Inspiration: TOMS

Recently I was asked by one of my Bookers (the people who get you work as a model), whether I wanted to model for a long time. I wasn’t able to give him a direct answer, but what I was able to tell him was what I saw myself doing in the not so distant future.

I have come to realize that the most rewarding experience I’ve had professionally, was Managing the Annual Giving Call Centre at the University of British Columbia. I managed all aspects of the fundraising operation and together with my team of 60 or so students, we raised well over $1,000,000. It was like running a small business and that set me on a path that I currently find myself on.

Since working in the not for profit sector, I’ve been influenced and inspired by social entrepreneurs who have created for-profit businesses that address societal issues. One of the businesses at the forefront of this movement is TOMS.

If you didn’t already know, TOMS and it’s Founder, Blake Mycoskie, have been huge inspirations to me. Blake is a young entrepreneur who is bringing about social change while (I assume…) doing very well for himself. In his words, he is “doing good by, doing well.”

Chief Shoe Giver – Blake Mycoskie

I’ve decided to share an article that was published on my birthday. It’s obviously a signal from the heavens that this is my destiny, and in his own words, Blake does a great job of explaining why this business model is so exciting to someone like me, who is already fascinated by philanthropy and social entrepreneurship.

If you’d rather listen to him, I’ve also included a YouTube clip. Without further ado, the man himself…

A new model for philanthropy
2 December 2011

I never meant to get into the shoe business, and would have said you were crazy if you told me five years ago that’s what I’d be doing today. The idea to start TOMScame during a trip to Argentina back in 2006. I met some volunteers who were holding a shoe drive to collect used or slightly worn shoes for children in the community. One of the volunteers explained that many kids lacked shoes, an absence that not only complicated every aspect of their lives but also exposed them to a wide range of diseases. I spent a few days traveling from village to village, witnessing the real effects of being shoeless: the blisters, the sores, the infections—all the result of the children not being able to protect their feet from the ground. I wanted to do something about it. But what?

Like many would-be philanthropists, my first thought was to tackle the problem head on: I could start my own shoe-based charity, but instead of soliciting shoe donations, I would ask friends and family to donate money to buy the right type of shoes for these children on a regular basis. But, of course, this arrangement would last only as long as I could find donors. That was the traditional model of philanthropy: identify a cause and initiate a never ending hunt for donors. I wanted something more sustainable. These kids needed more than occasional shoe donations from strangers—they needed a constant, reliable flow.

Then I began to look for solutions in the world I already knew— business and entrepreneurship. An idea hit me: Why not create a for-profit business to help provide shoes for these children? It was a simple concept that I call One for One: Sell a pair of shoes today; give a pair of shoes tomorrow. And that’s when TOMS was born.

So far, Toms has given more than two million pairs of new shoes to children in need and recently launched its second One for One product, TOMS Eyewear. TOMS is only one example of a new breed of company that is succeeding at this volatile moment in capitalism. In this fast-paced and constantly mutating world, it is easier than ever to seize the day; but in order to do so, you must play by a new set of rules—because increasingly, the tried-and-true tenets of success are just tried, and not true.

What we’ve found is that TOMS succeeded precisely because we have created a new model. Business and philanthropy are no longer mutually exclusive. We’ve been able to find a sustainable way to give in the areas we serve. Through a simple purchase, a consumer is making a direct impact on someone’s life around the globe. There are no formulas or percentages. It’s simple. You buy something today and help someone tomorrow. One for One.

The giving component of TOMS makes our shoes and eyewear more than a product. They’re a part of a story, a mission, and a movement anyone can join. That, it turns out, is a compelling proposition.

Remember to LOVE LIFE everyone,





“For every vital service now being provided by a non-profit or government entity in this country, there is almost certainly a large corporation with the skills, experience, and scale to vastly improve and increase the capacities of those organizations.”

– Quote taken from “Corporations Must Become Socially Conscious Citizens” by Ron Shaich for Harvard Business Review