Since founding ethical footwear company Toms, chief executive officer Blake Mycoskie has donated over ten million pairs of shoes to children in need through an innovative ‘One for One’ campaign that has received widespread recognition and a dedicated global following.
The for-profit company, launched in 2006, currently earns an estimated $250 million in annual revenues, having extended its product range to include eyewear, providing essential eyecare for each pair of eyewear sold. A pioneer of social entrepreneurship, Mycoskie’s philanthropy and business model earned him the 2009 Award of Corporate Excellence by then US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.
The inspiration for Toms came when Mycoskie was touring around Argentina in early 2006, following a day spent volunteering at a local non-profit organisation in Buenos Aires. Working from a traditional Argentinean slip-on shoe, Mycoskie built a prototype and set an initial goal to donate shoes to 250 children by selling stock in small local boutiques and stores in Los Angeles. By 2010, shoe sales had reached over 1 million pairs and they were stocked in all major retailers. Despite eschewing traditional forms of advertising, Toms also quickly garnered a strong fan following, currently boasting over 2 million followers on social media sites.
A serial entrepreneur, Mycoskie established his first business in the mid-nineties with EZ Laundry, a door-to-door campus laundry service for students, as a freshman at Southern Methodist University. Following his graduation Mycoskie relocated to Nashville in 1999 where, inspired by the booming billboard industry, he set up his own outdoor media company, Mycoskie Media, securing prominent billboards around the city.
In 2002, having sold the business to industry giant Clear Channel, Mycoskie took part in the reality TV show ‘The Amazing Race’ with his sister Paige, finishing just shy of winning the grand prize of $1 million. Mycoskie pooled his resources with his sister to launch ‘Reality 24/7’, an all-access TV channel providing non-stop coverage of reality TV shows. The duo had secured over $2 million in funding and signed up contestants for promotional shoots when media mogul Rupert Murdoch launched Fox Reality Channel, causing Mycoskie to lose prime advertisers.
Actively engaged with NGOs and a frequent guest at global conferences on philanthropy, Mycoskie also plays a pivotal role in promoting social entrepreneurship start-ups. Along with providing one book for each purchased copy of his first book, Start Something That Matters, Mycoskie also offered 50 percent of royalties to provide grants for up-and-coming businesses, increasing the donation to 100 percent in 2012.