Entrepreneurship out of Silicon Valley

amancio-ortega-zara-richeBusdongo de Arbás is a small village in the northwest of Spain. Located 1300 meters over the level of the sea, winters are very hard for the 100 inhabitants of this place, most of them, retired railway men and coal miners who have seen better times in their industries. Most people in Busdongo have no idea about where Silicon Valley is, and many don’t even know what Google or Apple are. But they do know one of the most successful entrepreneurs ever, Amancio Ortega, born there 80 years ago.

He lived there until he was 14, when his father, a worker of the railway company, was sent to A Coruña, a big city by the Atlantic coast. Shortly afterwards, he began to work for a local shirtmaker. In 1972 he started a bathrobe business and three years later, together with his wife, he opened the first Zara shop. That shop would become the flagship of the biggest fashion group in the world, Inditex.zara-store_2015_11-0-0

The business model of Zara and Inditex redefined the whole fashion system: they produce and sell fashionable products with moderate prices; they designed a computer system when not so many companies were even aware of the importance that it would have in the future; they don’t make any advertising outside of their shops, which are located in some of the most commercial corners and buildings of the world; they work with very tight inventories, what allows them to sell their fashion during the season, without needing to reduce their price to get rid of stock; they have a diversified group of shops, so they cover almost every spectrum of the fashion world… This multinational company owns nowadays more than 7000 shops in more than 90 countries in 5 continents. And thanks to it, Amancio Ortega is now sitting next to Bill Gates as the richest man on Earth.

Now, we don’t want to forget that there are shadows in that road to success, even though we can consider Inditex as a more or less fair player in the capitalism game. And no, we don’t always like that game. So, if we don’t like something, we have to change it, and no better way to do this than showing that there are alternatives.

Today, an entrepreneur in the field of fashion would need very likely more than just cheap trendy clothes; eco-friendly processes and completely fair labor conditions could be a nice option. Maybe not to become richer than Amancio Ortega, but to prove that entrepreneurship is another way of changing the rules, making your business your own particular Manufactury of Change.


Far from the glamour of North American garages and smartphones, this was an example of a real successful entrepreneurship story and, somehow, we could also see it as an aspiring one. There will be many of those, even more interesting, in our “Challenging paradigms through new business models” track.

If you are interested in how entrepreneurship shapes our reality and if you want to meet some of the people doing that right now, save the date: 18th to 20th of November. To register, just visit http://www.aspire.co.at/aspire2016/

Trackbacks & Pings

  • "Working" refugees - Aspire. Manufactory of Change :

    […] Three days ago we talked about the entrepreneurship story of the founder of Inditex, the matrix of Zara. We mentioned the shadows that this company had, but we didn’t get into any detail. BBC has done it for us. They broadcasted on Sunday a program about how Turkish factories employ Syrian refugee kids to make clothes. Zara was, together with other big chains like Marks & Spencer, one of the retails that would afterwards distribute those clothes. […]