The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus



SMU alumnus starts company that donates shoes to children in need

Reflecting on the first TOMS shoe drop in a tiny jungle village in Argentina, volunteers share one-word summaries of the experience.

“Moving,” one volunteer says; “Amazing,” says another. One man struggles to come up with the right word, saying, “There are too many words in my head right now.”

After a pause, he decides: “Necessary.”

The documentary, “For Tomorrow: The First Step of the Revolution,” screened at the Collins Executive Center Monday night, revolves around TOMS first-ever shoe drop in Argentina and serves to explain why giving shoes to people in need is “necessary.”

In 2005, TOMS founder and former SMU student Blake Mycoskie was vacationing in Argentina, where he met three social workers who were giving away used shoes to children in need. Barefoot, the children were getting cuts, scrapes and infections.

“This idea of giving away used shoes didn’t seem like a very sustainable model,” Mycoskie said. “They didn’t fit, they wore out. So I thought, what if we can we have a business that for every pair of new shoes sold, a child gets a pair of new shoes: one for one.”

Along with his friend, Alejo Nitti, Mycoskie met with Argentine shoemakers and fabric sellers, and started the one-for-one shoe company, TOMS. A year later, Mycoskie and 17 volunteers traveled to Argentina and gave away 10,000 shoes to children in need. The documentary follows these volunteers on the drop.

“I almost lost it like four times; I counted,” senior Halei Young said about watching the film. “It was very powerful and very different to see it happening than to just hear about it.”

The TOMS event was co-sponsored by the SMU Young Alumni Board, Students Promoting Awareness Responsibility and Citizenship (SPARC) and the Caruth Institute for Entrepreneurship.

SPARC president Ryan Moore said that his organization wanted a lot of people to come to the event “not only because Blake is a former student and to show what SMU can prepare you to do.”

“We want to promote using your skills to make a difference in your community, which is what he did,” Moore said.

Mycoskie’s first foray into business was the creation of EZ Laundry in 1996. Now known as Mustang Laundry, the company was based off of a business model Mycoskie made for an Entrepreneurship course. Myscoskie says Mustang Laundry taught him what it would take to create a business without a Marketing firm.

“At first, EZ Laundry had no customers,” Myscoskie said. ” All the boys thought I was crazy and all the girls wouldn’t give me their clothes because they though I was going to be doing their laundry and they didn’t want me to see their panties.”

He posted an ad around campus that said, “Blake doesn’t do your laundry and will not see your panties.” But the business really started to flourish after he and a friend drove around campus for hours pretending to deliver laundry to all the dorms, which created a perception that many students were already using the service.

Myscokie’s mentor at SMU is Jerry White, the Director of the Caruth Institue for Entrepreneurship.

“He challenged me to think about business in a different way,” Mycoskie said. “He taught me what it means to write a business plan and that you’ve got to know where your going if you’re going to get there.”

According to White, Blake was “dynamic” and “he was always serious about the subject matter and very focused.”

“I knew from the beginning he would create something successful,” White said. “He just displayed the qualities of a focused entrepreneur.”

Myscoskie left SMU after two years, was a contestant on America’s Sexiest Bachelor and a finalist on The Amazing Race. He started five companies, including an all-Reality cable network, which failed.

“I learned a lot through all the ups and downs,” Myscoskie said. “I love starting businesses and creating something new.”

Mycoskie says that young people who have good ideas should follow their passions and shouldn’t be afraid to start their own companies.

“There is so much uncertainty in the world, but being an entrepreneur really isn’t the most risky thing to be doing if you have a great idea,” Mycoskie said. “Do what you love and money will follow. TOMS is an example of that.”

Since its conception in 2006, TOMS has given away 200,000 pairs of shoes worldwide. Shoes have been given in Argentina, South Africa, and in the US in Kentucky, Orlando, and in the Gulf coast.

In Ethiopia, TOMS is giving away shoes daily, and has committed in partnership with the Clinton Global Initiative to give 100,000 pairs of shoes to Haitians affected by Hurricane Ike. Friends of TOMS is a non-profit organization which raises money to pay for, among other things, medicines to combat foot infections prevalent in places such as Ethiopia.

Friends of TOMS also helps support a scholarship program that enables people to become involved with TOMS through internships and shoe drops.

Keeping up with demand and production has been the biggest challenge for TOMS.

“We have strict policies in term of labor and quality of life for workers,” Mycoskie said. “We believe in good factories creating a good product.”

Due to changing factories, the fit and quality of shoe has changed overtime.

“I think they’re really comfy but the lining on the top of the sole comes loose too easily,” said SMU senior Thomas Dunlap, a long-time TOMS owner. “But they look cool, they’re comfortable to slip on when you’re in a hurry, and as someone who detests sandals, they’re a great choice.”

TOMS shoes are based on the design of the traditional argentine alpargata shoe. Mycoskie re-designed the shoe to have rubber soles rather than rope soles. They cost $40 and come in a variety of colors and styles.

A TOMS pop-up store recently opened in Venice, California. Myscoskie says that in the future, pop-up stores might be a larger part of the TOMS business plan. For now, TOMS are available for purchase at hundreds of stores around the world, including Whole Foods and Nordstrom.

“A lot has changed but the simple idea has not changed at all,” Mycoskie said.

Mycoskie hopes to one day extend the simple idea of buy one, give one to other TOMS products.

“In ten years I hope to keep doing what we’re doing now and inspire other people to join,” Mycoskie said. “I do think TOMS will grow beyond shoes. There is no TOM, we’re all TOM: a product we can create to build a different tomorrow.”

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