Buy one, Give One Free: TOMS Shoes

Blake Mycoskie TOMS is not a person like the rest of us, it's the abridged version of tomorrow's idea. Blake Mycoskie's idea that every child should have a pair of shoes.

In his keynote at SxSW, Blake shared with us his simple goal inspired on a trip to Argentina and born out of a story.

In 2006, when traveling in Argentina, Blake befriended children and found they had no shoes to protect their feet.

Wanting to help, he created TOMS Shoes, a company that would match every pair of shoes purchased with a pair of new shoes given to a child in need. One for One.

Blake returned to Argentina with a group of family, friends and staff later that year with 10,000 pairs of shoes made possible by TOMS customers.

The idea: incorporate giving into the business, and make it 1 to 1.

The influential factor: people want to be part of something greater.

The results: 1MM shoes given.

Seen through a girl's eyes

Imagine you're at an airport in the process of checking in for your flight and notice a girl wearing a red pair of shoes — the shoes you make. Except for that girl they're not just a pair of shoes, they're a story. One she's ready to tell a stranger while he's trying to get a boarding pass.

This is exactly what happened to Blake. He pretended he knew nothing about the brand and asked the girl what the shoes were. She related his story back to him enthusiastically. “She knew my whole story,” he said to the packed auditorium.

After hearing such passion in her telling, he could not resist and revealed his identity to the girl. She opened her eyes very wide and exclaimed: Why did you cut your hair?

People remember. And when a message is a mission, they will tell your story to anyone who will hear it — even a stranger at an airport. And by doing that, they become your strongest advocates in marketing your product.

Giving as business model

There is tremendous energy and beauty wrapped around giving. Incorporating giving in your business attracts the most amazing people and opportunities. Because you allow your employees and partners to be part of something meaningful.

One example of giving in organizations is allowing employees to take one day off to volunteer for a cause. Something magical happens when people start serving together — they forget about all the stress and their office problems. Because they are working on some other problem.

In addition to attracting the interest of mainstream media starting with Vogue, Time and People magazine, TOMS Shoes attracted prestigious partners.

Ralph Lauren, who had not partnered with anyone for 40 years, joined in with TOMS Shoes for the rugby brand. The ad agency working with AT&T created a commercial to tell the “authentic story” of how Blake used their network to stay in touch and work on the go

What's Next for TOM(orrow)S Shoes?

Blake has known the answer since 2007 when he was in South Africa for a shoe drop. He will unveil the project June 7, 2011. “The truth is what’s inside this box is not nearly as important as what is represents,” he said “TOMS is no longer a shoe company, it's a one-for-one company.” One thing is for sure, Blake Mycoskie has already had a significant role in influencing many lives.

The lesson: influence is given.

[Blake Mycoskie standing next to his next project at SxSW 2011]


If you enjoyed this post from Conversation Agent, subscribe, share and like it.