Can you “throw your O” with your feet? The answer is yes—if you’re lucky enough to be wearing the prototype sneakers first-year Sports Product Management master's degree candidate Jangkyu “JK” Lee developed during winter break.
The story behind the O-centric shoes started this past December soon after the finish of fall term. Lee, who came to program from Korea, knew he wouldn’t be heading home for winter break. Instead, he decided to take advantage of the Portland-based program’s Innovation Lab to create t-shirts to give to his family members.
Another international student—New Zealander Jeremy Gin—was also logging serious hours in the Innovation Lab. Anticipating his graduation this March, Gin was busy designing and building a sneaker collection to round out his job-search portfolio.
Inspired by Gin’s work, Lee asked the second-year student to share some sneaker-making basics. Lee was soon off and running creating his own sneaker designs—including the cool black and green “throw your O” shoes.
Lee and Gin spent the rest of winter break bouncing ideas off each other and building shoes—interspersed with the occasional trek across the Willamette River to catch a Trail Blazers game.
“If someone is really eager to learn and is investing the time to be here, it’s like hey, let’s learn off each other,” said Gin. “I showed JK a few things that I’ve learned, and he ended up showing me a few things. It was just a snowball effect.”
“JK and Jeremy’s stories are the exact reason we keep the Innovation Lab open 24/7, even during school breaks,” said SPM director and cofounder Ellen Schmidt-Devlin. “Hands-on projects like these give our students a gut-level understanding of the product life cycle, so we are committed to giving them access to a place where they can make their ideas a reality.”
“When I started in the program this fall, I didn’t have a specific idea of what I wanted to do in the industry,” said Lee. “Working in the Innovation Lab during winter break made me realize that I have a passion for developing product.”
Lee will have a chance to further pursue his passion this summer, when he’ll be working in product creation as a paid intern at Nike. And when he arrives on the company's Beaverton campus, he'll already have at least one friend in place. Gin has landed a position with Nike Basketball and will start there this spring.
Both Lee and Gin are quick to credit the role the Innovation Lab played in their professional development.
"I ended up feeling really confident after spending three or four weeks here, struggling with the machines, spending the time, and then doing it all over again. That's what pushed me to the passion part," said Lee.
“You’ve got to invest the time in the craft. In my opinion, this is art—you can’t be Da Vinci in one day,” said Gin. “You go back to the beginning with Phil Knight, who was a shoe dog. Well, we’re shoe puppies. We’re just learning the ropes but you’ve got to start somewhere.”
See Lee and Gin's sneaker designs