$300 and 12 pairs of shoes
Some of our greatest successes (in the US, at least) happened almost by chance. By someone rolling the dice on fate or destiny or whatever. Take Walt Disney – in 1924 he was pretty much a down-on-his-luck cartoonist and on a whim he makes a cartoon about a little mouse he sees scurrying around his office. Next thing you know, he has a multi-million dollar brand, hundreds of artists and they all work in anonymity because everything that gets produced is a “Walt Disney Production.” Go figure.
Or take the Wright Brothers. How the heck are you gonna get out to the East Coast when you live on the other side of the USA? Of course! Build a plane (and then sell the patent to the US military).
You get the idea. Hey, nothing is that simple, but the point is, sometimes you just gotta do it. Follow the pang of hunger in your belly that makes you climb over that ridge. Sometimes, as Tom Cruise so eloquently said in the 1983 movie “Risky Business”, you just have to say “What the heck” (actually, his choice of words was a little more colorful, but this is a professional publication).
The land of the setting sun
Take Nike CEO Phil Knight, for example. In 1963 he parlayed $300 into a what would ultimately become a multi-bazillion dollar shoe company. Of course, things were a little simpler back then. Knight, on a whim, flew to Japan and talked himself into a deal importing running shoes. After some clumsy conversation with company execs, he walked out with a dozen pair of shoes to show as samples. Pretty sure you can’t just fly to Japan on a whim anymore and these days, Nikes are so expensive I don’t think you can even get one pair for $300 dollars, let alone one dozen. But I digress.
Knight would then spend weekends and evenings selling shoes to high school kids. Said Knight in an interview, “The idea was to get started. So we got 300 in and the next order was 1,000. That’s the way it got going. First year sales were $8,000. A far cry from the $30.6 billion brought in in 2015.”
Still the same playing field?
Every generation feels the one before it was “simpler.” I say it’s all relative. Knight didn’t have nearly the access to cash and partners and networking in 1963 as he does in 2016. But you play in your sandbox with the tools you have. Comments Knight, “The flip side of that is there are venture capital firms now. So you have access to money now that you never had in the 60s, so that makes it easier.”
Whether its running shoes or comic books, airplanes or automobiles, the entrepreneurial spirit is what makes the difference.
Now let me tell you you about an idea I have to make a pencil that never needs to be sharpened…
A special thank you to Greta Van Susteren her perfectly crafted interview with Knight.