Is it fair to say that was an unusual design in
the shoe market?
BM: Definitely in the U.S. and Europe,
but farmers in Argentina have been wearing
their version of this shoe for a very long time.
So, I just took an existing shoe that they’ve
been wearing and I created a better version of
it. I put a rubber sole on it. I put arch support
in the inside. I used softer materials. I only
took something that existed and made it better, and I think that, from a design standpoint, is something for entrepreneurs to
think about as well.
into that idea, then they shouldn’t buy our
shoes in the first place.
business that can sustain the giving, then I
can feel comfortable that these kids will get
the shoes that they need, over and over again.
That really was the aha moment for me.
Most people look at problems in the Third
CC: What were some of the major obstacles
when you were trying to launch TOMS Shoes?
BM: Definitely production. And it continues to be a challenge. Because I didn’t have any
My advice to budding entrepreneurs
is, don’t try to be an entrepreneur,
try to identify the problems in the
world that you want to solve.
World and one word comes to mind: charity.
But for me the word “entrepreneurship” came
to mind. And that’s why I started TOMS as a
for-profit business with our one-for-one
model. I knew if we could get people to buy
our shoes, and continue to buy our shoes,
that I could sustain the giving and that would
solve the issue that I saw there.
26 ;e Costco Connection SEPTEMBER 2010
CC: How did you get your “One for One”
message across to customers in the beginning?
BM: Just look at the box. Inside the shoe
it says that with every pair of shoes you purchase you also give a new pair of shoes to a
child in need, one for one. There’s a picture of
me giving shoes away on the box. It’s all over
our website. We just kept driving the message
home: You’re not just buying shoes; you’re
also helping another person get a pair of
shoes, one for one.
I started TOMS as a spontaneous
response to help kids. It wasn’t like I had a
shoe company and then decided to help kids.
If that had been the case, our pricing would
probably be very different. I said, “How
much money do I need to charge so that I can
give a pair of shoes away and have an office,
hire people and grow this movement.” And
that’s where I came up with the price. It’s
really that simple. Yes, they are more expen-
sive because I want to give shoes away, but
that was the whole model. If people can’t buy
experience in shoes. Anyone who reads this
article, I hope they get inspired by the fact that
you don’t need experience. Sometimes not
having experience is the greatest thing in the
world. If you have experience, you’ve already
heard that you can’t do it this way, and you
can’t do it that way, but with no experience you
just do it your way.
CC: This kind of shoe, alpargatas, is based
on the type of shoes you saw people wearing in
Argentina when you conceived TOMS Shoes.
SHOES ARE ALMOST a side note of
the TOMS Shoes business model.
Company founder Blake Mycoskie
says TOMS has inspired many other
companies—some well established,
some start-ups—to adopt their “One
for One” business model, or a variation of it, into their operations. Twins
for Peace (
another shoe company, has adopted
TOMS’ “One for One” policy with its
shoes. Booda Brand (
brand.com), a children’s clothing company, donates one book to a child in
need with every purchase through
the organization Room to Read (www.
roomtoread.org). Eyewear company
Warby Parker (www.warbyparker.
com) partners with renowned nonprofits, such as RestoringVision.org,
to deliver one pair of glasses to someone in need for every pair that it sells.
Mycoskie hopes this is just the
beginning of a new way of doing
“As an entrepreneur, I always
wanted to incorporate giving some-
how in my business, but never could
find the right way to do so,” he
explains. “TOMS allows me to mix my
two passions, business and philan-
thropy, and prove that they are no
longer mutually exclusive. I only hope
to inspire others to do the same: find
their passion and pursue it.”
On April 8, 2008, TOMS launched
its “One Day Without Shoes” event,
an annual campaign during which
TOMS asks people to go without
shoes for one day in April to raise
awareness of children growing up
barefoot and the impact a pair of
shoes can have on a child’s life. The
event gains momentum each year.