One for One
American Transcendentalist writer, Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” In today’s society many entrepreneurs and businessmen do not see this as the definition of success. However, thirty-five year old entrepreneur and adventurist, Blake Mycoskie, agrees with Emerson’s definition of success. In 2006, Mycoskie started the for profit company, TOMS. The company sells shoes here in the United States, and with every pair sold TOMS gives a pair to needy children in third world countries. Mycoskie and his company have become very successful. In 2007, one year after business, “the revenue was an estimated $3.7 million” (“Making”). TOMS is successful, not only in the business side, but in the charitable side as well. The only aspect that is bigger than the success of the company is its positive impact on people around the world. TOMS directly impacts the children receiving the shoes, but TOMS touches the lives of so many more. TOMS touches the lives of everyone from their customers to someone who has just heard about its story and movement. In 2002, Mycoskie and his sister, Paige, traveled around the world on the second season of the CBS reality show, The Amazing Race. As fate would have it, after traveling and racing around the world, Mycoskie and his sister came in third place, missing the million-dollar prize by just four minutes. In the race through six of the seven continents, and eight countries, Mycoskie fell in love with the culture of Argentina. Three years after the disappointing loss Mycoskie decided to go back and visit the country he fell in love with on the race. In 2006, Mycoskie took time off to go on vacation in Argentina. He made it his main mission while there to submerse himself into the culture. He spent his days learning how to tango, the national dance of the country, and playing the national sport, polo. He also got used to wearing the shoes that the locals wear, the alpargata. The shoes were a soft, casual canvas worn by everyone from farmers to polo players. Although the alpargata were worn by numerous people, Mycoskie noticed that the children of the country wore no shoes at all. Mycoskie states in his book, Start Something that Matters, “Yes, I knew somewhere in the back of my mind that poor children around the world often went barefoot, but now, for the first time, I saw the real effects of being shoeless: the blisters, the sores, the infections-all the result of the children not being able to protect their young feet from the ground” (Mycoskie, 5). After experiencing this he knew he wanted to do something. This was the moment that TOMS was thought of. At the time, Blake Mycoskie had no idea what a huge impact his company would make on the children of the world. The impact of TOMS was not seen overnight. In fact, there were many doubts in the success of the company when it was first starting out. While in Argentina, Mycoskie and his new business partner and polo teacher, Alejo, began looking for a local shoemaker to work with. Mycoskie knew this could be a struggle since neither Alejo nor he knew anything about the shoe business. Many shoemakers called them crazy and said no to the business venture. It took some time until they found one to jump on board with the idea. Mycoskie wanted an alpargata shoe made for the American market. After working for months in an Argentinean “factory”, that was no bigger than an average American garage, Mycoskie had 250 samples in three duffle bags. With bags in hand he embarked on a new adventure and headed back home to Los Angeles. Once back in LA, he found it difficult to balance working at his current company and trying to find buyers interested in his new venture. Many veterans in the shoe industry said that the TOMS shoe was unsustainable and would never go anywhere. Regardless to what they said TOMS was able to get its first retail customer,...
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