Blake Mycoskie, the founder and “Chief Shoe Giver” of TOMS Shoes who is originally from Arlington, Texas, told the enthusiastic crowd his inspirational story of how he went from chasing a million dollar prize on “The Amazing Race” with his sister Paige to being moved to end foot diseases that plague children in developing countries.
Mycoskie is being heralded as this generation’s social entrepreneur. His new philanthropy business model, “One for One,” is a simple promise to give a pair of new shoes to a needy child with every pair sold. TOMS stands for TOMorrow’s shoes–buy a pair today, give a pair tomorrow. One St. Mary’s student described it as “materialism with a purpose.” Whatever you call it, there is no doubt that TOMS Shoes is revolutionizing the way consumers shop. TOMS Shoes will have encouraged conscientious consumers to purchase and give nearly 650,000 pairs of new shoes to needy children around the world by the end of 2009 – after only three years in operation.
St. Mary’s reached out to area high school students, from both private and public schools, with the idea that Mycoskie’s lecture would offer a great educational and learning experience in social responsibility. The shoes with a soulful purpose are also very popular with high school and college age students.
On Tuesday night before Mycoskie’s St. Mary’s visit, nearly two hundred St. Mary’s students held a “Style Your Sole” shoe painting party, something TOMS encourages through their website, www.TOMSshoes.com. Two weeks ago, the students organized a shoe drive, taking orders for white canvas TOMS so that the student buyers could decorate them the night before the “Chief Shoe Giver’s” visit. Many of the St. Mary’s students wore their newly decorated TOMS to the lecture to personally show them off to Mycoskie and to have him sign them.
A 32-year-old charming, funny and thoughtful young adult himself, Mycoskie’s message resonated with the young audience. His energetic, honest delivery captivated the audience as he recounted the early days of starting the business and the first time he placed a pair of shoes on a child’s feet in Argentina. Indisputably, Mycoskie is an adventurous entrepreneur at heart, but he says something happened to him along the way. He now not only has a career, but one with a purpose. When asked for business advice, Mycoskie told the students to seek out companies that practice corporate and social responsibility and to find a place where they can be proud to go to work every day.