By Deirdre Carroll: Senior Editor


Blake Mycoskie, founder and chief giver of TOMS.
It is impossible to have a conversation about social purpose companies without including TOMS. The company has become ubiquitous in the category and its founder and “chief giver,” Blake Mycoskie, the standard-bearer of the growing One for One movement.

What started as wanting to give shoes to those in need on a trip to Argentina six years ago has culminated in a giving program that now works with charitable partners around the globe. In 2011, after four years spent learning as much as possible about how the company could help address an entirely new need throughout the world, they introduced the next chapter of their One for One movement—TOMS Eyewear.

“I could have easily started a non-profit that relied on donors, but I worried about a time that the donors found a different passion and stopped supporting my organization. With TOMS’ model we’ve found a sustainable way to give and provide to those in need constantly and consistently,” Mycoskie told Vision Monday. “When I first started TOMS in 2006, my goal was to be able to give 250 pairs of shoes to children I had previously met and now, through the support of our customers, TOMS has given over two million pairs of new shoes to children in need around the world and is providing for eyecare programs in Nepal, Tibet and Cambodia.”

Whether it’s giving shoes or helping to restore sight, at TOMS it all starts with need. The need is addressed by a simple cause and effect relationship—when one person buys, one person is helped. “Giving is the heart of TOMS’ business, and the company now gives shoes to children in need in over 40 countries and helps give sight to people in need in nine,” he added.

And his success has not gone unnoticed. In 2009, Mycoskie and TOMS received the Award for Corporate Excellence (ACE) from the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. The award recognizes a company’s commitment to corporate social responsibility, innovation, exemplary practices and democratic values worldwide.

“I think we have to constantly remind ourselves of the purpose of our work and the lives we are affecting,” said Mycoskie. “It’s so easy to get caught in the day to day, remembering to send an email or get approval on a proposal. At TOMS, we focus our efforts on building responsible, long-term, and sustainable relationships with Giving Partners that contribute to the health, education and well-being of those we are helping.

“We also have a responsibility to be in constant communication with our community, showing them the positive difference they are making through the purchase of a TOMS product. We do this by sharing photos and stories from our Giving Partners who are delivering TOMS shoes and sight services around the world because of their support.”

Mycoskie in Nepal on a Giving Trip for TOMS Eyewear.
 Three styles from the TOMS Eyewear collection.
Mycoskie is so passionate about inspiring young people to help make tomorrow better, that through a newly launched initiative announced just this month called TOMS Ticket to Give, the company is allowing their community to see One for One in action and the experience of giving first hand. “Every week on, a TOMS customer will be selected to join us on a Shoe or Sight Giving Trip and return forever changed,” he explained. “This is our way of giving back to customers who support TOMS each and every day.”

Mycoskie has many ideas on how everyday people can make a difference, many of which are outlined in the book he authored last year, Start Something That Matters (Spiegel & Grau/Random House). The book is one more example of how he has ‘put his money where his mouth is’ so to speak; not only is Random House donating a book to a child in need through the First Book organization for every Start Something book sold, but Mycoskie himself has set aside 50 percent of the proceeds from its sale for the Start Something That Matters Fund which supports readers inspired by the book who want to make a positive impact on the world.

In fact, he hopes to see a future full of socially minded businesses and consumers. Based upon his experience, Mycoskie believes that companies can easily increase or implement social purpose initiatives into their own businesses. “Ultimately, we hope to inspire the community at large to incorporate giving in what they do, professionally as well as their personal lives. The littlest things can make a difference such as initiating green practices within an organization or completely redeveloping a business model to incorporate the idea of One for One. We all can do our part no matter how big or small,” he concluded.