On Oct. 27, Blake Mycoskie, a Texas native, spoke at Jesse Auditorium about how he created his humanitarian business, TOMS Shoes.
Contrary to the assumptions of many, there was no one named Tom involved at the beginning of the business. Mycoskie said TOMS stands for tomorrow; the company operates on the idea that people buy a pair today, give one away tomorrow. The one-for-one movement means that every time a pair of shoes is purchased, a pair is given away to a child in need.
Before Mycoskie’s presentation, a video introduced TOMS Shoes; this can be viewed here. Once Mycoskie stepped on stage, in a pair of TOMS Shoes of course, he spent most of the time explaining how the business started.
He said that the whole idea came about when he decided to take a month-long vacation to Argentina. At that time, he was working in Los Angeles with a couple of business partners to try to persuade California to adopt an online driver’s education course, instead of conducting the course in classrooms. After working on the project, Mycoskie felt the need for a vacation. He went to Argentina because he and his sister had visited there during their time “The Amazing Race,” a reality game show.
After 3 weeks in Argentina, Mycoskie met a small group of English-speakers who were working on a service project collecting shoes from wealthy families in the area and distributing them among less fortunate children. This act of kindness sparked Mycoskie’s interest (his eyes lit up on stage even talking about it) and he decided to take the idea and apply a business model to it.
Before he returned from Argentina, he had 250 pairs of shoes made there. As soon as he returned, he constructed a website and began to go to local Los Angeles stores trying to sell his shoes. Once a store finally agreed to buy 80 pairs of his shoes to sell, the business began to take off.
Now, TOMS Shoes are easily found in department and shoe stores. Mycoskie has given away over 150,000 pairs of shoes and has a goal to give away at least 300,000 pairs of shoes by the end of 2009.
Once done with his story, Mycoskie answered questions from the audience. Here, he said that though he designed the shoes at the beginning, he now has hired designers. He also instructed the audience to text “SHOES” to a phone number for a chance to win a free pair of TOMS and also nine other pairs for nine friends.
If you are interested in designing and decorating your own pair of TOMS, join MU’s One-For-One campus club at 2 p.m. Nov. 19 at Memorial Union.