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TOMS: Changing the world one shoe at a time

15th March 2010

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Blake Mycoskie has something all students desire. It is something we are all seeking, all desperately trying to acquire. What he helps make us more rounded individuals, helps us lead better lives, and helps us achieve our goals.toms logo

Blake has an immensely successful company that simultaneously makes money while helping those less fortunate. He has a contacts book that includes Ralph Lauren, Charlize Theron and the Clintons. He has also dated actress Maggie Grace of Lost fame.

While we may desire all those things, he has something even more precious: Blake Mycoskie has life experience. Blake has that elusive, intangible attribute we are all seeking. He's been all over the world, immersed himself in all kinds of activites and truly lived life as best he could.

Blake has already started five successful businesses, including his current venture, TOMS shoes.

Before this, he was a professional tennis player until an achillies tendon injury ended this at just 19 years old. Since then, he has travelled all over the globe, particularly when taking part in the American show 'The Amazing Race', where he finished only four minutes away from winning $1million.

Blake has life experience in abundance. Despite this, he still found time to play competitive polo, learn to sail and volunteer with underprivileged children while holidaying in Argentina. While there, Blake conceived the idea of TOMS. Apparently Auguste Rodin was right when he said "Nothing is a waste of time if you use the experience wisely".
Blake used his experiences in Argentina very wisely. Noticing how few of the children had effective footwear, he sought to change this by developing a business model that would provide sustainable and continuous aid to the children.

He said: "While in Argentina I went on a shoe drive, collecting used shoes to give to children. It was beautiful helping kids go to school. What I didn't like was that it was all dependent on donations and charity. I didn't want to write a cheque, I wanted to sustain the giving."

Based on the Argentinian shoe alpargatas, he created a functional shoe with a unique slip on design comprised of clean lines and lightweight fabrics. With the design complete, TOMS shoes was born, based on a very simple premise: one for one, for every pair of TOMS that someone buys, a pair will be donated to poverty-stricken children. Blake commented on the inspiration behind the company: "When visiting the children, I was so overwhelmed by the spirit of the South American people, especially those who had so little. I was instantly struck with the desire- the responsibility- to do more."

He added: "Having started my first company at 19 in college, I started being around successful business people. My mentors gave a lot of money back, and I was so inspired by them using their wealth to create a better world. But, they did it later in their lives at 60 and 70, so part of what influenced me was I realised I could start giving back in my 30's rather than my 60's."

So far TOMS has been a huge success, allowing Blake, who takes the role of 'Chief Shoe Giver' rather than CEO, to donate over 400,000 shoes to children in Argentina, South Africa and beyond since TOM's began in 2006.

On the company's success, Blake said: "It's been hard to believe. Originally my goal was only to help 250. I've had so many memorable moments, from giving 50,000 shoes to children in South Africa to getting a call from Hilary Clinton's office."

Despite TOM's success, the company has never spent any money on advertising, which is part of the reason they are able to donate so many shoes to children while remaining profitable. Their word of mouth approach benefits greatly from their innovative marketing campaigns, including 'One Day Without Shoes', which is scheduled for April 8 this year.

On this day, people across the world are invited to go barefoot to help promote TOM's message. Last year, everyone from university students to lawyers on Wall Street took part in the event, and Blake hopes for an even bigger turnout this year: "Every time we donate shoes is special, its not something you experience and then it loses its significance, and I hope we can donate even more this year with the help of the 'One Day Without Shoes'. I read a quote once that said something along the lines of, 'if you're aware of an injustice and don't do anything about it, you're an oppressor like everyone else. If you can help and don't, you're disrespecting that persons life."

He added: "You might be a student and not able to buy the shoes, but you can send a Facebook message and help us raise awareness. If you can participate by buying the shoes then great, but if not, you can still help spread the word."

To purchase a pair of TOM's shoes, or to find out more about Blake and his company visit

The National Student will also be helping to promote TOM's 'One Day Without Shoes' via Facebook, found at this link:

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