Photo: George Burns/Harpo Studios
In the early years of the company, Phil sold shoes out of his car at track meets. Then, in 1972, Phil and Bill began manufacturing their own shoes. Bill used his wife's waffle iron to create a shoe with greater traction than those currently on the market. "The idea was that we can make shoes that runners want," Phil says.
The new design revolutionized running and inspired Phil and Bill to rename their company. Phil says one of his 45 employees suggested the name Nike, which was the name of the Greek goddess of victory. "There was also a missile, which we thought denoted speed, and then the marketing textbooks say to have a hard sound in your trademark," Phil says. Though he wasn't a huge fan of the name at first, Phil says it has grown on him. "I quite like it now."
Watch as Phil explains the Nike name and logo
The Nike swoosh came about in a similar fashion. "Now that we had a name, we had to have a trademark for the side of the shoe. It was 1971, and Ford had spent $2 million getting a trademark. We didn't have $2 million, so I went by the graphic arts department at Portland State, and there was a woman there saying, 'I don't know how I'm going to get enough money for the dress for this prom,'" Phil says. "And I said, 'I have a job for you.' I paid her $2 an hour, and she spent 17 and a half hours. So $35 and she came up with what is now the swoosh."
When Nike went public in 1980, Phil says he gave the creator of the swoosh a few hundred shares of stock, which she has held onto. These shares are now worth quite a bit of money. "She's doing okay," he says.