Oscar Farinetti, founder of the high-end Italian food store Eataly – named as one of the top 50 most innovative companies in the world by Fast Company magazine – believes in challenging conventional wisdom when it comes to spotting opportunities for innovation in traditional industries.
Before starting Eataly, Farinetti ran UniEuro, a retail business started by his father which he transformed into one of the largest electronics retailers in Italy. His encore to UniEuro is international sensation Eataly. With a focus on high-quality, locally-sourced products, Eataly stores are a combination of restaurant and retail experiences, brought together in spaces inspired by traditional European food markets. Eataly creates a story that resonates with clients by thinking locally when taking his product globally. He cites harmony, creativity and respect for other people as principles for business today and as instrumental for his success in taking his product out of its home market.
He summed up this philosophy with a simple phrase, “To enjoy better, I must learn.” He explained that this means when people feel connected with his product, when they know the ingredients and the history of the farms and recipes, people connect, appreciate and enjoy much more. When people feel connected to your business and when they feel your business is important to the community, success will follow.
Every business wants to make money. That is natural but cannot be the goal of a business. For Farinetti, it is important that there be greater purpose. For him it starts with people. “First is to create work for the people.” It is obligatory for entrepreneurs to make jobs for people. “Second is to retain place for the people.” There are plenty of empty or underutilized buildings in the world that should be refitted before we cover the planet with new ones. “Third is to celebrate diversity.” Coming from a country with great biodiversity, Farinetti encourages diversity in his product, believing understanding is necessary for enjoyment. “Fourth is to help more people to eat better.” People are healthier and happier when they eat good food. A common theme in his business philosophy reflects his personal belief that it is possible for everyone to work for a better world, with an awareness of people and planet, no matter what industry they may be in.
“All starts and finishes with change. Change is the core and life of the company,” said Farinetti. Change is how to avoid decline. Being open to change starts with understanding your own business and being open to the good ideas around you that may be adapted to your business. Be curious and humble. “Copying is not imitation. It is necessary for innovation, to listen” said Farinetti. He stressed humility is very important; without humility the mind is closed to possibilities that others have already initiated. Copying another’s ideas within your business is showing humility. It is an acknowledgment that others may know more or think differently than you do, and sometimes it is better. With that viewpoint, he is not a fan of business chains. They are not humble and lack an awareness of the people, especially at a local level. For Farinetti, there is not room there for differences and local character.
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