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Amancio Ortega: From Railroad Worker To The Founder of Zara

Amancio Ortega: From Railroad Worker To The Founder of Zara
Photo by Highlight ID | Unsplash

Amancio Ortega, the founder of Zara, rose from humble beginnings to become the richest person in the world in 2016, surpassing Bill Gates, who had held the title for two decades. Today, Zara’s parent company, Inditex, is the largest company in Spain with over 7,200 stores worldwide and an annual revenue of 20.4 billion euros. Ortega’s ability to innovate and stay ahead of the curve has made Zara and Inditex a global success story. This article will delve deeper into Ortega’s life, career, and the founding and growth of Zara.

Early Life and Career

Ortega was born in 1936 in a Spanish city called Busdongo de Arbas. He was the youngest of four children and grew up in Toulouse, a municipality in the northern Spanish province of Gipuzkoa. At the age of 13, Ortega began working in a clothing shop in La Coruña, as his father’s job as a rail worker was not enough to support the family. Later, he worked as a delivery boy for a shirt maker business and became an assistant to a draper and tailor. Through these jobs, he learned about the processes and costs of moving clothing and garments between designers, factories, and stores, as well as the value of direct product delivery to customers.

Founding Zara

In the early 1960s, Ortega held a managerial job at a clothing shop, where he realized that only a few could afford the garments in the shop. This led him to tap the opportunity to supply local shops by purchasing cheaper fabrics in Barcelona and working on them by hand. By 1963, the items he made by hand and from cheaper fabrics were supplied to other shops. At the age of 27, he used his savings to set up his first clothing company, which he called Confecciones GOA. This company’s workforce grew to 500 after 10 years since it was founded.

In 1975, Ortega founded Zara and opened its first store in La Coruña, Galicia, which is still present today. Originally, he named this first store Zorba after the 1964 comedy drama film, Zorba the Greek. However, upon learning that a bar had a similar Greek letters, he changed the name and sign of his store to Zara. This new clothing store offered similarly designed, low-priced products of high-end and popular fashion garments and clothes.

Fast Fashion Pioneer

Zara was one of the first brands to embrace the concept known as fast fashion, which involved keeping up with the latest fashion trends and making new clothing lines available to customers within weeks. Ortega’s strategy to create new designs with high-quality stitching within few weeks made Zara far ahead of its top competitors, who were taking at least six months to just catch up to the new trends.

Expansion and Growth

By the early 1980s, Ortega expanded Zara to different cities in Spain. By 1983, the clothing store had become a fixture in many of the prestigious shopping districts in Spain. Likewise, a logistics center for Zara opened in 1984. By 1985, he founded Inditex, which incorporated the factory’s logistics center and clothing stores under a parent company. Inditex also helped in the creation of a distribution system that helped Ortega’s company adapt to different market trends.

Today, Zara’s parent company Inditex is the largest company in Spain with a market capitalization of $70 billion and employs over 162,000 people in its 7,200 stores worldwide. It has an annual revenue of 20.4 billion euros and controls many brands like Zara, Pull&Bear, Bershka, Stradivarius, Oysho, Zara Home, Uterqüe, and Lefties.


In conclusion, Amancio Ortega’s story is a true testament to the power of hard work, determination, and a keen eye for business opportunities. From his humble beginnings as a delivery boy to becoming the richest person in the world, his journey is an inspiration to entrepreneurs and businesspeople around the world. His ability to innovate, adapt, and stay ahead of the curve has made Zara and Inditex a global success story. Amancio’s legacy will continue to inspire future generations to pursue their dreams and strive for success in their endeavours.

Additional Resources

To keep learning and advancing your career, we highly recommend these additional resources:

Richard Branson: The Story of the Virgin Group’s Rise to Success

Carlos Slim: The Mexican Billionaire who Controls Over 200 Companies

Peter Thiel: The Mastermind Behind PayPal and Palantir Technologies

Peter Thiel and the 16 Unicorns: The Legacy of Thiel Fellowship

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