4 Lessons Young Entrepreneurs Can Learn From Nike

The Cost Of Procrastination Is The Life You Couldn't Live. Just Do It.

Adrian Twumasi
5 min readJan 16, 2021
Illustration by Adrian Twumasi

Everyone knows that Nike is the top brand in the world when it comes to shoes but there are only a few people that actually know about its history and how it became a huge name in the shoe industry. Phil Knight is the person who had just finished college and wanted to be an entrepreneur. Now Nike has more than 1,115 stores worldwide, 76,700 employees, and annual revenue of about $39.12 billion.

If you read the biography of Phil Knight “Shoe Dog”, you can easily conclude what strategies he adopted and implemented to make his small initiative, a global and well-reputed brand.

Nike has influenced a lot of people, such as athletes, businessmen, and young entrepreneurs. Their business model, marketing strategies, and leadership are the major factors behind its success.

This article will guide you on what young entrepreneurs can learn from Nike to build and grow their own businesses.

So let’s dive into the first great lesson which is:

1. Initiate and Pursue the Work You Love to Do

The first thing is to follow your passion and start before you are ready because if you pursue a career in the things you love, your chances to get huge success will be increased to many folds.

Being your own boss is not an easy task and requires a lot of courage and nerves. And that is exactly what Phil Knight did. He pursued his crazy idea of how Japanese shoes could become very popular in America since Japanese cars were popular at the time.

Phil who had just graduated from college with no business experience, went to Japan, and met with Onitsuka Tiger, the company that would later launch ASICS. Impressed by the quality and low cost of their running shoes, Knight managed to secure the distribution rights for the United States and ordered his first sample. That was how Phil Knight started; he started a company in the field that he loved the most.

Just because selling shoes was his passion, he knew which audiences were required to be focused on, and this mindset helped him get huge success.


While deciding to start a business, take time, relax in peace, and think about the things you can do better and what skills and knowledge you have that can help you to gain success and stand out in this competitive world.

2. Collaborate With Passionate And Better People

Collaborate with people who are more passionate and have knowledge about the field. Phil Knight collaborated with his former running coach, Bill Bowerman who experimented with improvements in athletic footwear design. Bill was a great track instructor with a great business mind and personality.

Most of his employees felt as passionate as he did. They were mostly runners who just loved running. So they put their heart and soul in their work.

He plowed back profits to buy more shoes in the beginning phase of the business. He even took a full-time job at an accounting firm for a few years to provide a stable income for his new wife and kids. This was while he was growing Nike!


Just like Phil, collaborate with the people who know how to get things going and what the world needs right now because there could be a huge difference in the trend with each changing year.

3. Target The Most Suitable Audience

Customers’ interest is the most important aspect for the success of any business. Knowing your customers and targeting them in the best way can boost your business.

The founding story of how Phil created Nike from scratch shows some important elements to this point.

Like the two Co-founders, they had deep roots in sports, to be precise running. They sold their first running shoe to athletes, often right on the track.

One of them was Steve Prefontaine, who was a huge star in Oregon at the time and went on to become Nike’s first sponsored track athlete. Soon people realized that the fastest runners were suddenly not wearing Adidas shoes anymore, but this new local brand.

Knight and his team quickly realized they had found their perfect marketing strategy for their audience. The idea was creating a shoe brand from athletes to athletes.

You get the point, right. Nike knew that athletes could be great stars, and they invested in them rather than institutions. At the end of the day, almost everybody wants to be like his or her favorite athlete. What started with Prefontaine quickly developed into the most valuable sport portfolio in the world.

Other big names on that list: Carl Lewis, Tiger Woods, Micheal Jordan, Serena Williams, Ronaldinho, Roger Federer, LeBron James and Cristiano Ronaldo just to mention a few.


You should think about how you can build a strong connection with your customers. If you know what type of people need to be targeted, your brand will become a part of their life and can bring you the most loyal customer while building your reputation.

4. A Challenge Only Becomes An Obstacle When You Bow To It. Face The Challenge.

Phil’s relationship with Onitsuka deteriorated a few years later. And because of that, they didn’t have anybody to make their shoes. They had to design their own shoes, find new factories in and around Asia to make them, and bring them back to America. Fortunately, they pulled it off. Here’s a short list of the problems Nike faced in just one year:

In (1976) we were struggling with a number of unusually stressful problems.

We needed to find a larger warehouse on the East Coast.

We needed to transfer our sales-distribution center from Massachusetts (…) to New Hampshire, which was sure to be a nightmare.

We needed to hire an advertising agency to handle the increasing volume of print ads.

We needed to either fix or get rid of our underperforming factories.

We needed to hire a director of promotions.

We needed to approve new products(…)

And we needed to decide on a new logo.

Sounds like the world is crashing down on him. Don't you agree?


The point is, he never gave up. He stood up and faced all the obstacles. There is no need for you to be coming up with excuses and be in panic mode. Keep moving forward.