Geox created a revolution in shoes when we introduced a new technology in rubber-bottomed shoes that eliminates problems of breathability and perspiration. Holes in the sole let vapour out, while a special membrane keeps it waterproof. My best decision was to patent this idea, because it has made Geox unique in the market.
In 13 years, we've become the number-one shoe company in Italy and number two in the world for comfortable shoes. But my original business was totally different.
My family have been in viticulture for three generations and we produced 22 million bottles a year. One day, in the early '90s, I was in Las Vegas at a wine convention. Afterwards, I wanted to visit the Nevada desert, so I changed into my sneakers but cut holes into the soles to give them ventilation - it was a magnificent idea!
So when I came back to Italy, I studied the technology. Initially, I couldn't get it to work, so I partnered with Padua and Milan universities. I think of myself more as an inventor than an entrepreneur.
MY WORST ...
I had a bad moment after getting the patent, which I'd spent three years researching. I offered the technology to the biggest sports-shoe company in the world. My intention was to sell the idea to a partner, but it is not easy when you are nothing to impress these large-company bosses. I waited many times for someone to return my call.
Nobody believed in me - nobody. But I was very excited by my idea and continued to believe in myself, so I decided to start up my own business. My family in Italy is rich, but I didn't ask them for any money because I was very ambitious and I wanted to do it myself.
I explained my technology to the local bank and it gave me a limited-season credit. When you work in fashion, you have two seasons - spring/summer and autumn/winter. In the second and third years, the bank offered me more credit. After I'd launched the business in other countries, I decided to make Geox a listed company.
I now run 71% of the company and have made a lot of money, which is good.