It’s a bit surprising to see that Blake Mycoskie repeatedly invokes such a hoary old self-help slogan. But there it is, in foot-high, wooden letters on an upstairs landing at the Los Angeles headquarters of his shoe and accessories company, Toms. There it is again, in a painting on the wall of his office/man cave. And you’ll find him repeating it several times in his book, Start Something That Matters.
If there’s anyone who can make a case for seizing the day, it’s Mycoskie. He has done it repeatedly and successfully over the past seven years, orchestrating Toms’s rise into the top flight of fashion and establishing it as a new kind of business. More than any other brand, Toms has integrated old-fashioned, for-profit entrepreneurship with new-wave, bleeding-heart philanthropy, bonding moneymaking and giving in an unprecedented manner. The company has become so closely identified with giving away a pair of shoes replica to sale a poor child for every pair sold–Toms has trademarked the tagline “one for one”–that it’s often mistaken for a charity. And it has spawned buy-one-give-one copycats offering everything from dog treats to cups of coffee.
This spring, Toms gave away its 10 millionth pair of Toms shoes outlet. “Within the next 18 to 24 months,” Mycoskie says, “we expect we’ll have given away 10 million more.” It now also sells sunglasses–more than 150,000 pairs in the past two years–and in turn has helped deliver eye care to more than 150,000 people. Toms currently donates shoes trade in 59 countries and eye care in 13. The figures add up to remarkable growth for a remarkable company, one that has put replica shoes on the feet of many poor children, made its owner a very rich man, and pioneered a much-admired business model. “I had no idea it would ever get this big,” says Mycoskie, a 36-year-old Texan whose laid-back, surfer-dude vibe masks the ambition of an entrepreneur who prefers to talk less about the company he has built than of the movement he is building. “Now that we’ve grown, it’s all about: How do you use these resources to do even more?”
Related: The Broken “Buy-One, Give-One” Model: 3 Ways To Save Toms Shoes Replica
The reading can only have helped. Mycoskie is a brilliant storyteller and a charismatic, masterful marketer–one of his staff says that Toms’s secret “is Blake’s gut”–and in some ways, the Toms genesis story has been the company’s most lucrative product. Mycoskie was traveling in Argentina in 2006, playing polo and drinking wine, when he met a woman who was collecting shoes export trade for the poor. Startled that in the 21st century so many kids still needed Toms shoes outlet, he decided to start a shoe company that would give a pair away for every one it sold. His first product: a variation of the traditional Argentine shoe that he brought home from his trip, the rope-soled, canvas-topped alpargata.
With $5,000 saved from his earlier ventures, Mycoskie set up shop in his Venice apartment. It was chaos. Liza Doppelt, the second person Toms hired, recalls that when she arrived for her interview, “I had to physically move dirty laundry from the armchair I was told to sit on.” When Garett Awad showed up for his internship interview a couple of months later, he found boxes and Toms shoes replica everywhere. “It was totally insane,” he says, “and I thought, Yes, this is exactly what I want.” (Doppelt is now VP of marketing for eyewear, while Awad heads retail marketing.)
Despite the mess behind the scenes, the combination of a slightly exotic yet still approachable shoe and a do-gooder story proved alchemical, establishing the brand’s popularity with tastemakers in fashion, lifestyle, and entertainment. Booth Moore, the Los Angeles Times‘s fashion critic, was the first to write about Toms, in May 2006. Then the editors at Vogue featured Toms in its October 2006 issue, naming legendary designer Karl Lagerfeld as an early-adopting fan.
The shoes replica themselves did not always work as well as the story. The first pairs of Toms–the name stands for tomorrow’s shoes outlet–were made in Argentina, but Mycoskie quickly realized that producing in China would be more cost-effective. As a supply-chain novice, he didn’t send anyone to supervise production there. “If you don’t show that you care, they assume you don’t care,” says Jonathan Jung, Toms’s first hire. “Every single pair was defective in some way–glue stains, mismatched shoes replica, insoles that were too big for that shoe.” Mycoskie, Jung, and a crew hired via Craigslist worked crazy-long hours to salvage what they could, cleaning stains, matching pairs, pulling out insoles and recutting them to fit. (Jung is now director of supply-chain planning for Toms.)
Toward that end, the company has sought to improve the effectiveness of its work throughout the supply chain. All of Toms’s consumer toms shoes today are made in China, as are the vast majority of its giveaway cheap shoes (a small number of which are distributed there) replica. “Toms would not be what it is today without China,” says Toms president Laurent Potdevin. “We wouldn’t have the resources we have now. It has been the easiest, most cost-effective place to make shoes outlet.”
Three years ago, Toms began to make giveaway shoes replica in Ethiopia, which has a small but burgeoning shoemaking sector. Within the next couple of years, it expects to add shoemaking in India, Kenya, and Haiti, where an artist collective is already customizing Chinese-made Toms for a limited-edition line. Potdevin emphasizes the challenges of such ventures: “Getting a factory up and running, retention, training, finding local management–every aspect is more difficult in a place like Haiti.” But separately, Jung, the supply chain chief, notes that it’s not all altruism and sacrifice. “Let’s not lie to each other,” he says. “If you’re creating product for the local market, you’re spending less to distribute it. No sea freight. No duties.” Staying local is especially important in Africa; Ethiopia and Kenya both belong to a free-trade zone that includes nearly every African country where Toms shoes replica are given away.