From Manager to Entrepreneur, Meet Michele Zanella

Brave and innovative. Michele Zanella, 46, is the emblem of a new business. What ingredients make a difference? Studies, experiences, vision and stubbornness.

Today he heads a company that has a turnover of 100 million euros, has 400 single-brand stores and has 450 employees. The idea from which he started? A colorful, low cost and, above all, customizable watch. Success then came with the customizable bag, now available in 600,000 different combinations, sold all over the world. His company is called O bag. Yet he had to face many difficulties, in addition to the initial perplexities of the experts. “A plastic bag in Italy, but are you crazy?” they told him.

Why does an engineer create a business in fashion?

“I am an atypical engineer. I wanted to do Architecture, but I favored Engineering because of comfort and proximity to home. I was still a type for whom one plus one necessarily made only two and on this logic I had based my life. Degree in Engineering, employment, career in a company. After graduating, I went to work in a construction company. But the real training experience I had in the Benetton group, where I worked for 11 years “.

What did you do at Benetton?

“I did a wonderful job: I followed the expansion into the world of the group. In practice, I supervised the opening of new stores, taking care of all aspects: product, architecture, visual. In this way I have created a global network of contacts and gained an all-round experience “.

And then?

“Then I saw the 40-year milestone approaching. I started a family, now I have two children. I felt the need to stop traveling. With my wife, an architect, we thought of creating something autonomous, only ours ».
How did the light bulb come on?

«In 2009 it was already in full crisis. You had to have a really strong product idea. Observing the market, I came up with the idea of ​​O clock, a low cost watch (19 euros), but of
Italian quality and design, colorful and customizable ».

How did your company start?

«We started from nothing. We have invested 20 thousand euros, especially in the molds. Our strength was in the marketing idea. To make ourselves known, we decided to bet
not on advertising, but on the opening of single-brand stores in very busy areas. For this reason we have chosen, among others, the locations of the Grandi Stazioni project. The first shop opened in June 2010 in Venice and this was our first showcase, the way to show our product ».

When did you launch the bag?

«We understood that to grow we had to expand the range. In this case, in 2012, the intuition was to present a bag made with industrial materials. The first response from insiders was one of skepticism. To them, in the homeland of leather goods, a plastic bag seemed a heresy. But we went our own way. We have added elements in fashion materials, such as wool, fabric and fur. But above all we have focused on extreme customization: to date, our bags are available in 27 colors and 600 thousand different combinations. And then we focus on a continuous renewal of assortments and display cases. In the meantime, we have also extended the range to other products, always customizable: sunglasses, accessories, footwear… ».

What do you feel like recommending to the entrepreneurs of the future?

«The word” free “does not exist. Nobody gives you anything, ever. To succeed, you need large doses of stubbornness, a clear vision and a great deal of faith in your idea. Nothing is easy, but with work everything becomes possible ».

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