On February 25th of 2014, Frostburg State University held a program in Compton, room 226, commending the founder of TOMS shoes. The program was held by the National Society of Leadership and Success at Frostburg. The Society often brings in speakers, who are inspirational leaders, to speak to college students. The founder of TOMS, Blake Mycoskie, shared his life experiences with the adherent audience. Blake went on to share his successes as the founder of TOMS and the struggles he faced when starting his own company.
Mycoskie founded TOMS in 2006 and has been helping children in need of shoes ever since. TOMS is a philanthropic company that sells shoes, giving a pair away free to impoverished children with every purchase. Mycoskie said “TOMS is called TOMS because I could not fit tomorrow on the little label of the shoe.” TOMS is short for tomorrow’s shoes because the message is that impoverished children will get shoes tomorrow for shoes purchased today. Mycoskie was on a trip in Argentina when he was inspired to create TOMS, he saw children in Argentina battling foot diseases because they had no shoes and had to walk miles to school. TOMS started in Mycoskie’s small Los Angeles apartment; Mycoskie said “I didn’t know anything about shoes or business since I worked for a software development company as my day job.” Mycoskie said “I hired 3 college interns off Craig’s List to help me with TOMS.” Mycoskie’s office was his apartment, and his office phone was his home phone. Once the public started becoming aware of his “One for One” program, tons of orders were called in. So many, in fact, that he couldn’t fill all the 2,000 orders with the 200 shoes in his duffle bag. Mycoskie had to board a flight to Argentina the next day, where the shoes were being made. The people he had met in Argentina were willing to come together and start producing more shoes. Once the money was collected, the shoes meant for the Argentinian children were made and distributed. He started appearing in magazines, such as Vogue, all claiming him to be a suave businessman—Mycoskie said “he was nothing like that.” Nordstrom contacted Mycoskie for a large shipment of shoes to be delivered the next day. When the order couldn’t be filled, the Nordstrom representative became angry and asked to speak to the TOMS sales representative. Mycoskie tossed the phone to a random intern, who pretended to be the sales representative, calmed the Nordstorm caller and compromised—after six weeks, Nordstrom would be distributing TOMS. To this day, Nordstrom is the biggest provider for TOMS shoes.
After Nordstrom became TOMS largest distributor, Mycoskie realized that TOMS needed more employees and people who knew what they were doing. He worked with public relations and business people, as well as individuals who knew all about shoes—how to make them, and how to sell them. They branched out their types of shoes from the traditional slip-on to athletic wear, wedges, and boots. They also began to give shoes to impoverished kids in other South American countries as well as Africa. The countries with the highest rates of foot disease and poverty are TOMS focus. They still give away their standard slip-on to children who need to walk to school and athletic shoes for those who have more active lifestyles. Mycoskie continues to be successful with his company and encourages others to make a positive difference in the world.
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