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When a heart attack claimed Gert Boyle's husband in 1970, the forty-six-year-old housewife and mother of three found herself at the helm of Columbia Sportswear, a small and financially struggling outerwear manufacturer in Portland, Oregon. With no business experience whatsoever, Boyle was faced with the challenge running Columbia, which had been founded in 1937 by her fath When a heart attack claimed Gert Boyle's husband in 1970, the forty-six-year-old housewife and mother of three found herself at the helm of Columbia Sportswear, a small and financially struggling outerwear manufacturer in Portland, Oregon. With no business experience whatsoever, Boyle was faced with the challenge running Columbia, which had been founded in 1937 by her father-a Jewish immigrant who fled Hitler's Germany to come to America. Though many expected Boyle to fail, she and her son Tim persevered, and kept the business afloat through very challenging times. In 1970, Columbia Sportswear boasted forty employees and $800,000 in annual sales. Under the leadership of Gert and Tim Boyle, the company now has more than two thousand employees, annual sales approaching one billion dollars, and is the leading seller of skiwear in the United States. And thanks to a creative advertising campaign that billed her as "one tough mother," Gert Boyle has become an icon in her industry, and she is the first woman ever inducted into the International Sporting Goods Hall of Fame. In ONE TOUGH MOTHER, Boyle presents and honest, open, and often irreverent account of her truly remarkable journey from a childhood in Nazi Germany to fame and fortune in America. Boyle offers insights into succeeding in business and in life, and shares many of the advertisements and strategies that have made her so recognizable. Her story is one that will inspire anyone who dreams of turning a small business into a bigger business, as well as individuals who find themselves facing circumstances beyond their control.


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When a heart attack claimed Gert Boyle's husband in 1970, the forty-six-year-old housewife and mother of three found herself at the helm of Columbia Sportswear, a small and financially struggling outerwear manufacturer in Portland, Oregon. With no business experience whatsoever, Boyle was faced with the challenge running Columbia, which had been founded in 1937 by her fath When a heart attack claimed Gert Boyle's husband in 1970, the forty-six-year-old housewife and mother of three found herself at the helm of Columbia Sportswear, a small and financially struggling outerwear manufacturer in Portland, Oregon. With no business experience whatsoever, Boyle was faced with the challenge running Columbia, which had been founded in 1937 by her father-a Jewish immigrant who fled Hitler's Germany to come to America. Though many expected Boyle to fail, she and her son Tim persevered, and kept the business afloat through very challenging times. In 1970, Columbia Sportswear boasted forty employees and $800,000 in annual sales. Under the leadership of Gert and Tim Boyle, the company now has more than two thousand employees, annual sales approaching one billion dollars, and is the leading seller of skiwear in the United States. And thanks to a creative advertising campaign that billed her as "one tough mother," Gert Boyle has become an icon in her industry, and she is the first woman ever inducted into the International Sporting Goods Hall of Fame. In ONE TOUGH MOTHER, Boyle presents and honest, open, and often irreverent account of her truly remarkable journey from a childhood in Nazi Germany to fame and fortune in America. Boyle offers insights into succeeding in business and in life, and shares many of the advertisements and strategies that have made her so recognizable. Her story is one that will inspire anyone who dreams of turning a small business into a bigger business, as well as individuals who find themselves facing circumstances beyond their control.

30 review for One Tough Mother: Success in Life, Business and AP

  1. 5 out of 5

    Alisa

    Surprisingly quick read for a memoir but if you know anything about Gert Boyle it is that she cuts to the chase pretty darn quick. The challenges she overcame throughout her life only furthered her resolve, and she navigated her way through her business and personal life with practical thinking and determination. Columbia Sportswear turned into a powerhouse under her leadership, and even though she was not terribly fond of the 'tough mother' ad campaign that featured her, she embraced it with gr Surprisingly quick read for a memoir but if you know anything about Gert Boyle it is that she cuts to the chase pretty darn quick. The challenges she overcame throughout her life only furthered her resolve, and she navigated her way through her business and personal life with practical thinking and determination. Columbia Sportswear turned into a powerhouse under her leadership, and even though she was not terribly fond of the 'tough mother' ad campaign that featured her, she embraced it with grace and humor. Great story of an amazing woman.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Nathan Albright

