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 30’ies was managing a shoe factory in Copenhagen. The business, however, was not his.
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.
Farmland stretched for miles around the small factory building on the outskirts of Bredebro where Birte and Karl Toosbuy had assembled a small team to get production up and running. Initially limited to ladies’ shoes under the Venus brand, it was a tough start. The Toosbuys worked extremely long hours, tackled endless problems and sometimes doubted whether they would succeed.
The first real breakthrough came in the late 1970s when ECCO’s designer Ejnar Truelsen created the “JOKE”. This was followed by a series of other revolutionary shoes, some of which are still in production today. Karl Toosbuy bought his first direct injection machine to apply high-tech production technology to the business. So confident was he in the machine that he bought a second one before the results from the first had materialised.