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Emmett meets Blake Mycoskie
Chief Shoe Giver at TOMS

Emmett meets Blake Mycoskie | Kidspiration

In 2006, Blake Mycoskie went to Argentina. He was taking a vacation and looking forward to discovering a new country. What he discovered was that many Argentinian children had no shoes. And not just shoes that didn’t fit—many kids had no shoes at all.

What if he could do something about that? He liked the alpargata, a soft shoe many Argentinians wear, but his biggest problem was that he didn’t know anything about making or selling shoes. But he didn’t give up. He came back to the United States and founded a new company, Shoes for a Better Tomorrow. That was a pretty long name for a shoe so the new company shortened “Tomorrow” and became TOMS Shoes.

Mr. Mycoskie decided that for every pair of TOMS shoes he sold, he would donate a pair of shoes to a kid who had none. He calls this policy One for One and so far, TOMS has donated some 60 million pairs of shoes to needy children, in 70 different countries.

Because of TOMS Shoes’ success, he decided to use the One for One guideline with other new companies. He started TOMS Eyewear, which, for every pair of glasses or frames sold, donates an eye exam and glasses or medical treatment and surgery. So far, TOMS has helped over 400,000 people improve their eyesight.

And for every bag of TOMS Roasting Company coffee (or coffee cups and saucers and T-shirts) sold, the company donates a week of water to people in the coffee supplier countries—335,000 weeks of safe water in 6 countries to date.

What is Mr. Mycoskie’s advice to young people who want to start their own companies when they’re adults? “Be your own self,” he says. Don’t try to be just like your parents or another adult you look up to. “Embrace your differences,” he adds, then see what a difference you can make!



Emmett:
Hey I’m Emmett. And today I’m meeting Blake Mycoskie. Blake is the founder and chief shoe giver of TOMS Shoes where they have a One for One® policy which means every time you buy a pair of shoes a child in need gets one as well. I’m here at the headquarters in Los Angeles. So let’s go meet him.

—-

Emmett:
So hi my name is Emmett.

Blake:
I’m Blake.

Emmett:
It’s really nice to meet you Blake.

Blake:
Nice to meet you Emmett.

Emmett:
So could you tell me a little bit about who you are and what you do?

Blake:
Well as you know my name is Blake. My title is the chief shoe giver because I started a company called TOMS with a very simple idea. I saw many children who didn’t have shoes and needed shoes to go to school and to protect their feet. And I wanted to help them. But instead of starting a charity I started a business where every time we sell a pair of shoes we give a pair to a child who needs a pair. And we call it One for One®. And we’ve been doing it for about ten years now.

Emmett:
And through the people wearing it who decides which individual kid or person gets the show in each country?

Blake:
So here at the TOMS headquarters where we are today we have lots of different departments. We have a design department. We have a finance department. We have all these different departments that are typically in any major business you would visit for the day. But we also have a department that is not in any typical business and that’s the Giving Department. They’re determining who are going to be the recipients of the shoes or the eyesight surgeries or the safe birth kits or the clean water – all the things that we do now.

Emmett:
So switching over to a little bit of a different topic –

Blake:
Sure.

Emmett:
Where did the design for the TOMS shoes come from?

Blake:
Great, really good question as well. So without any experience in shoes or fashion and really wanting to help these kids get shoes I just looked around and tried to find a shoe that already existed that just hadn’t been populated really in the United States and around the world. And so the original shoe was inspired from a shoe in Argentina called the alpargatas. It had been used by farmers and people on the polo fields and around town for a long time. It was a very simple shoe.

And so I just took their design and improved it. I made the sole more durable. I made the patterns, the fabrics more comfortable and fashionable. But the general basis of the design came from the alpargatas.

Emmett:
Where does TOMS the name and the brand come from?

Blake:
So when I started the company and had the idea my idea was if we sell a pair of shoes today we’ll give away a pair of shoes tomorrow. And we originally called them the first couple of weeks Tomorrows Shoes. But Tomorrows was too long of a name to put on the tag that went on the back of the shoe. So we shortened Tomorrows to TOMS. And people have called me Tom ever since.

Emmett:
[laughter]

Blake:
And we have a funny joke around the office that everyone here that works here is Tom ’cause we’re all working for a better tomorrow.

Emmett:
And what made you want to go into entrepreneurial – the business side of things?

Blake:
When I was 19 I had an injury to my foot. And at that time I wanted to be a professional tennis player. That’s all I wanted to be. And then I had an injury which seemed like a big setback because I wasn’t able to play for like six or eight months. During that time I was on crutches. And because I was on crutches it was very hard to take my laundry to the laundry facility in the dorm because you can’t carry your laundry and do your crutches at the same time. So I was looking in the Yellow Pages which is something you probably have never seen before.

Emmett:
[laughter]

Blake:
Have you ever seen it?

Emmett:
I have.

Blake:
You have, okay.

Emmett:
I have, yes.

Blake:
Amazing. So I was looking in the Yellow Pages and you know flipping through there trying to find a company that would pick-up and deliver my laundry. And there wasn’t a company like that. So I thought with my friend you know there should be someone that would do this. And my friend’s dad was “an entrepreneur.” He started businesses. I didn’t know it was called an entrepreneur. But we talked to him and he helped us kind of come up with this idea of how we could do a pick-up and delivery laundry service.

And so we did and that became our first business. And then after we started that business when I was 19 people started calling me an entrepreneur. And that’s when I kind of understood what this idea was of taking an idea, creating a business around it, and building it. And so I became an entrepreneur. I don’t think I set out to be one.

Emmett:
So what’s your advice to kids?

Blake:
Be your own self. Don’t try to be the next version of your mom or your dad or your older brother or your older sister. Embrace the differences that you have because that’s what’s going to make you special and that’s what’s going to give you a really fulfilling life.

Emmett:
Thank you. And it was really nice meeting you.

Blake:
Really nice meeting you too and I will say that I’ve done a lot of interviews with people much, much older than you and this is one of the best interviews I’ve had in a long time.

Emmett:
Thank you.

Blake:
So I really enjoyed it. And keep asking all of these great questions.

Emmett:
Thank you.

—-

Emmett:
I just finished meeting with Blake and I really enjoyed learning about TOMS and how it was created. I hope you enjoyed it and I’ll see you next time.