The T. & A. Baťa Shoe Company was founded on 24 August 1894 in the Moravian town of Zlín, Austria-Hungary (today the Czech Republic) by Tomáš Baťa (Czech: [ˈtomaːʃ ˈbaca]), his brother Antonín and his sister Anna, whose family had been cobblers for generations. The company employed 10 full-time employees with a fixed work schedule and a regular weekly wage, a rare find in its time. In the summer of 1895, Tomáš was facing financial difficulties. To overcome these setbacks, he decided to sew shoes from canvas instead of leather. This type of shoe became very popular and helped the company grow to 50 employees. Four years later, Bata installed its first steam-driven machines, beginning a period of rapid modernization. In 1904, Tomáš read a newspaper article about some machines being made in America. Therefore, he took three workers and journeyed to Lynn, a shoemaking city outside Boston, in order to study and understand the American system of mass production. After six months he returned to Zlin and he introduced mechanized production techniques that allowed the Bata Shoe Company to become one of the first mass producers of shoes in Europe. Its first mass product, the “Batovky,” was a leather and textile shoe for working people that was notable for its simplicity, style, light weight and affordable price. Its success helped fuel the company’s growth. After Antonin’s death in 1908, Tomáš brought two of his younger brothers, Jan and Bohuš, into the business. Initial export sales and the first ever sales agencies began in Germany in 1909, followed by the Balkans and the Middle East. Bata shoes were considered to be excellent quality, and were available in more styles than had ever been offered before. By 1912, Bata was employing 600+ full-time workers, plus another several hundred who worked out of their homes in neighboring villages.
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