Blake Mycoskie Keeps Starting Something that Really Matters
When the third foundation turned down my request for funding, it occurred to me that it wasn’t going to be easy to convince people to invest in “Scale it Up! Sustainability Training for Women Entrepreneurs”, and my self-confidence plummeted. Without investors or partners, it would be incredibly hard to “do it all.” I threw the foundation letter and its monogrammed envelope into the recycle bin, pulled on my upcycled hat to bike north, facing the cold winter wind, to go to the book store in Evanston instead of tackling another application.
I browsed several book sections—self-help, biographies, personal motivation and business strategy. A thin, light paperback caught my eye – Start Something That Matters by Blake Mycoskie, Chief Shoe Giver, TOMS. I browsed through, and realized this was a simple, short book by a special wise man and that it was good timing to come across it after I’d pushed through the cold to get out of my rut.
I purchased the book, bought a cup of coffee, plunked myself down in a corner and read the book cover to cover, finishing it 5 minutes before closing time. Blake’s story is unique and quirky. It’s about a guy who started a company in a whirlwind of chutzpah, luck, buzz, fun, hard work, commitment, and audaciousness. He started out with a passion for travel, aspirations to better the world, and with the charm and energy to inspire people – friends, family, shoemakers, interns, journalists and the public. He got many people to help him build a company that makes great shoes – not only for those who could pay for them, but also for those who can’t. He took the two for one sales tactic, and turned it into the winning business model One for One – for every pair of shoes sold to a customer, another pair is given to someone in need.
Mycoskie’s book is not only about his amazing journey, but it’s also filled with nuggets of inspiration and wisdom that don’t fit in the box of tried & true, step by step approaches to business success. He believes that the way to go when creating a company or profession is to be guided by passion, curiosity, and commitment to something that makes the world better and that this can lead to success and positive impact. This is a guy who didn’t start out in an entrepreneurship school, didn’t spend a year writing a business plan, and didn’t seek venture capital at the start. Throughout the book, he weaves in examples of other innovative entrepreneurs, who’ve created successful, impactful companies and projects that bend, defy and disrupt business 101 rules.
What makes Mycoskie’s story stand out, is that he created a company that has seen enormous financial success while providing equal social value to people whose needs are often overlooked by businesses.
I’d never bought a pair of TOMS shoes before. While I knew about the brand, I didn’t really know that when I bought a pair of shoes, someone else would get a pair for free! After biking home from the bookstore that day, I immediately ordered a pair. They’re not cheap, but knowing that I’m buying two for one and contributing to a good cause made it feel like an incredible deal! Plus, the shoes are really comfortable. In fact, I’m wearing them as I write this blog piece.
It’s no surprise that Mycoskie continues to use his concept in selling this book. Each book purchased means a child will also get a book from First Book, a nonprofit that connects publishers and local organizations. And, TOMS doesn’t make just shoes anymore – the company makes and sells other products like eyeglasses. He’s also continued his creative development of diverse social impact initiatives throughout the company, including job creation in some of the nations where he gives shoes away.
In 2015, Mycoskie sold half his company to Bain Capital for $300 million. And, in partnership, they started the Toms Social Entrepreneurship Fund, to invest solely in for-profit social enterprises. He’s looking to support entrepreneurs much like himself – who have the creativity and business acumen to be highly profitable while delivering on social good embedded into their business model and strategies.
Mycoskie is a driven changemaker, and he has the monetary capital to change at least a part of our world. His book got me out of the doldrums and inspired me to keep going with Scale it Up! His entrepreneurship fund renders action and investment, far beyond inspiration. It will give other entrepreneurs the opportunity to realize their vision of succeeding at starting businesses “for good.”