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Columbia Sportswear

Founded in 1938, Columbia Sportswear Company™ has grown from a small family-owned hat distributorship to one of the world's largest outerwear brands and the leading seller of skiwear in the United States. In 2008, the company reported net sales of approximately $1.32 billion. Columbia's extensive product line includes a wide variety of outerwear, sportswear, rugged footwear and accessories. Columbia is renowned for developing innovative products that are comfortable, protective, functional, stylish and offer great value.

At the head of the company are 85-year-old matriarch Gert Boyle, chairman of the board of directors, and her son, Tim Boyle, president and chief executive officer. Columbia's history began in the 1930s when Gert's parents fled Germany and settled in Portland, Oregon. They bought a small hat distributorship and named it Columbia Hat Company, after the river bordering the city. Frustrated by poor deliveries from suppliers, the family started manufacturing products themselves, and expanded the line to include jackets, fishing vests and shirts.

In 1948, Gert married college sweetheart Neal Boyle, who joined the family business and later took the helm of the growing company. In 1970, Neal died of a heart attack. He left behind three children, an expanding company leaning heavily on bank loans, and a wife without business experience.

The day after Neal's funeral, the phones at Columbia were ringing off the hook with salesmen and vendors who assumed that the company was going out of business. Then the bank called. Concerned with the thought that a housewife was going to run the company, the bank summoned a meeting with Gert. In this meeting she managed to buy herself a little time. Appeasing the bankers, she pledged Columbia's building as collateral for loans. She also trimmed the company a bit and Tim started hitting the trade shows. After a few years, profits went up. Gert's no nonsense approach was paying off.

Eventually, Gert took on the persona of the tough mother in Columbia advertising. Mother Boyle is often shown as the tyrant who makes sure that each of Columbia's products can stand up to her tough standards and the worst weather. The global marketing campaigns and Gert's "Tough Mother" persona turned her into an international celebrity. The mom-is-looking-out-for-you message is universally understood around the world.

Today, Gert is the inspiration for the "Medal of Merit" (M.O.M.) awarded to pioneers with a passion for the Greater Outdoors.

Our chairman's passion drives us to make the best products for outdoors people with the same spirit. We believe this passion is what defines true pioneers. Not skill. Not the size of the mountains they play on. It's their joy. To us this makes the great outdoors the Greater Outdoors.

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