Entrepreneurs: The Hippest Cat in France

Airness, the country's hottest sports-apparel brand, got a leg up from an African immigrant with a busted knee

French businessman Malamine Koné is talking a big game. A very big game. The founder and CEO of sportswear maker Airness is explaining his goal of swiftly boosting his company's 2005 predominantly French sales of $150 million to rival those of global giant Nike's $14.7 billion in 2005. Sound a touch fanciful? Don't tell him that. "You know where Puma was five years ago? Deeply troubled," Koné says of the now surging German-American sportswear group, whose sales last year exceeded $2 billion. "And six years ago, Airness scarcely existed. We didn't get this far this fast worrying about what we supposedly can't do."

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