Necessity, the "Mother Boyle" of Invention -- Gert Boyle's Story

by Al Siebert, PhD

THRIVEnet Story of the Month - December 2000

Paul and Marie Lamfrom fled from Nazi Germany in 1937 with their daughter Gert. The Lamfroms settled in Portland, Oregon, where they purchased a small hat distributorship. When they experienced trouble with suppliers, they founded the Columbia Sportswear Company and started manufacturing the hats themselves.

Gert married her college sweetheart Neal Boyle in 1948. Neal began working in her parent's business and eventually took over as its president. When Neal died suddenly of a heart attack in 1970, Gert knew little about running the business, but was determined to not let it collapse. She enlisted help from her son Tim, who was a senior in college. Together not only did they save Columbia Sportswear from near bankruptcy, they went on to make it a world leader in the outdoor apparel industry.

Columbia developed strong brand awareness in 1984 when it launched an advertising campaign that featured Gert as a stern taskmaster with incredibly high standards. The ads featured "Mother Boyle" admonishing son Tim to ruthlessly test the versatility and durability of Columbia garments.

Under Gert's leadership, Columbia Sportswear did more than bounce back from near bankruptcy. It grew from a small regional hat distributor to become one of the world's largest outerwear brands and the leading seller of skiwear in the United States. Columbia Sportswear now employs more than 1,000 people around the world and distributes products through more than 10,000 retailers in 30 countries, with annual sales exceeding $400 million.

(More information about the company and its products can be found at http://www.columbia.com)

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