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]
Five years later, TOMS realized this movement could serve other basic needs and launched TOMS Eyewear. With every pair purchased, TOMS will help give sight to a person in need. One for One®. As we learn that everyday choices have the power to impact the lives of those around the world, the TOMS movement will continue to grow and evolve. With every backpack you purchase, TOMS will help stop bullying, one youth at a time. One for One®. Join us at TOMS.com.
What began as a simple idea has evolved into a powerful business model that helps address need and advance health, education and economic opportunity for children and their communities around the world. Supporting TOMS Shoes is also a compassionate display of support for helping children get some of the basics they need to enjoy better and healthier lives. Whether it's a pair of TOMS booties, shoes or sandals, you're helping to make a difference in the world.

A story by LA Weekly priced the manufacturing cost of a pair of Toms Shoes at $3.50-$5.00 in U.S. dollars, and noted that the children's shoes given out by the company were among the cheapest to make, which is not necessarily apparent to consumers. According to garment-industry author Kelsey Timmerman, many people he spoke to in Ethiopia were critical of the company, saying that they felt it exploited the idea of Ethiopian poverty as a marketing tool. An Argentina-based shoemaker agreed, saying that the imagery used by the company was manipulative.[47]
Toms' business model is known as the "one for all concept" model, which is referring to the company's promise to deliver a pair of free shoes to a child in need for every sale of their retail product. The countries involved have included Argentina, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Haiti, Mexico, Rwanda, South Africa and the United States.[26] The business has grown beyond producing shoes and has included eyewear and apparel in Toms product lines. The company uses word-of-mouth advocacy for much of its sales, centering its business focus on corporate social responsibility. Part of this model originally involved a non-profit arm called "Friends of Toms" that recruited volunteers to help in the shoe distributions in foreign countries.[27] Toms trademarked the phrase "One for One" to describe its own business model.[28] Toms has received criticism from the international development community [29][30] who have stated that Toms' model is designed to make consumers feel good rather than addressing the underlying causes of poverty.[31] Criticisms have also included whether or not the shoe donation is as effective as a monetary donation to other charities.[32] Toms responded to this criticism by moving 40% of its supply chain for shoe donation to countries they actively give in. Toms presently manufactures shoes in Kenya, India, Ethiopia and Haiti.[33]
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]
Students attending colleges across the United States have created TOMS campus clubs. As of March 20, 2014, 281 campus clubs existed in the United States with another dozen located in Canada.[52] By comparison, another nonprofit organization known as Lions Club International was established in 1917 and is known for working to ending the cause of blindness, reports 400 Lions’ campus clubs in 42 countries.[53]
We believe in a better tomorrow. And we have from the start. Our company began back in 2006 in a Venice, CA apartment with one goal in mind: to give shoes to kids in need. Since then, your purchases have helped provide shoes, sight, and safe water to millions of people around the globe. And with 10 locations across the country, including our new Brooklyn space, there’s even more opportunity locally to make an impact globally.

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]


The major mission of Toms is that a business, rather than a charity, would help their impact last longer. In his speech at the Second Annual Clinton Global Initiative[58] Mycoskie states that his initial motivation was a disease called podoconiosis—a debilitating and disfiguring disease which causes one's feet to swell along with many other health implications. Also known as "Mossy Foot", podoconiosis is a form of elephantiasis that affects the lymphatic system of the lower legs. The disease is a soil-transmitted disease caused by walking in silica-rich soil.[59] Toms currently works with factories nearby where they perform some of their shoe drops.[60]
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]
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