In 2006, after diligently working at an online drivers education company and finally launching his own software, Blake Mycoskie needed a well deserved break from work, Los Angeles (where he lived), and the hustle and bustle of a consuming, tiring job. So, he packed up and went off to Argentina, a place where three years before, Blake and his sister competed on the show “The Amazing Race.” Blake fell in love with the country and wanted to return to actually have the opportunity to immerse himself in the culture.
One day on his trip, he met these women in a cafe who were doing a local shoe drive for kids in need of shoes to attend school. He tagged along with the women and the experience overwhelmed him with emotion and joy. He thought however, “Who is going to give them their next pair of shoes?” The next morning, Blake had an idea. He wanted to establish a for profit company that used business to address issues in places like Argentina and would provide a continuous supply of shoes to those in need of them. He would call it “One for One.” For every pair of shoes purchased, one pair of shoes would be given back to a person in need.
There were a few problems. Blake knew nothing about shoes. He had to return home to go to work, and now he had to face the harsh reality of starting a business. He did not know what to charge, where to produce the shoes, or who to contact. But, luckily he had met Jose; a shoemaker in Argentina whom Blake would first contact to have his first 250 pairs of shoes made.
Sadly, after not hearing back from any of the people he contacted, Blake felt discouraged, but was relieved when American Rag in L.A. purchased 80 pairs of his shoes. Shortly after, Blake was featured on the cover of the LA Times, and that day sold more shoes than he actually had in stock. Now, in a state of panic, Blake quickly posted ads for much needed interns and returned to Argentina to get more shoes.
|TOMS Red Canvas Women's Classics (www.toms.com)|
As of this point, Blake had sold 10,000 pairs of shoes out of his apartment. It was now time to go back to Argentina to give the shoes back. At the beginning of this whole journey, Blake was looking at it as a fun side project. However, it turned into a life changing, emotional and fulfilling experience.
Over the last few years, TOMS has grown from a small, out of an apartment, three intern “company,” into a 190+ employee, international establishment who has given back almost two million pairs of shoes. Blake has also launched a One for One eyewear line. He has hired employees from big name companies like Nike, and has been featured in magazines such as Time and People.
Although the success of TOMS has brought nothing but positive things to Blake’s life, he has not allowed the success to go to his head. TOMS employees work in a warehouse that doesn’t have air conditioning or heat. He believes a setting like this gives his employees more motivation, allowing them to realize that ultimately, it is just nice to be a part of something.
Blake made a point of emphasizing some major thoughts, as an auditorium of Fordham students were listening intently. One being, giving feels really good, and giving is also really good for business. It attracts amazing people who want to be a part of the giving you are doing. He also said that if you incorporate giving, people want to help you and get involved. Giving is the core, and it just feels really good. That really is the only reason to do it, because of the feeling it bestows back upon the giver.
Blake and his story were truly inspirational to hear, and the passion in his voice and the way he has changed and impacted so many lives is truly admirable. On September 6, 2011, the day Blake came to Fordham to speak, his book “Start Something That Matters,” was launched. It includes the stories of people who have ultimately done what Blake has done; started something that matters.
For more information on TOMS shoes, visit www.toms.com
Alex Casolaro is currently a sophomore at Fordham University and is a Communications and Media Studies major. Alex is completely enticed with the fashion world and living in New York City has only inspired her more to pursue a career in the fashion industry. She is greatly influenced by photographing and documenting street style and keeping tabs on the happenings of the fashion industry locally and globally. Check out some of her posts at fordhamffp.blogspot.com.