    [Note: This book was provided free of charge by Carpe Diem Press in exchange for an honest review.] As someone who enjoys reading both corporate histories well-stocked with entertaining advertising photos [1] as well as memoirs of success despite a difficult life [2], this book was a refreshing look at an eventful life from the busy “ChairMa” of Columbia Sportswear Company, Gert Boyle. Coming off as a fierce but loveable Jewish mother, deeply involved in the life of her family, tenacious, and lou [Note: This book was provided free of charge by Carpe Diem Press in exchange for an honest review.] As someone who enjoys reading both corporate histories well-stocked with entertaining advertising photos [1] as well as memoirs of success despite a difficult life [2], this book was a refreshing look at an eventful life from the busy “ChairMa” of Columbia Sportswear Company, Gert Boyle. Coming off as a fierce but loveable Jewish mother, deeply involved in the life of her family, tenacious, and loud and outspoken to the point of caricature, and also blessed with a strong social conscience, this book is a love letter to the Pacific Northwest and a fitting explanation of why Columbia has been able to survive the death of her late husband and the fickleness of changing fads and clothing habits: they never give up, never forget that their employees and customers are human beings and worthy of respect, and never forget to keep growing and keep showing themselves as human as well. This book manages to combine a chronological approach to the life of the author with some added material that add a bit of spice to the account and that make it humane and even deeply humorous. The book begins with a foreword from former Oregon governor and US Senator Mark Hatfield, followed by a preface that talks about the moment the author transitioned from a housewife to the president of a struggling outerwear company upon the death of her husband from a heart attack in December 1970. The book then looks at Gert’s childhood as a German Jew going to school at a Catholic girl’s school in the shadow of Hitler’s Germany, only escaping as a result of the quick thinking of her parents, which led them to settle in the Portland area, where her father then bought a hat company and changed its name to reflect the river that runs through the area. The author then discusses her college experience, marriage to an Irish Catholic, and her life as a housewife. After the death of her husband, Gert is candid about the difficulties she and her son Tim faced in keeping the company afloat, and is quick to show off (and give credit to her marketing firm) for the success of her company’s campaigns to brand themselves around her as “one tough mother.” After discussing the success of her life, her company, and her family, she closes the book with a tasty apple pie recipe. The book is full of black and white photographs and copies of various marketing posters and still shots of television commercials, adding an artistic flair to an exuberant memoir. This is the sort of memoir that brings credit to everyone involved. Ma Gert Boycle comes off as being humorous and tenacious, with a heartwarming story of an immigrant made good, who only had two spend a couple of weeks as a thirteen year old first grader upon her family’s arrival in the United States. She also shows herself as generous-spirited not only in donating the proceeds of the book to the Special Olympics and the Court Appointed Special Advocates of Multnomah, Washington, and Columbia counties, but also in the fact that she gives her able co-writer, Kerry Tymchuk, credit as a co-writer. The photographs add a sense of lightheartedness to the book as a whole, as well as touching family photos, and so everyone who has a part on this book has something to feel proud of. This is the sort of book that would likely fit well snuggled inside one of the pockets of a Bugaboo parka as someone is enjoying a slice of Gert’s Finger Apple Pie, a real winner, just like its author and the Columbia Sportswear Company as a whole. [1] See, for example: https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress... https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress... https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress... https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress... https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress... https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress... [2] See, for example: https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress... https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress...

  3. 5 out of 5

    David Folz

    Note this is a book I read probably back in.. 2014 or 2015 (day of the Patriots/Seahawks Super Bowl) so it's a bit dated to when I read it. I thought for a short read it was a good book though. Very informative of her life and growing up and the struggles of the business. Note this is a book I read probably back in.. 2014 or 2015 (day of the Patriots/Seahawks Super Bowl) so it's a bit dated to when I read it. I thought for a short read it was a good book though. Very informative of her life and growing up and the struggles of the business.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Carly Foerster

    Super quick memoir - cuts right to the chase, true to Ma Boyle’s spirit. It’s an inspiring and enjoyable read, with a few solid lessons woven throughout (particularly in her early learnings the first year as president of Columbia Sportswear.) She really was One Tough Mother.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Catherine

    Enjoyed this unusual memoir, but sort of wished there were more since she sounded like a very interesting person

  6. 5 out of 5

    Mary Sak

    I really enjoyed this book about the chairman of Columbia Sportswear. It was both inspirational and funny. Highly recommend.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    It was a fun and entertaining book. Gert has a fascinating history and it was great reading a book that is much like Gert, "straight and to the point". It was a fun and entertaining book. Gert has a fascinating history and it was great reading a book that is much like Gert, "straight and to the point".

