerman’s successes in promoting ‘Onitsuka Tiger’ in America, Onitsuka was painfully unresponsive to Blue Ribbon. Their shoes would often ship late, giving Blue Ribbon less time to sell the shoes. The company almost went bankrupt. Each loan repayment became tougher, to the point where Phil Knight, one of the founders, decided to return to his accounting job briefly at PricewaterhouseCoopers. 

As the relationship between Onitsuka and Blue Ribbon soured, Knight and Bowerman (the other founder) decided to do something new and bold - manufacture their own shoes. It was then that the now-famous Nike branded shoes hit the shelves in 1971, seven years after all this had started. 

Tune in to our blog next week to see how Nike established themselves as the global sportswear leader. 

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