While competing on the second season of The Amazing Race with his sister, Blake Mycoskie, a handsome 30 something entrepreneur from Arlington, Texas had a spark for an idea that would take Social entrepreneurship into the realm of fashion accessories.
He returned there on vacation in January 2006 and had the idea to develop a shoe company where for every pair sold, a new pair would be given to a child in need. TOMS was born with a humble shoe and a willingness to give back to the place the idea came from.
For every pair of TOMS Shoes purchased, a pair of new shoes is given to a child in need. Over 1,000,000 pairs of shoes have been given to children under the One for One program since TOMS launched in 2006. The canvas shoes have been given to children in more than 20 countries worldwide, including the United States (Louisiana, Kentucky, Mississippi and Florida), Argentina, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Guatemala, Haiti, and South Africa. TOMS are sold today in more than 500 stores nationwide and internationally, including Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, and Whole Foods Market, which features styles made from recycled materials. Social Business has come of age indeed…Now if we could only do the same for Oil companies…
Blake who with his rugged boho good looks that make him a media darling for the “Entrepreneur with a heart and a conscience” movement of today: (think Matthew McConaughey with a bit more accessibility); once said of his revelation: ”I was sitting on a farm pondering life, and it occurred to me, ‘I’m going to start a shoe company, and for every pair that we sell, I’ll give a pair to someone who needs them.’”
The red sea did not exactly open but more than a million shoes sold Worldwide, recognition from business and philanthropic luminaries including Bill Clinton and Bill Gates.
A few awards: one handed to him by Secretary of State Hilary Clinton (2009 Awards for Corporate Excellence in Washington, D.C.)
Throw in a few celebrity friends like Cindy Crawford, Rachel Bilson, Jack Johnson and Miley Cyrus helping Blake celebrate his latest One Day Without Shoes with a barefoot walk near the TOMS office in Santa Monica last week. And quicker than you can say Muhammad Yunus; you have the new Poster hunk for the Social business model of today: Heart, good looks and sex appeal mixed in with a sense of what people want and are willing to pay for.
More Indiana Jones than corporate CEO, he travels the globe on TOMS’s “shoe drops,” in which he and a team distribute footwear to kids in underprivileged areas in South Africa, Haiti, Rwanda, Cambodia and elsewhere. Back at home, he lives on a boat docked in Marina del Rey….
“I was so overwhelmed by the spirit of the South American people, especially those who had so little,” Mycoskie said. “And I was instantly struck with the desire — the responsibility — to do more.”
And so the One for One marketing moniker is borne, living every Mad Man worth his Brooks brother suit and Rolex watch chocking in a trail of Pampas dust…
At the heart of the company products that is now branching out in Eyewear…although I don’t expect to see many Argentinian children walking around in roused color lenses framed in turquoise shell…is the traditional Argentine alpargata shoe we also know as Espadrilles… So Blake quickly set out to reinvent the alpargata for the U.S. market with a simple goal: to show how together, we can create a better tomorrow by taking compassionate action today.
In came the colors, the cool prints, glitter and all the accoutrements that a hip urban boho chic fashionista thirsts for when choosing the most confortable shoe to put on his or her feet for the “ I got to do the Saturday morning Flea market run”
Young people started the TOMS movement, and they continue to be a huge driving force as well as fervent supporters of the brand. To keep their thumb on the pulse of the movement, many TOMS supporters stay connected with the active TOMS Community on Facebook and Twitter.
In truth, enthusiastic college students and not necessarily celebrities hungry for photo ops were also responsible for getting the first One Day without Shoes off the ground in 2008. In 2010, over a quarter of a million people went barefoot and over 1600 barefoot events took place globally.
So all kidding aside this is a movement that has legs: Organic, real and all the way happening….
Blake, Mr. Mycoskie to you buddy….is taking his prescription for success to print with his recently published book, “Start Something That Matters” (Random House).
Here is what he had to say pay attentions young entrepreneurs of tomorrow…
Why did you decide to write this book now?
After creating the journey we’ve gone on with Toms for the past five years, I’ve
learned so much not only from a business perspective, but the great joy
you get from making giving a huge component of your business, and also how giving
is good for business. More people are giving in business. It’s not as mutually exclusive
as it was in the past. The thing that I started realizing is, because of Toms I’ve met these amazing social entrepreneurs. I wanted
to use the lessons and their stories along with the Toms story to
create a handbook, if you will, for people who want to start something.
How did you choose these specific people (Zappos founder Tony Hseih, FEED Projects founder Lauren Bush, method cofounder Eric Ryan, charity: water founder Scott Harrison, and 4-Hour Workweek author Tim Ferris)?
I looked at 20 to 30 people that I knew. By understanding
their stories and their business models, I tried to plug them into chapters
that made sense. So if one chapter was about building trust, I looked at someone like Tony Hseih of Zappos
and the transparency that Tony has and how that builds so much trust
among the staff. The nice thing about writing it this way was that these were people I had met on the Toms journey.
Do you have any favorite anecdotes from the book?
I tell the story where I realized the importance of shoes in this woman’s
life–she had three children and they were all sharing one pair of
shoes. She explained to me that because of the shoes that we gave her, all three kids
could go to school every day. That was more of a really personal
anecdote for me. From a purely business standpoint, there was a time I was in the airport and I saw
a girl wearing Toms shoes. I asked her about her shoes, and she went on to tell me
this amazing story about Toms and the model that it uses and my
personal story. I realized the importance of having a story today is
what really separates companies. People don’t just wear our shoes, they tell our story. That’s one of my favorite lessons that I learned early on.
Would you say that has been true with the other entrepreneurs you write about?
Yes, more so with some. With the two guys who started Method soap, they were actually really dirty. They lived in San Francisco, and their girlfriends always complained that the apartment was a pigsty. So they looked at the cleaning products they had, and they had
all these chemicals that weren’t good for your health. The irony of their story got them a lot of media attention in early days, and it set them apart from the P&G’s in the world.
And you’re doing a one-for-one program with the book, right?
We had 12 publishers interested in the book, and Random House as part of their proposal
offered to keep the one-for-one model. For every book we sell, we will be giving
a child in need a book as well. I also wanted to find a way to help give back to the entrepreneur community. So I’ve looked at two ways that I can help people: I can share the knowledge I’ve gained, and the other thing is I can help financially. I told the publisher that I would take 50% of the proceeds from the book and it give back to readers. At Start Something That Matters, we have applications for grants, and we will be giving grants away once the book is on sale.
What kind of grants are you offering?
We’re looking for people who want to start something that has a social component
to it, whether it’s a small one-day community project or a new business
idea, or something they want to incorporate into an existing business. It could be anything from a
$10,000 to a $100,000 grant. A lot of it just depends on how many books we
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