Nike merchant shares his path to success

By Lottie Watts
Published Jun 10, 2021

It’s about progress – not perfection, according to Nike Global Big Kids Merchant Evan Chisholm. Discover how his variety of experiences led to his current role and prepared him with the tools to face whatever comes his way in this chat with undergraduate students.

Here are a few key takeaways from the conversation with Chisholm, who received the 2014 NRF Foundation Ray Greenly Scholarship and prior to joining Nike, founded his own apparel company and worked as an assistant buyer for a digital retail startup.

Learning lessons from doing it all

I came right out of college and decided to start a company. There was a housing crisis, and we were in a recession. Being self-employed sounds really advantageous. But what self-employment actually was: me working third shift at certain jobs and me being a caretaker, all while trying to pursue this dream of having a clothing line. 

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Often times the jobs you end up having may be far from what your aspirations are but will play a pivotal role in where you get. At one point, I was working in a warehouse. Learning the back end of a warehouse allowed me to understand operations and logistics, and it catapulted me to where I needed to be. You always learn something from different experiences that may be unexpected, but they come back to help round you out.

Having those experiences that built fortitude and toughness – and you had to figure certain things out – that really developed my character as a person, so in the corporate environment, there’s not much that fazes me.

What to do when things don’t go according to plan

Throughout your career, you have certain goals and you think things are supposed to go a certain way. When they don’t go that way, you’re at cross-roads to understand that you didn’t achieve exactly what you set out to do. What you have to pivot toward is: what did I learn from this experience? How could it become better? How does it reflect on me as a person and how I can become better?

For me, when my first business – my clothing line – shut down, I was hat in hand trying to figure out what’s next for me. I decided to do something different, and it led me here to Nike. Things are not going to be perfect – definitely progress over perfection – but those are the humbling experiences that you have that push you.  

The skills he’s developed the most as a merchant

Strategy has been a big thing, and analytical skills. One of the biggest things is being able to transfer knowledge very quickly. How fast you can understand and transfer information to somebody else is how fast you can get an idea out of the door or start to get things moving. That’s how you help move people and ideas.

From a merchandising perspective, it’s a balance between art and science. You have to be able to look at data, analyze data and then come to a conclusion about the human experience I expect to achieve, or I anticipate somebody having. It’s about using that balance to make decisions, and then being able to analyze that information to make better decisions.

Get valuable real-world experience – and up to $5,000 – with our business competition with Kohl’s. Learn more about the NRF Foundation Student Challenge and review the full eligibility requirements here.

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