TOMS founder Mycoskie comes to SHU
On Tuesday, Nov. 17, entrepreneur Blake Mycoskie, founder of TOMS Shoes, Inc. spoke to Sacred Heart students and the greater Fairfield community about "The New Rules for Tomorrow's Business: A Student's Guide to Making a Difference in the World."
Mycoskie began TOMS with a promise "to give a pair of new shoes to children in need around the world with every pair sold," according to a SHU press release. "The One for One business model has encouraged conscientious consumers to purchase and give more than 150,000 pairs of new shoes to children in need in just three years." By the end of 2009, he aims to double that number.
Now, Mycoskie's model "is redefining social entrepreneurship for a new generation."
Mycoskie told the Fairfield Citizen that the idea for his business came to him in 2006 when he was traveling in Argentina on vacation. "I...met some community workers who were holding a shoe drive," he recalled. "I came across so many children who did not have shoes...I had the idea to start a shoe company that would serve as a sustainable way of giving. With every pair purchased, TOMS gives a pair of new shoes to children. One for One."
As tomsshoes.com relates, "Blake returned to Argentina with a group of family, friends and staff later that year  with 10,000 pairs of shoes made possible by caring TOMS customers."
When asked why he chose shoes of all things to donate, Mycoskie says, "Most children in developing countries grow up barefoot. Whether at play, doing chores or just getting around, these children are at risk. Walking is often the primary mode of transportation in developing countries. Children can walk for miles to get food, water, shelter and medical help. Wearing shoes literally enables them to walk distances that aren't possible barefoot."
Shoes also protect these kids from getting cut, their wounds often becoming infected with soil-transmitted parasites. "Wearing shoes can prevent this and the risk of amputation," Mycoskie's Web site notes.
Furthermore, a child's education can become affected by a lack of footwear. "Many times children can't attend school barefoot because shoes are a required part of their uniform," tomsshoes.com states. "If they don't have shoes, they don't go to school. If they don't receive an education, they don't have the opportunity to realize their potential.
While some may question why TOMS is a for-profit company as opposed to a non-profit, Mycoskie explained, "If I had created a non-profit, we would have been able to give shoes once, or maybe twice, but by developing this One for One model, we have been able to return to these communities and other areas across the world with shoes for children in need."
His idea to "create shoes for tomorrow" lent itself to the name of the company: "`Tomorrow's shoes' wouldn't fit on the tag," Mycoskie said, "so I decided to shorten it to `TOMS Shoes.'"
With a background in media and technology, Mycoskie had to employ the help and expertise of shoemakers to get TOMS off the ground. Now going on four years, this man's seed of an idea has changed the lives of hundreds of thousands of children around the world.
Once enough shoes had been purchased to plan the first "shoe drop," Mycoskie teamed up with local non-governmental organizations in South America and Africa, as well as the United States itself.
As Mycoskie himself explained, "TOMS works with local NGO's to identify key areas where shoe are most needed and help distribute shoes around the world and Friends of TOMS, the non-profit arm of TOMS, coordinates volunteer Shoe Drops to Argentina, the United States, and Africa."
In his talk at SHU, Mycoskie shared his success story in the hope that "I will inspire students to find their true passion and maybe even start their own business," he said. "I want people to know that you can have a for-profit business and simultaneously make a positive impact on the world."
For those of us who want to change the world in some way, shape or form, Mycoskie recommended "incorporat[ing] giving in what you do. There is no greater feeling than knowing that you've helped someone in need. Create a company you're excited about. Be passionate about what you are trying to accomplish and never lose sight of the bigger picture. Take my word for it -- do this, and you'll never look back or want to work for anyone else."
Encompassing Mycoskie's goal of altruism to the needy, tickets to his SHU event cost two canned goods, all of which will be donated to area shelters.