Written by Jakub Vana
Tomas Bata (April 3rd, 1876 – July 12th, 1932) was a Czechoslovakian businessman, entrepreneur, ‘king of shoe-making’, and founder of the Bata shoe company.
Born into a family with a history of shoe-making dating back to the 17th century, Thomas was the third child of his father. His mother died when Thomas was eight years old. After two years, his father remarried and moved the family to the town of Uherske Hradiste, where he started learning German.
From an early age, Thomas was interested in craftsmanship and was interested in how to make shoes and how to sell them. In the year 1894, Thomas, his sister Anna, and brother Antonin left their father’s business, and with the inheritance from their mother, they established the shoe-making company in the city of Zlin. The first years were hard, but they pulled through and started growing the business. Sister Anna left the company after getting married in the year 1898, and when brother Antonin died from tuberculosis in 1908, Thomas became the sole owner of the company.
During the Great War, the military ordered shoes for the army, and at the end of the war, the company employed over 1000 shoemakers. However, with the end of the war came the recession, and the company struggled. Thanks to Thomas’s clever handling of the business, Bata shoe company grew and expanded to other countries and to other continents.
By the year 1932, the company employed 31 235 workers. The shoes were sold in 54 countries on five continents (Europe, Asia, Africa, North America, and South America).
On July 12th, 1932, Thomas Bata was headed to Möhlin, Switzerland, to open a new factory and to visit his son before he would travel to the USA. His flight was delayed for an hour due to fog. Eight minutes before 6:00 am the plane lifted off, and shortly after the take-off, the plane crashed, killing both Thomas Bata and the pilot.
After his death, Thomas’s half-brother took over the company and managed to grow it into other fields of industry. In honour of Thomas Bata, several memorials were erected in the city of Zlin, the Bata Canal, the Bata Skyscraper, the headquarters of the Bata company.