Blake Mycoskie visited Argentina in 2002 while competing in the second season of The Amazing Race with his sister.[12] He returned on vacation in January 2006, and noticed that the local polo players were wearing alpargatas, a simple canvas slip-on shoe that he began to wear himself and which are the model for the original line of Toms Shoes.[13] They are made from canvas or cotton fabric with rope soles, but Toms makes theirs with rubber soles.[9] Mycoskie said that when he was doing volunteer work in the outskirts of Buenos Aires, he noticed that many of the children were running through the streets with no shoes on. He decided to develop a type of alpargata for the North American market, with the goal to provide a new pair of shoes free of charge to youth of Argentina and other developing nations for every pair sold.[14] According to Mycoskie, Bill Gates encouraged him by saying that the lack of shoes was a major contributor to diseases in children.[15]
Author Daniel H. Pink described the company's business model as "expressly built for purpose maximization," whereby Toms is selling both shoes and its ideal. Toms' consumer market are purchasing shoes and also making a purchase that transforms them into benefactors for the company.[37] Another phrase used to try to describe the business model has been "caring capitalism".[38] Part of how Toms has developed this description is by incorporating the giving into its business model before it made a profit, making it as integral to the business model as its revenue generating aspects.[39] Business tycoon and Virgin Group founder Richard Branson wrote of the company's business model in his book Screw Business as Usual, "They look for communities that will benefit most from Toms based on their economic, health and education needs while taking into account local business so as not to create a correlating negative effect." He also commented on Toms' expansion into eyewear in order to help the nearly 300 million people who are visually impaired in developing nations.[40]
In 2009 Toms partnered with the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project to create limited edition shoes, and used profits to benefit education and medical support in remote areas of Africa suffering from AIDS outbreaks.[54] Toms has also produced shoes with a handlebar mustache symbol in place of the traditional Toms symbol in support of the Movember Foundation.[55] Toms is a supporter of the charity charity: water, with which it has partnered with for several years, including its WaterForward project, which aims to bring clean water to underdeveloped countries.[56] An additional partner charity is FEED, a charity where a consumer will purchase a pair of shoes and the company will donate twelve meals to impoverished schools in addition to a pair of shoes for impoverished children.[57]
The company's shoe distribution partners have focused on distributing shoes in areas where health and social benefits of the shoes would be the highest. For example, in Ethiopia the shoes are intended to help prevent a soil-borne disease that attacks the lymphatic system and which largely affected women and children.[15] Toms sunglasses are sold with the One for One model, however it does not necessarily provide glasses only to those in developing countries. The One for One model includes putting money toward medical treatment, eye surgeries and prescription glasses. Toms works with the Seva Foundation among other partners to accomplish this.[41] The first countries that Toms implemented its program were Nepal, Cambodia and Tibet.[42] The original three designs, according to Leigh Grogan, were "The stripe on the temples represents the buyer; the stripe on the tips represents the person whose sight is being helped, and the middle stripe represents Toms, which brings the two together."[43][44]
The company's shoe distribution partners have focused on distributing shoes in areas where health and social benefits of the shoes would be the highest. For example, in Ethiopia the shoes are intended to help prevent a soil-borne disease that attacks the lymphatic system and which largely affected women and children.[15] Toms sunglasses are sold with the One for One model, however it does not necessarily provide glasses only to those in developing countries. The One for One model includes putting money toward medical treatment, eye surgeries and prescription glasses. Toms works with the Seva Foundation among other partners to accomplish this.[41] The first countries that Toms implemented its program were Nepal, Cambodia and Tibet.[42] The original three designs, according to Leigh Grogan, were "The stripe on the temples represents the buyer; the stripe on the tips represents the person whose sight is being helped, and the middle stripe represents Toms, which brings the two together."[43][44]
Author Daniel H. Pink described the company's business model as "expressly built for purpose maximization," whereby Toms is selling both shoes and its ideal. Toms' consumer market are purchasing shoes and also making a purchase that transforms them into benefactors for the company.[37] Another phrase used to try to describe the business model has been "caring capitalism".[38] Part of how Toms has developed this description is by incorporating the giving into its business model before it made a profit, making it as integral to the business model as its revenue generating aspects.[39] Business tycoon and Virgin Group founder Richard Branson wrote of the company's business model in his book Screw Business as Usual, "They look for communities that will benefit most from Toms based on their economic, health and education needs while taking into account local business so as not to create a correlating negative effect." He also commented on Toms' expansion into eyewear in order to help the nearly 300 million people who are visually impaired in developing nations.[40]
Blake Mycoskie visited Argentina in 2002 while competing in the second season of The Amazing Race with his sister.[12] He returned on vacation in January 2006, and noticed that the local polo players were wearing alpargatas, a simple canvas slip-on shoe that he began to wear himself and which are the model for the original line of Toms Shoes.[13] They are made from canvas or cotton fabric with rope soles, but Toms makes theirs with rubber soles.[9] Mycoskie said that when he was doing volunteer work in the outskirts of Buenos Aires, he noticed that many of the children were running through the streets with no shoes on. He decided to develop a type of alpargata for the North American market, with the goal to provide a new pair of shoes free of charge to youth of Argentina and other developing nations for every pair sold.[14] According to Mycoskie, Bill Gates encouraged him by saying that the lack of shoes was a major contributor to diseases in children.[15]
By 2011, over 500 retailers carried the brand globally and in the same year, Toms launched its eyewear line.[21] By 2012 over two million pairs of new shoes had been given to children in developing countries around the world. The Daniels Fund Ethics Initiative at the University of New Mexico has described the company as an example of social entrepreneurship.[14][22]
Mycoskie sold his online driver education company for $500,000 to finance Toms shoes.[14] The company name is derived from the word "tomorrow",[9] and evolved from the original concept, "Shoes for Tomorrow Project".[16] Mycoskie initially commissioned Argentine shoe manufacturers to make 250 pairs of shoes. Sales officially began in May 2006.[14] After an article ran in the Los Angeles Times, the company received order requests for nine times the available stock online,[14] and 10,000 pairs were sold in the first year. The first batch of 10,000 free shoes were distributed in October 2006 to Argentine children.[7][17][18][19]
Toms markets shoes using an espadrille design[9] and a one for one business model — where with one purchase of a pair of shoes, the company also gives one pair to a child without shoes.[10] With eyewear purchases, part of the profit is used to save or restore eyesight for those in developing countries. The company launched TOMS Roasting Co. in 2014, and with each purchase of TOMS Roasting Co. coffee, the company works with other organizations, referred to as "giving partners", to provide 140 liters of safe water, equal to a one week supply, to a person in need. In 2015, TOMS Bag Collection was launched to help contribute to advancements in maternal health. Purchases of TOMS Bags help provide training for skilled birth attendants and distribute birth kits containing items that help women practice safe childbirth.[11]
While traveling in Argentina in 2006, TOMS Founder Blake Mycoskie witnessed the hardships faced by children growing up without shoes. Wanting to help, he created TOMS Shoes, a company that would match every pair of shoes purchased with a new pair of shoes for a child in need. One for One® is the philosophy behind the brand, and it has been a difference maker for over a decade.
The Tom's 'One for One' model has inspired many different companies to adopt similar concepts. Warby Parker, launched in 2010, donates a pair of glasses to someone in need for every pair of glasses it sells. The social business Ruby Cup uses a 'Buy One Give One' model for their menstrual cup venture, benefiting women in Kenya.[61] A Bristol chiropractic center influenced by Mycoskie's Start Something That Matters[62] book started donating £1 to Cherish Uganda for every appointment attended.[63]
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