One of my favorite business entrepreneurs, Blake Mycoskie, recently wrote a book called Start Something that Matters. Blake is known not only for his curly locks, but in founding a company called TOMS. TOMS shoes is based on a social business model that relates directly to giving back. With every pair you purchase, TOMS will give a pair of shoes to a child in need. One for One. And if you’ve been under a rock somewhere for the last four or five years One for One has become a movement. I personally own two pairs, my husband has four pairs and our daughter has one pair.
A family that wears TOMS together knows that it has given shoes to another family in need. I love that I am giving to someone through my purchase. It gives a greater purpose to the purchase, more than just me stylin’ in a new pair of kicks.
But what inspires me even more is that Blake’s social business model infuses what capitalism is today with a greater purpose than to just simply make an elite few rich and return value to some investors somewhere. It’s about giving back as much as it is about profitability, because returns are measured not just by what’s left in the bank account at the end of the day but how much has been given from that bank account. Life is not all about taking and getting your own, but it really is about what you can offer someone else to make a difference in their life.
TOMS was started in 2006 with an idea Blake had after visiting Argentina and meeting a lady in a village where 250 kids needed shoes in order to attend school. Blake thought it wouldn’t do any good to just give them a single pair of shoes that they would outgrow in four months, so he developed an idea that would supply these kids with shoes continually so that they could continue to receive an education. Upon his return home he created TOMS to give away a pair of shoes for every one that was sold. Sell a pair of shoes today, give away a pair tomorrow (TOMmorrow Shoes aka TOMS shoes). Blake’s initial lofty goal was to sell 250 pairs of shoes from his Venice apartment, online and at a nearby shop American Rag. That first year he sold 10,000 pairs, by 2010 TOMS had sold 1,000,000 pairs and with a critical mass reached this year, 2011, TOMS has sold more than 2,000,000 pairs since it began in 2006. That is generosity in the realm of multiplication.
But it doesn’t end there. Realizing that the need is greater than footwear TOMS now makes its giving shoes in Argentina and Ethiopia creating jobs in the very places it gives it shoes away. Sitting on this side of the idea with 140 employees, manufacturing on three continents and a mountain of success you may be thinking that you could never achieve a similar impact. But from every end remember the beginning. The beginning was just an idea that was acted upon. In the beginning it was just Blake and three interns running the business out of his apartment with a small achievable goal in their sights. What need do you see around you? What purpose could you apply to fulfilling that need? Start out with a small achievable goal and see what wind blows in your sails and where it takes you. Blake himself espouses the power of starting small. So try taking the first step of your journey today.