TOMS- Creating Magic with Shoes

Today’s blog article is a little bit different than the usual. We’re going to be looking at a company that, surprisingly, puts charity before profits and puts people ahead of their bottom line.

That company is TOMS and, while they may appear to be just another “trendy” footwear company like so many on the market today, TOMS recently gave away their 10 million pair of shoes to a needy child. In fact, for every single pair of shoes that they sell, TOMS gives a second pair to a child who doesn’t have shoes. Considering that they’ve already given away 10 million pairs of shoes, you would think that they been in business for ages but in fact they’ve been selling shoes for just under 7 years.

Blake Mycoskie, founder of the TOM’S brand, got the idea to start the company after competing in “The Amazing Race”, the reality TV show, in 2002. It was on a return trip in 2006 that he saw a group of eight workers in the country giving out used shoes to children who had none and were running around the streets barefoot.

Mycoskie was taken aback by the fact that there were so many children running around shoeless, and also by the fact that there were selfless people who were there in the country giving away used shoes to help them. As he puts it, when he saw the joy that these children (and their families) got when they received their shoes, he realized that he wanted to do his part to help.

Starting on that trip he brought back 250 pairs of “alpargata”, a traditional and simple Argentinian shoe. Back home in California he sold all 250 pairs on the boardwalk close to his Venice home. He then went back to Argentina with the profits that he made selling shoes and was able to have enough shoes made to bring back more to sell as well as give a pair to all of the children that he had met on his first trip.

The name TOMS is actually short for “tomorrow’s shoes”, a name that was going to be used until Mycoskie realized that it was too long to fit on the small tag that they were going to attach to every pair of shoes that they sold.

Since those first 250 pairs were sold TOMS has become one of the most popular shoe brands in the United States. As amazing as it is that they’ve done this in just 7 years, there are some other facts about this highly successful and philanthropic company that are even more amazing.

For example, TOMS has absolutely no advertising budget. All of their advertising has been through word-of-mouth and profiles in magazines like Vogue and newspapers like the LA Times.

TOMS has no outside investors, something that founder Mycoskie says allows them to stay focused on their mission and keep their long-term vision intact, something that’s very rare in business today.

Many of the shoes that TOMS gives away are even higher quality than the shoes that they sell in the store. They recently released a boot for children to wear during the cold winters in Argentina as well as an athletic shoe that they’re giving to needy children in the United States.

When someone who has received a donated pair of TOMS shoes grows out of them, they get a replacement pair.

More than 60 countries around the world now sell all TOMS shoes. One of the goals of the company has is to create jobs in the countries where they are donating their shoes and, by the end of 2015, they expect that roughly a third of the shoes they give away will be made in the same country where they are being donated.

Incredibly, one of the newest goals for this 36-year-old philanthropist from Texas is, within the next two years, to give away 10 million more pairs of shoes as well as the secret to his “1 for 1”  business plan.

If you’re an entrepreneur we can’t think of  a better example to follow in your business practices, your mission and your goals, than TOMS.

We hope you enjoyed this blog today and that it’s inspired you as an entrepreneur, and as a person, to go out and do your best in business as well as for your fellow man.

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