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kathy

    Quick read. She really does give you her tips to find success in your life. She seems very down to earth & probably a hoot to hang around with!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Cheekey

    This is a must read. It's a quick autobiography of Gert Boyle, how her family started with a shirt shop in pre WWII Germany and ended up becoming one of the largest manufacturer's of outdoor sportswear. Gert doesn't mince words, but nor is she cruel. She is a very fair woman and did a tremendous job of saving Columbia Sportswear and making it was it is today. I loved this book. And her recipe for Apple Pie! :) This is a must read. It's a quick autobiography of Gert Boyle, how her family started with a shirt shop in pre WWII Germany and ended up becoming one of the largest manufacturer's of outdoor sportswear. Gert doesn't mince words, but nor is she cruel. She is a very fair woman and did a tremendous job of saving Columbia Sportswear and making it was it is today. I loved this book. And her recipe for Apple Pie! :)

  10. 4 out of 5

    Beth

    I read this a while ago, but thought of it again after Gert foiled attempt to kidnap her, she really is one tough mother! This book is a quick, fun read, and she has had an interesting life. I love the "Gertisms" that they also use in Columbia Sportswear ad campaigns, such as "Blue hair? Maybe. Blue toes? Never." I submitted my own Gertism to the company and they sent me a free jacket! My winning Gertism was "Ravaged by time, but not by the weather." I read this a while ago, but thought of it again after Gert foiled attempt to kidnap her, she really is one tough mother! This book is a quick, fun read, and she has had an interesting life. I love the "Gertisms" that they also use in Columbia Sportswear ad campaigns, such as "Blue hair? Maybe. Blue toes? Never." I submitted my own Gertism to the company and they sent me a free jacket! My winning Gertism was "Ravaged by time, but not by the weather."

  11. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    A quick read of the history of Columbia Sportswear and its CEO who after the death of her husband took over management of the then $800,000 annual sales and 40 employee company with her son. They then turned it into an over $1 billion in annual sales and 2000 employee internationally recognized company.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Katherine

    I don't generally read business bio's, but my husband read this book and suggested I read it since it was about a woman, running a Portland business, who also was a mom. It was an extremely quick read - give it 90 minutes and you are done. In truth, that is all I would be willing to give it. Nothing profound or life altering. Just interesting. I don't generally read business bio's, but my husband read this book and suggested I read it since it was about a woman, running a Portland business, who also was a mom. It was an extremely quick read - give it 90 minutes and you are done. In truth, that is all I would be willing to give it. Nothing profound or life altering. Just interesting.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    This was a quick and easy read. Entertaining? Yes. Inspiring? Kind of. For being a kid of the NW, I don't know how I missed the majority of Boyle's rise with Columbia, but it's great that this tough mom never gave up. This is more like 'the little engine that could' than any business book I've read. Good stuff. This was a quick and easy read. Entertaining? Yes. Inspiring? Kind of. For being a kid of the NW, I don't know how I missed the majority of Boyle's rise with Columbia, but it's great that this tough mom never gave up. This is more like 'the little engine that could' than any business book I've read. Good stuff.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Melody

    Very enjoyable but not very deep autobiography from Columbia Sportswear's Gert Boyle. She's had quite an interesting life, and has faced all sorts of adversity with grace and grit. It's a quick read but well worth picking up. Very enjoyable but not very deep autobiography from Columbia Sportswear's Gert Boyle. She's had quite an interesting life, and has faced all sorts of adversity with grace and grit. It's a quick read but well worth picking up.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Angie

    Cute little anecdotes.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Marge

    Good read...good story..

  17. 4 out of 5

    Dana

    Great quick read. Learned a lot about how women can grow from dispair. And, Gert has an awesome personality!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    light, interesting story.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Zvorak

    great book

  20. 5 out of 5

    Bryan

    Quick read about the CEO of Columbia Sportswear. Interesting story about her life and how to took over and ran the company after her husbands death.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    This is the story of Gery Boyle who took over Columbia Sportswear when her husband died. It was interesting, and had some funny parts.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Louise

    Ha! She is the epitome of a Northwest woman.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

    Easy, fast read with lots of good common sense business advice. Would be nice to work for this type of company.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Debbie

    This is one cool mother who makes a fabulous product. I still have my first Columbia fleece from almost 20 years ago; the zipper broke once and they fixed it for free.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Sharon

    I enjoyed this little book. Gert Boyle made lemonade out of lemons in her life. Love her sense of humor.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kimberly Howlett

    Great Book! Her determination and attitude through hardship is inspiring. Humor throughout the book just adds more enjoyment. Wonderful.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

  28. 4 out of 5

    Julia

  29. 4 out of 5

    Miguel

  30. 5 out of 5

    Adam Nutting

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