Entrepreneur Profile: Blake Mycoskie

By now, you have probably heard of the socially responsible business model commonly known as One for One.  This model operates on the premise that for every item sold, the company selling the goods will donate one item to a person in need.   Ultimately, the mission is simple: use a profit driven model to sustain a “gifting” system that promotes social responsibility awareness.

Who is the man behind the model you ask?

Meet Blake Mycoskie.  This experienced entrepreneur first came up with the idea while traveling through Argentina in 2006.  He was amazed to see the number of children without shoes and the medical dangers that were associated with this deprivation.  That’s when the idea of One for One was conceived and Mycoskie zeroed in on his newest venture: TOMS Shoes.  At the time, he was already immersed in his fourth start-up (his first was at the young age of nineteen), but found the children’s need for shoes in Argentina too important to pass up.  He began toying with ways to satisfy the need through soliciting donations.  However, without a steady source of donations, his efforts would not be sustainable in the long run.  It was then that Mycoskie devised a plan to start a for-profit business that matched its units sold to its units donated; thus creating the name: one for one.

A decade later and TOMS Shoes has donated over 50 million pairs of shoes to children in over 70 countries and has embarked on subsequent giving projects to address the needs of cleaner water, sight restoration, and safer birth.  His book, Start Something That Matters, documents his journey as a young entrepreneur and what strategies he utilized to enter each new phase of the company’s life cycle.

Mycoskie credits the success of TOMS to the simplicity of his model and the unique parallel in values that motivated him during the start-up phase.  Up until the age of 29, his ventures lacked the devout mission component that many entrepreneurs thrive off of.  With TOMS, Mycoskie described the venture as his “business soulmate”.  Although the mission and story of TOMS was compelling to the average consumer, the business was not without its share of difficulties.  Production, in terms of both quality and design, was an area that posed initial problems for an entrepreneur not well versed in the shoe manufacturing business.  Mycoskie was able to utilize the standard design of Argentinian footwear, known as “alpargatas”, as inspiration.  The actual construction took some time to refine before the company settled on an affordable, yet durable prototype.  Additionally, in order to offer a simplistic business model, many of the typical costs of a start-up needed to be removed or greatly reduced to off-set its philanthropic efforts.  Traditional advertising has been non-existent for TOMS, under the guidance of Mycoskie to rid the organization of major cost-centers and focus on giving back.  Word of mouth has always played a vital role in generating buzz for TOMS along with its social media platforms.

Mycoskie continues to re-evaluate the core mission of TOMS to make sure the company always fulfills the “why” and does not get lost in the processing stage.  It was during a 2012 sabbatical that Mycoskie was able to make this realization.  Since then, he has focused on mapping the journey of TOMS and looking at potential avenues for fulfilling his mission to give back in the one for one model.B. Mycoskie