TOMS CEO Expanding Reach of ‘Buy One Give One’ Model

TOMS, a company that prides itself on giving back, is thriving on the buy one, give one model.  Founder Blake Mycoskie started the company after befriending children in a village in Argentina.   Once he realized the children did not have shoes to protect their feet, he decided to take action.

“I didn’t want to start a charity or non-profit and be dependent on donations,” Mycoskie said.  “As an entrepreneur, I used business to solve the problem of kids needing shoes.   For every pair we sell, we give a pair away.”

Since launching eight years ago, TOMS has given away more than 35 million shoes to children in developing countries.

The movement quickly expanded beyond shoes.  Mycoski realized the model could serve other needs and launched TOMS eyewear three years ago. With every pair of eyewear purchased, TOMS helps give sight to a person in need.  So far, 150,000 people have had their sight restored through purchases of TOMS Eyewear.

Most recently the company moved into the coffee business, TOMS Roasting Co. For each bag of coffee beans sold a person will get clean water for a week, and for every cup of coffee sold someone gets water for a day.

“We found that using the one for one model and partnering with other companies around the world gave our customers an opportunity to buy products and services and give back,” Mycoskie said.  “It’s also a way for our customers to engage with the TOMS brand every single day. It’s important for us to have a community.”

The community TOMS has gathered over the years has grown rapidly in size.  The company sells its products online and through national retailers, as well as small boutiques.  Social media has also played a big part in the company’s popularity.  TOMS has nearly 400,000 followers on Instagram and its Facebook page has garnered nearly 3 million likes.

“The customers that bought the shoes took a tremendous amount of pride in the fact that they helped someone less fortunate,” Mycoskie said.  “That pride translated into customers lighting up social media.  They post stuff on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.”

TOMS latest partnership is with Target.  The two companies are collaborating on a 50 item limited-edition collection for the holiday season.   For each product purchased from the TOMS for Target collection, which will include housewares, clothing and shoes,  a pair of shoes, a meal or a blanket will be donated to someone in need.

So what’s the secret to TOMS’ success? Mycoskie says it’s not about money; rather it’s about finding something you love.

“If you’re going to be an entrepreneur, if you’re going to start a business, you’ve got to be doing something you’re deeply passionate about because it is difficult,” Mycosckie said.  “When you look at the brands that we all love, they all were started by a founder that was deeply passionate about changing something.  That’s why I started TOMS.  I want every kid who needs a pair of shoes to have a pair, and that’s what’s driven me to build my business.”

Mycoskie participated in the World Business Forum New York City.  He discussed how the principles that provide the foundation for his One to One model are applicable to various organizations and industries.