Although today’s business world is still unfairly dominated by men, it goes without saying that more and more successful female entrepreneurs are becoming role models for the times. In China, Dong Mingzhu, of Gree Group, of course plays this role all year round. Of course, Dong Mingzhu entrepreneurs appeared earlier in the United States with a more mature business. One of the outstanding representatives is well known to us. Gert Boyle, the chairman of outdoor clothing brand Columbia, is known as the “One Tough Mother.”
In 1924, Boyle was born in a commercial town in Germany. His father is a well-known local entrepreneur who runs one of the largest shirt factories in the region.
Childhood life was originally carefree, but since the Nazis took power in the 1930s, anti-Semitism in Germany has become increasingly rampant, and the Boyle family, as Jews, have also begun to be affected. Since the age of 12, Boyle can no longer receive school education normally, and can’t even go shopping at will. This extreme political climate eventually made Boyle’s father determined to lead the family to the United States across the Atlantic in 1938.
At this time, her father also resumed his old business in the United States, acquiring a small hat factory in Portland, Oregon. At first the company was named after a Jewish surname, but a cautious father felt that even if he was already in the United States, using Jewish names seemed risky. So he decided to change the name of the factory. He turned out the phone book and found that many local companies were named after rivers flowing through the local area, so he followed this custom and changed the name of the hat factory to the Columbia Hat Company. The Columbia River is one of the largest rivers in western North America and an iconic river in Portland.
Boyle and her sisters have been helping out in this factory since childhood, and they often spend a tiring summer vacation here. At first, the company was doing well, but in the 1960s, the fashion of the whole society changed greatly, and the hat that showed class identity gradually fell out of favor. This forced his father to change course and shift the business to more promising outdoor sportswear. He named the company Columbia Sportswear and started producing ski gloves for professionals.
During this time, Boyle entered the university to study sociology and met his husband on campus. After graduation, she returned to her hometown of Portland with her husband. Her husband started to work in the family business to help his father-in-law, but Boyle had no interest in inheriting the family business. When the old father died in 1964, the husband formally took over as the company’s general manager and became the backbone of the entire family.
In Boyle’s early life planning, she should have played the traditional role of a good wife and mother: her husband worked hard outside and was responsible for the family business, and her main responsibility was to raise three children at home. It was just a storm, and Boyle’s husband died of a heart attack in 1970. Overnight, the burden of maintaining the entire family and family business was passed on to the housewife.
Boyle, 46, has no psychological preparation for this. She has never been involved in business management and knows nothing about how to do business. To make matters worse, she and her mother are still carrying large mortgages, and the company is also bearing heavy debts. This pressure left Boyle at a loss, and at one point she planned to sell Columbia.
The buyer who came to the door seemed to feel that the orphan and widow family had no experience and was quite bullying, so they not only desperately pushed down the offer, but also proposed various harsh additional conditions. Boyle, who was fierce in character, was completely irritated by this humiliation, and she decided on the spot to continue to run the company, and to sweep out these flaming vampire bankers. Looking back now, this is undoubtedly the smartest and most important decision that Boyle made for the rest of his life.
At first Boyle was clueless, and many people around her were always suspicious of her, and those baseless negative comments were mostly because Boyle was a woman. In the eyes of these traditional business defenders, how could a woman run a company well? So these “good people” urged her to hire another smart male executive. But Boyle is not a person who can be easily destroyed. She knows that she does not have experience, but she and her son have determination and willpower. She knows that she must persist in the end.
In the years before Boyle took over, Columbia’s performance has been declining, and she has tried every means to maintain this family heritage: reduce the number of employees, OEM for other brands, outsource related business … In order to increase product competition Force, Columbia company began to play a big price-performance card, others $ 300 a piece of clothing, it can only sell $ 100. In addition, she also re-established the company’s product positioning, gradually shifting from producing only professional outdoor apparel to producing outdoor products for the general public. This move to cater to the civilianization of sportswear has achieved immediate results, and the company’s output and sales and reputation have therefore increased rapidly.
