Blake Mycoskie of TOMS shoes

Posted on August 10, 2010


Acknowledged as one of today’s most dynamic serial entrepreneurs, Blake Mycoskie launched five successful companies before the age of 30. He is best known as the founder and “chief shoe giver” of TOMS shoes, a for-profit company with a unique social enterprise model that has drawn tremendous media attention. Providing a new pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair sold, they have distributed more than 400,000 pairs of shoes to children around the world to date. Darren Whitehead, teaching pastor at Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois, interviewed Mycoskie on leading organizations with a cause and navigating the start-up phase of an organization.

Why did you get into the shoe business?

  • I wasn’t trying to get into the shoe business.
  • He encountered people doing a shoe drive in Argentina.
  • He was touched by it but didn’t see it as being a sustainable model.
  • He wanted to do something to help people but didn’t want to start a charity.
  • Instead of looking to charity for help, he wanted to go to business.
  • That’s where the idea of one-to-one began.

How important is the word “give” to TOMS?

  • TOMS was started as a spontaneous response to want to give.
  • Giving feels amazing.
  • Giving not only feels good, but it’s also a good business strategy.
  • Giving is a good life strategy.
  • All we have to do at TOMS is focus on giving.
  • If we focus on giving in a sustainable and authentic way, our customers take care of the marketing.

What are your company’s distinctives?

  • We encourage our employees to be a part of giving.
  • Employees are actively engaged in the process of giving.
  • Giving has a transformative effect.
  • When people start serving they forget about their own problems.
  • When you include giving and service into your organization, there is a strong transforming effect.

You seem to have a non-profit culture being a for-profit company. Why not be a non-profit?

  • 8 months into TOMS Blake sold an online educational company he owned and took the profit and invested it in TOMS.
  • With that money he could have purchased 40K pairs of shoes.
  • They’ve had no other investments since then.
  • They’ve helped 680K children get shoes as a result.
  • Being for-profit they’ve been able to help more children and it’s continued to be more sustainable.

Earlier this year TOMS did a “One Day Without Shoes” campaign… how did you do it?

  • 250,000 people participated in One Day Without Shoes.
  • It started amazing conversations and didn’t cost anything.
  • They got passionate people involved who respond in a huge way.
  • Microsoft and other large organizations got involved.

What was it like when you first came up with the idea for TOMS?

  • It was just an idea. He was running another business at the time.
  • When it became more than an idea was when he went on his first shoe drop.
  • It changed his life.

TOMS has captured younger generations. What has grabbed their attention and created their loyalty?

  • Young people want to have a voice and want to do something that matters.
  • They have the passion but it isn’t always easy.
  • TOMS makes it easy for them to act and do something that matters.
  • They give them an opportunity to show people what matters to them.
  • It’s a beginning for much greater things they are going to do in their lives to come.

As you look at the past four years,  you’ve had some strategic partnerships. Why are those important?

  • TOMS gives people an authentic story to tell.

How important is asking people to do audacious things?

  • You have to do it.
  • If you really want to do something or create change you have to ask people to join you.
  • People enjoy giving because it allows them to be a part of the journey.
  • You can’t be bashful if you want to make change.

How has your faith impacted TOMS?

  • TOMS illustrates many biblical principles.
  • We didn’t start a shoe company to make money then give.
  • We started a business to start giving.
  • They gave their “first-fruits.”

What would you say to other young leaders?

  • Come join us
  • We need fantastic people to get us from HERE to THERE!
  • It’s never too early to start giving and start serving.
  • It’s better to start now than waiting til later.

How can church leaders get involved?

  • April 5, 2011 is the next One Day Without Shoes
  • It doesn’t cost anything but the difference you can make is HUGE.
  • That will not only raise awareness but it will start transformative conversations.
  • Learn more by going to TOMS Shoes website.

Special thanks to for the stellar notes

Posted in: Creative Leaders