EP3 Recap | Joe Foster: The untold story of Reebok


Joseph William Foster (Joe Foster) was born in 1935 in Bolton England with the same birthday 18th May, as his grandfather, also Joseph William Foster who had died 18 months earlier. Joe’s grandfather was the founder of J W Foster & Sons (Athletic Shoes) Ltd and the inventor of the Spiked Running Shoe and the Trainer (Sneaker).

Joe and his late brother Jeff were born into the J W Foster & family business, but on their return after 2 years away from home on National Service, they asked questions. The year was 1955 and the brothers saw a business still rooted in the 1930’s.

Their Father and Uncle were now operating the business and very much like another Sports Shoe company, spent more time feuding than collaborating. The result was that in 1958 Joe and Jeff left the Foster business to set up a new Sports Shoe company.

The brothers founded Mercury Sports Footwear, which after 18 months they changed its name to Reebok and the rest is history!

This is a story of family, community, craft, perseverance, and trend creation.

The key themes of the episode:

  • The challenges of a family business steeped in tradition and struggle
  • Knowing when to walk away
  • Perfection in craft and connection to a community
  • Finding your gatekeepers
  • Going all in, and sacrifice
  • Growth and the USA obsession
  • Life as a founder
  • Reebok now


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