Cutting air vents in his sneakers inspired Geox founder Mario Moretti Polegato to launch a multimillion-dollar shoe brand.
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Mario Moretti Polegato loves the outdoors but hates sweaty feet. After attending a 1989 vintners convention in Reno, Nev., on behalf of his family's Montebelluna, Italy, business, the third-generation winemaker stopped over in Colorado to hike in the Rocky Mountains.
But when the temperature climbed past 90 degrees, Polegato's hot, moist feet made his rubber-soled sneakers highly uncomfortable.
En route to his hotel, Polegato pulled into a gas station to borrow a knife and carved 1-inch holes in the soles of his shoes. The ventilation served him well, but it wouldn't work in the rainy European fall.
The perfect solution, Polegato thought, would be a perforated sole with a porous inner membrane to shield the foot from outside moisture but allow perspiration vapor to escape. Polegato then spent three years perfecting the technology, which he planned to sell to Nike (Charts) or Adidas (Charts) (they passed).
Polegato launched Geox in 1991 and began targeting the Italian market with its designs - similar to Ecco's but edgier - then expanded into Spain, Germany, the United Kingdom, and, in 2004, the United States.
Today, Geox (Charts) shoes are sold in 68 countries, and revenue at the 3,000-person company hit $573 million in 2005, making it a close third to Clarks and Ecco in the worldwide market for comfortable shoes.