Mario Moretti Polegato was running his family’s winery.
One year, after attending a wine conference in Reno, the Italian businessman decided to take a vacation in the Nevada desert.
While he was there, he went for a walk and found his feet becoming so hot and uncomfortable that he took out his penknife and cut holes into his shoes.
Immediately, he felt better, and decided that the way shoes were made needed to be re-invented. And he was the man to do it.
“I wanted shoes to be breathable and waterproof at the same time,” he said.
He spent three years researching his patent, and he offered it to all the big shoe companies, but nobody was willing to give him the time of day.
“But I believed very strongly in the project. The idea was so simple, so easy to explain.”
With established shoe-makers turning him down, armed with a bank loan, Polegato founded his own footwear business, Geox. That was 1995 and he was 45. The brand name, Geox, was created from a mixture between the Greek word “geo” (earth) and “x” a letter-element symbolizing technology.
It has made him a billionaire.
To begin with he hired five young people from his home village of Biadene di Montebelluna, none of whom he knew, and none of whom had worked before, let alone had any experience of how to run a business.
Today Geox is a global company with 30,000 employees (including the original five), and 1,300 stores all over the world. It is listed on the Milan stock exchange.
After originally keeping its focus on shoes, it has subsequently expanded into clothes.
Polegato is a living example of a man who thinks out of the box and as a result, created a runaway phenomenon.