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Blake Mycoskie

Courtesy Photo

Blake Mycoskie


Talking with TOMS

An Interview with Goodwill-Spreading Shoe Company Founder Blake Mycoskie


This year, Lynda.com signed on to be the official season sponsor for UCSB Arts & Lectures’ always exemplary slate of speakers and performances. Explained the Carpinteria-based digital education company’s founder Lynda Weinman, “Lynda.com sponsors these events because we believe that the spirit of creativity is in everyone and that Arts & Lectures provides invaluable exposure to thought leaders and artists that touch our lives in positive ways.” In particular, Weinman is excited about the new Innovation Matters series, a collection of cutting edge entrepreneurs and visionaries who’ll be in town to inform and inspire. So The Independent has enlisted Weinman, herself a cutting edge entrepreneur and visionary, to interview some of these speakers for our pages.

The first is TOMS Shoes founder Blake Mycoskie, whose company donates a pair of shoes to someone in need for every one sold. He’ll be in town on Saturday, October 1, at the Arlington Theatre to discuss his work and his new book Start Something that Matters. The series continues with Khan Academy founder Salman Khan (on October 10), “wrongologist” Kathryn Schulz (January 23, 2012), creative education reformer Sir Ken Robinson (February 21), and tech head Raymond Kurzweil (March 6).

Lynda Weinman: Instead of starting a business, you started a movement. What led you to that decision?

Blake Mycoskie: I would have to say that this idea of a movement grew organically through the support of the TOMS community. TOMS’ business model attracted, and continues to attract, a following of many enthusiastic, passionate supporters who continue to propel the movement forward by sharing our story with their family and friends and, in turn, helping thousands around the world.

What attracts you to giving and helping others?

The idea of community and helping others has always been a part of who I am. Growing up, my parents always made sure that my siblings and I were doing our part to serve our local community. So I always knew that I wanted to incorporate giving in what I did, but it was just a matter of finding the right way to do so.

Your shoes have started a fashion trend that’s being copied, and I’ve even heard of another company copying the concept of 1 for 1! What are your thoughts about this?

If it’s getting more shoes to children who need them — great!

Most businesses are built to create profits, and most non-profits seek donors and patrons to sustain. Does your business make a profit and can you explain the business model?

TOMS is a for-profit company that gives to those in need for every pair of shoes or eyewear purchased. 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, I found a way to create sustainable giving and consistently help those who are in need.

Many people have ideas of how they want to change the world. How do they move from the idea to execution?

The first step is reading Start Something That Matters. I share some of the most important principles that helped me get TOMS to where it is today. One can find chapters entitled “Be Resourceful Without Resources, Face Your Fears, Keep It Simple.” I try to tell people who ask me this same question: Start small, don’t take no for an answer, be patient, and everything will fall into place.

How has your day to day changed now that you’ve become a writer and a speaker?

I never thought I would be in a position like this, where my words and experiences are now inspiring others to follow suit. It’s challenging at times, but I can only look forward to the future of business and philanthropy.

What’s next?

If someone told me five years ago where TOMS would be today, I would have called them crazy. Each day is a new day at TOMS. Right now, we are focused on our latest One for One product: TOMS eyewear, which helps save and restore sight for those in need.

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