Gert Boyle Went From Homemaker To Columbia President Overnight

Not many people would believe that a housewife with zero business training could end up at the helm of a $2 billion company. But through a series of unfortunate events, that's exactly where Gert Boyle landed. After her family fled Nazi Germany when she was just 13, Boyle's father founded the Columbia Hat Company. When he passed away, Boyle's husband Neal took over. That was September of 1970. In December, Neal suddenly died, leaving Gert with two unappealing options: let Columbia fail and lose her mother's home to the bank, or take over the struggling company and learn on the job. "There weren't any women running companies out there," Boyle told Ad Age. "But it's actually not very different from running a family." After turning down a paltry offer to sell the company in 1971, Boyle and her son Tim got to work experimenting with new fabrics and designs, including the now legendary Bugaboo jacket. In 1984, they began the innovative Tough Mother ad campaign, depicting Gert putting Tim through harrowing situations to test out Columbia products, and sales quickly skyrocketed. Tim took over as CEO in 1989, the company went public in 1998, and Columbia now makes more than $2 billion in revenue. Gert now serves as company chairman, and she's still just as tough: at age 86, she famously escaped a home invasion and kidnapping by setting off a silent alarm while tied up by burglars. We've collected some awesome videos on this topic. Watch them now to learn more.

How Did I Get Here: Gert Boyle

Key Facts In This Video

  1. When Gert's father passed away, her husband Neal took over the business. When he died suddenly, Gert volunteered to take over. 00:39

  2. Within a year, Columbia was essentially bankrupt. 01:06

  3. They refocused and differentiated themselves with the Bugaboo coat and the Tough Mother ad campaign. 01:43

Written by Curiosity Staff July 11, 2016

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