TOMS’s founder starts a movement

Posted By Admin October 4th, 2011 in Features : 0 COMMENTS

Kacie Kyne
Features Editor

Blake Mycoskie looks like a rock star, and though nothing has been said of his musical talents, his stardom can hardly be questioned. The founder of TOMS shoes, Mycoskie has created a new business model in order to give sustainably. He wants his message to be as ubiquitous as the shoe. “We want [people] to recognize that small actions can make a big difference,” he said. Ultimately, TOMS hopes to “inspire people to think about their actions and purchases” and their impacts.

Mycoskie is something of a poster boy for this kind of conscientious living. He became inspired to start TOMS after meeting volunteers on a shoe drop in Argentina. “I thought it would be a fun use of 24 hours of my life, not realizing it would be the rest of my life,” he commented. In its five years of existence, TOMS has given away over two million pairs of shoes. Mycoskie is a prime example of the power of one person’s inspiration and initiative.

TOMS is founded on a business model called “one for one.” Per this model, every item purchased is mirrored in an item given. It’s simple: buy a pair of shoes, and an underprivileged child gets a pair. The name TOMS is a shortening of the phrase “tomorrow’s shoes,” meaning the consumer buys a pair today and a child gets a pair tomorrow.

Though TOMS is most famous for their shoes, they also launched a sunglasses line in June. Not only can a pair of shades cover a set of eyeglasses, but they could also pay for an eye surgery. Mycoskie’s business, however, is not about give-and-go; they work through nongovernmental organizations to stay with the kids in the villages, giving them new shoes multiple times a year as their shoes wear out. Furthermore, their distributing department makes sure that their giving will not upset the local infrastructure.

TOMS shoes are only distributed in areas too impoverished to afford shoes or too rural to have access to them. “We are very careful we never disrupt a local market in giving shoes,” Mycoskie said.

Part of TOMS’s financial success comes from their decision to avoid traditional advertising. “Our customers become our marketers,” said Mycoskie. Through Facebook, word of mouth and the use of their logo on stickers and bags, the TOMS label has become popular without ever hiring a professional athlete to promote it. But Mycoskie hopes that TOMS wearers’ only action is not furthering his business.

He says TOMS is dedicated to encouraging their consumers to get active. While he admitted it is not practical for everyone to start a philanthropic business, he said, “What is practical is to commit to something that brings meaning to your life … That is what we’re hoping to inspire.”

Perhaps this can all be summed up in the title of Mycoskie’s book, which was released in September, called “Start Something that Matters.”

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