Inspiration comes in many forms. In this instance it presented itself via a recent hour and a half long conversation I had with Blake Mycoskie who is the founder of Toms Shoes. What a guy and what a story. Blake founded Toms following a trip to Argentina where he was inspired by the traditional rope soled “alpargata.” He was struck by the poverty in the country and set out to reinvent the alpargata for the US market, with the intent of accomplishing one goal: making life more comfortable for those without shoes.
The basic idea behind Toms Shoes is that for every pair you purchase, Toms gives a pair of shoes to a child in need. “One for one” as they like to call it. The beauty of the idea is found in its simplicity and the tangible result that stems directly from your purchasing decision. Since it’s beginning in 2006, Toms has given over 10,000 pairs of shoes to children in Argentina and 50,000 pairs in South Africa. Their 2008 goal was to give away 200,000 pairs of shoes.
Along the way they’ve generated amazing notoriety. In 2007, Toms was honored with the prestigious People’s Design Award from the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum, Smithsonian Institution. Blake and Toms have also been featured in People, Time, GQ, Vogue and O Magazine.
The “one for one” idea has inspired a movement, literally. They have internship programs in their head office and on high school and college campuses. You can also volunteer to participate in one of their shoe drops in Argentina. Then of course, there’s the Toms Vagabond Tour. The result? People are talking about Toms, everywhere.
It seems their story has struck a resonant chord. They’ve been able to imbed meaning in their product and in the cultural constructions that come from conversation and dialogue. Their story is authentic and contributes to changing the larger set of stories by which we live. In doing so, Toms is growing a community of congruence that helps change our dominant cultural stories for the better.
We take our hats off to Blake and his colleagues at Toms.