TOMS Shoes is not your average shoe company. It was founded in 2006 when American traveler Blake Mycoski befriended children in Argentina and found they had no shoes. He was so compelled by this that he started TOMS shoes with the intent of providing shoes for children in need. So TOMS gives a pair of new shoes to a child in need for every pair of shoes purchased. TOMS’ One for One movement is not just a marketing campaign; it is the foundation of the entire company. As of September 2010, TOMS has given over one million pairs of new shoes to children in need.
TOMS is a model of a rapidly emerging new form of business I call hybrid enterprise. It combines the mission of a non-profit with the discipline of a business and the agility of entrepreneurship. This is not another consumer business that has taken on a cause. Rather it’s a cause turned into a business. And that changes everything. The strategy, the brand and the potent energy of a higher motive attracts resources, talent and customers.
Also unique to TOMS is how they involve members of the TOMS family and other volunteers to participate in the actual giving process. Shoe Drops are a unique program where TOMS invites volunteers and other members of the TOMS family to go for about one week to a country where their Giving Partners are giving their shoes. Shoe Drop participants have the powerful experience of hand-placing shoes on children’s feet and engaging with a different and new culture.
And this is about more than just a trip. It’s about impact. Their hope at TOMS is that those who come with use on these trips will return home with a renewed sense of commitment to influencing their world for good. After returning from their Shoe Drop, some of our alumni have gone on to start non-profit organizations, helping communities worldwide, traveling the world with organizations like Peace Corps, and have even started programs within their existing jobs that help integrate service and global awareness into their company’s daily operation.
Also, to bring more awareness to this issue, TOMS sponsors “A Day Without Shoes,” a yearly worldwide event in which over 250,000 people went without shoes in 2010.
In 2011, the company branched into another “get one, give one” product campaign. TOMS Eyewear, like the shoes that came before it, provides for a child’s needs with every pair of frames sold–this time, though, the gift is prescription glasses or sight-saving surgery. This new arm introduced an emphasis shift of the TOMS brand, from being a shoe company to a “One to One” company.
One of TOMS “products” is turning out to be their business model. They have started TOMS Campus Clubs to spur social entrepreneurship and hybrid enterprise at colleges. The power of entrepreneurship to change the world is a powerful message to the next generation of leaders, and TOMS is mentoring that energy.
TOMS business model has gained them a lot of attention and TOMS has enjoyed rapid success. They made $9.6 million in revenue their second year! In addition, in 2010 TOMS was number 6 on Fast Company’s Top 10 Retailers List. Mycoski is very open about the fact that even though his purpose is to give, it’s still very important to him that he runs a very successful and profitable business. It turns out that not only are these goals compatible, they also amplify the positive impact of both the mission and the business.
Unsurprisingly, the TOMS ethic is spreading. Both new and existing apparel companies are launching their own “get one, give one” campaigns. It looks like in the fashion world, generosity may soon be “the new black.”
GIVING IS WINNING: TOMS SHOES