TOMS Shoes – Creating Change Two Soles at a Time

By Faceted Media Staff Writer, Caits Fitzpatrick

In 2006, Blake Mycoskie founded the company we all know as TOMS shoes. An organization dedicated to providing developing countries with footwear, and now eye care as well. On top of this, Mycoskie trademarked the “One for One” business model and established his rank in the fashionable footwear industry.

TOMS shoes, socially conscious, one for one, Faceted Media
Photo Credit: Rockstar Blog

What started as a fairly simple, philanthropic business concept, has not only expanded immensely, (and quickly), but has influenced dozens of other companies and become an instantly recognizable brand.

When you take a step back and really look at everything, it’s clear that TOMS shoes is doing something truly incredible.

As soon as I bought my first pair of TOMS, I was hooked. It was 2008 and I was on vacation in London and found them at a department store. There were only a few colors to choose from and only in the the classic “alpargata” style: black, tan, navy, olive green, and a patterned one that had the Ghandi quote, “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” printed all over. I chose the Ghandi pair and wore them until they, tragically, fell apart. Looking back at the slim selection of five pairs to choose from, compared to the dozens of styles available today, it’s clear TOMS has grown quite a bit.

blake mycoskie, TOMS, founder, socially conscious business, Faceted Media
Photo Credit: TOMS

Mycoskie’s business concept, “One for One,” has been copied by many others, probably most famously by Sketchers’ “Bobs” shoes. The idea behind it is simple: for every one product purchased by a consumer, one is donated to the recipient receiving aid. So, if Mycoskie’s primary objective is to make the world a better place, then copycats are a dream come true. Even if “company x” is mimicking TOMS to increase their sales and profits, (or whatever self-serving reason), they’re still establishing a charity in the process. They are still putting some good into the world, even if it’s not their priority.

In the past couple of years, TOMS shoes have become huge in a trendy way. You can barely leave the house without spotting at least one pair.

It seems that most consumers who are early-twenties and older, understand the charitable aspect and either buy because of it or see it as a bonus perk to go with their comfy shoes.

As for younger consumers, I’m curious if they care whatsoever or if it has become just another status symbol label on the back of their heels.Then again, it doesn’t really matter. And there lies the genius factor in Mycoskie’s company. Just like with the copycats, it doesn’t matter why consumers are buying – and he’s provided three different reasons for us to keep buying:

  1. Sheer popularity (we all want what others have).
  2. It’s a good shoe!
  3. It benefits others around the world and it’s awesome to be able to contribute, even in a small way.

Despite all of this, Mycoskie is definitely no stranger to criticism, a lot of which expresses that if he actually cared or wanted to make a true difference, he would create jobs rather than providing for others’ needs. In response, Mycoskie said, “At first, I took that personally, but then I realized that they were right…using our model to create jobs is the next level. His goal is to begin producing one-third of TOMS shoes in developing countries receiving aid sometime this year.

This influence TOMS has had on competitors, as well as consumers, makes it clear that the kids receiving free pairs of shoes are not the only ones benefiting. Whether they intend to or not, everyone winds up contributing to a great cause. It’s as simple as that.

One of the first patterns on a pair of TOMS shoes was a promise that Blake Mycoskie was making – that he would be the change he wished to see in the world. And he is keeping that promise.