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Problem-solving and determination helped LaToya Kamara Manley MBA’12 build the women’s footwear strategy for Nike’s Jordan brand

by Paul McKean,

When LaToya Kamara Manley MBA’12 arrived at Nike as a Merchandising Manager, she noticed that women were buying the iconic Jordan shoes. The problem? Nike didn’t have a women’s line of Jordans, so women were buying men’s shoes in kids' sizes to compensate.

“We were in a really unique place where women had been wearing Jordans for years and years because they were buying kids shoes,” Manley said. “We had to find ways to not alienate those women who were already buying Jordan products while developing this concept for women who didn't know too much about the brand.”

Manley decided to use the knack for problem-solving she developed at Willamette to help Nike change that. While working her full-time role in merchandising, she helped build the business strategy for a women’s Jordan line from the ground up.

Luckily, her experience balancing classes in Willamette’s MBA for Professionals program at night with her intense day job gave her the determination she needed to approach the project.

“Working full time and going to school at night created this drive to see how much I could accomplish,” Kamara Manley said. “I was learning how to prioritize and how to show up impactfully in multiple places at multiple times.”

Now Manley is the Jordan Women’s Footwear Product Director, which means she helps steward two iconic brands: Nike and Michael Jordan.

“I’ve worked in footwear for years, but I never really thought that I would work at Nike or Jordan because they were just so cool,” Kamara Manley said. “Michael Jordan has personified greatness. Looking at his values and beliefs are guidelines to how we show up, how I perform, and how I work as a leader. It’s very humbling.”

The people Kamara Manley met at Willamette have had a lasting impact. When faced with new challenges during her MBA program — like mastering finance for the first time — she learned how to build relationships with her professors and classmates to get the job done.

“It forced me outside my comfort zone,” Kamara Manley said. “It was the first time in years that I had worked with new people outside of my field. It opens up your aperture and your world. Being able to build those kinds of communities and relationships was really helpful for me.”

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