On this episode of the SLN Podcast, John Peters had the privilege of interviewing the Founder of Reebok, Joseph William Foster. Joe just released his new book, Shoemaker: The Untold Story of the British Family Firm that Became a Global Brand. Joe was able to review the book and deep dive on topics like his upbringing, his global ambition for the brand, key players who helped him along the way and how Joe, a kid from Bolton, found himself rubbing elbows with Sean Connery, Robert De Niro and so many more Hollywood celebrities.



Podcast Highlights

4:16 – Writing Shoemaker and the beginning of Reebok: “Really nobody knows the origins of Reebok, the successes, which we managed to achieve. There are so many articles on Wikipedia, which seemed to me people’s imagination rather than reality.”

9:20 – The use of influencers in the early 1900s: “We know today that influencers are used all the time, but it’s wonderful to think back way back to 1904, that Joe Foster, my grandfather was using people to influence the sales of his product.”

17:33 – Having success in America: “I always had that mind that, why are we not doing more in America? I find it became my ambition.”

18:23 – Moving the business to streetwear: “The biggest businesses in the UK was football or you call it probably soccer. That was the big business. That was the biggest performer business. And at that time it was starting to drift into street. The kids were wearing the t-shirts. They were wearing the shirts for the clubs. And so see we needed to move forward.”

24:53 – Meeting Paul Fireman: “I went to America numerous times. I had at least six attempts with distributors before I met Paul. And the time when I met Paul was when running was really peaking. It was really getting big.”

34:11 – Stephen Rubin of Pentland: “For Stephen, the idea of having a company in the USA was the fact that he could get them to sell, to see all the big outlets having shoes really sourced in from the East, which meant that it would be good shoes and they did go good manufacturing.”

36:08 – Paul Fireman and Stephen Rubin’s relationship: “I couldn’t repeat the language, but tough Paul through the keys to the office across the table and said, if you want to run the company, Steven here are the blah, blah, blah keys. So yeah, it was that sort of relationship.”

46:05 – The performance category drives fashion: “Performance is the one that really influences the market and influences it so much that it becomes fashion. And as we know now, that street is so much driven by sport street fashion.”

52:00 – Success is a long journey: “When I started writing the book, it was surreal. I look back now and think, how did that happen?”

58:18 – Sharing your journey: “Towards the end, I was saying, I don’t want a ticket. I’ve flown all around the world, seeing all these wonderful sites. Done lots of things all on my own. And you turn back, you make to the office and all the people do is say, hi, Joe, how are you? You had an option to share it with someone. I think the value of all of that travel was sharing. And I didn’t have that many times.”

1:01:18 – Joe Foster still wears Reeboks: “I wear Reeboks more than ever these days. So as you get a bit older, the joints are not quite the same. I played sports. I played badminton for many years and that is a lateral sport and it takes a toll on your knees and hips.”