But at this time competition is also becoming increasingly fierce, and how to stand out in an increasingly homogenized market has become a new problem for all outdoor sports companies, including Colombia. In order to highlight the differences with competitors, Boyle decided to go into the battle and act as the brand spokesperson. From the 1980s to the 1990s, she worked with her son to shoot a series of exaggerated and funny commercials. In these advertisements, Boyle presented the image of a hard-core mother, who saw her wearing sunglasses and expressionless, sometimes letting her son spend the night with sled dogs outside the house, and sometimes throwing her son off the helicopter Sometimes, she drove the ice grinder over her son, but because her son was wearing strong and cold-proof clothing of his own brand, he was always able to avoid danger and be safe.
This series of advertisements not only highlights the toughness of the Colombian brand, but also makes Boyle’s hard-core mother image popular. While rivals are always using handsome men and women to promote products to attract customers, an old mother who is never fearful and always dare to subvert himself has become a fresh sign for Columbia.
The marketing strategy has achieved unexpected success, and Colombia has gradually become a household name. In 1970, the family-shop company had annual sales of only $ 800,000, and the doorstep buyers were only willing to pay $ 1,400 to acquire the company. But today, nearly 50 years later, Colombia has grown into the largest outdoor sports brand in the United States, with products sold in more than 90 countries and regions around the world, and its annual net income has reached $ 3 billion.
Boyle didn’t even think he would one day be a housewife into a successful female entrepreneur. When she first took over the company, she just thought about how to survive and pay off the heavy loans she was carrying. Even later, Boyle believed that the entrepreneurial struggle was just a passive choice.
”If someone asked me if I could swim a mile, I would definitely tell him I couldn’t. But if someone threw me off the boat a mile off the shore, I wouldn’t swim without it.” In his autobiography, Boyle said so.
Hardcore mothers are both Colombian ads and portrayal of Boyle’s real life. In 2010, a clumsy thief broke into Boyle’s house with an imitation gun. Not only was the 86-year-old old man in danger, he also rang the alarm bell at home secretly. By the time the police arrived, Boyle had been bruised and his lips were bloody. But when the police chief came over to ask her about her health, Boyle was furious enough: “I didn’t have anything at all until I saw you coming in wearing that ‘North Face’ jacket.” Outdoor sportswear In the field, North Face, also born in the United States, has always been Colombia’s most direct competitor.
Boyle handed over the role of general manager to his son Tim in 1988, but until the end of her life, she served as chairman of the company’s board of directors. This is not because she is unwilling to decentralize, but she can’t rest. After the robbery, Boyle was placed in a Portland retirement center, but she still insisted on working full time. She didn’t like the atmosphere of nursing homes. Instead, work gave her the best condition: “I come every day. This is much better than feeling surrounded by a group of elderly people.” She never thinks that age is a problem, but I believe that experience is an asset. “For an enterprise, older employees are of great value.”
At the age of 91, Boyle heard that a book called “Fifty Degree Gray” was very popular, so she Ask your friends what exactly this book is about. When someone told her the rough content of this erotic novel, Boyle said with humor: “My age, practice is estimated to be impossible, I can only read.”
Hardcore, sharp, witty, this is the outside world The main impression of this successful woman, but those who know her are more willing to say that she is a knife tofu heart. Boyle has always been passionate about charity, and in 2015 she donated $ 100 million to a cancer research institute in her hometown. At first she just wanted to do something good, so she planned to hide her identity, but later she was persuaded that she should let everyone see the power of women, because women can be successful and they can make such a charitable act. She was eventually persuaded to make the act public.
Boyle was the first woman to be elected to the American Sporting Goods Association Hall of Fame, which made her even more glorious in a man-led world. But she never wanted to show the power of women deliberately. For her, a lot of things are nothing but forced to happen. In her early years, she was busy taking care of her family and maintaining the business, because it was about survival and dignity. She also likes hardcore mother series ads, but their original purpose was for marketing. However, when these pasts have become wonderful legends praised by the outside world, she also began to realize that running a business is not fundamentally different from taking care of families and raising children. For example, whether at work or at home, “Everyone needs to learn to work together and also to live within their means.” So even in the business world, women can actually do as well as men.
Sports giant Nike was also born in Portland. The founders of the company, Phil Knight and Boyle, are both local star entrepreneurs and active philanthropists. After Boyle’s death, Knight’s eulogy may best summarize the wonderful life of this hardcore mother: “Gert Boyle is a unique person. She raised a family, saved a company, and Make it a global brand. I respect her leadership very much. “