A Man and His Dream
Karl Toosbuy – the founder of ECCO – had a dream. He wanted to own a shoe factory and run his own business. Trained from an early age as a shoemaker, he gradually rose through the ranks and by his early 30s was managing a shoe factory in Copenhagen. The business, however, was not his.
So one day, the family decided to give up the security of a regular job, sell their home and move to Bredebro on the west coast of Denmark, just north of the German border. Karl and Birte Toosbuy and their 5-year-old daughter, Hanni, rented a small house and took over an empty factory built by the local community to help create jobs in what was a predominantly agricultural town.
Although the early days were difficult, Karl Toosbuy remained committed to his goal.
A visionary, single-minded entrepreneur, he, along with a small team, developed a range of truly innovative products and introduced pioneering production methods. Karl Toosbuy, in fact, became the first shoemaker to realise that shoes had to be made to fit the foot, thereby breaking with centuries of shoemaking tradition. As a result, functional, comfortable ECCO shoes were launched in the 1970s and became an instant success.
Karl Toosbuy was also the first to realise that the shoe industry needed large-scale, industrial production and went on to buy and develop high-tech machinery. He was also the first to move production to developing countries in order to remain competitive.
Throughout his long career, Karl Toosbuy constantly challenged himself and others, be it staff, suppliers or customers, and set himself the task of doing things better, faster, differently. He adopted different approaches and ideas and constantly pressed for improvements. This gradually evolved into the ECCO culture, an uncompromising determination and commitment to achieve goals and objectives.
Nevertheless, he never forgot his background. Nothing was more important to Karl Toosbuy than the quality of the shoes. This more than anything else, lay at the heart of his dream.