TOMS founder highlights importance of giving back

Hayden Clark

Blake Mycoskie, founder of TOMS, said he attributes his company’s success to its commitment to giving back as part of the Texas Cowboys’ Annual Lectureship on Wednesday.

Mycoskie said TOMS’ “one for one” business approach, which is specific to social entrepreneurship, engages customers more effectively than other business models do. TOMS, founded in 2006, began by selling canvas shoes and donating one pair for each pair purchased and has expanded this system to other products such as eye wear and coffee. 

“When I first started this, I had this spontaneous response to helping kids, and I had this amazing feeling about giving, and giving felt really good, and it still feels amazing,” Mycoskie said. “As we were developing more shoes over the last couple of years, I started to recognize that everyone was calling us a shoe business, but I always thought of TOMS as the ‘one for one’ business.”

Mycoskie said TOMS’ success comes from allowing the customer to experience giving back while buying the product.

“I always thought that the magic of what we were doing wasn’t necessarily just in the shoe,” Mycoskie said. “While I love our shoes … The [customer] gets to experience the brand or experience the idea that they buy something and help somebody at the same time, and that’s the ‘one for one’ business,” 

TOMS has donated roughly 10 million pairs of shoes to children in need since 2006, according to the company’s website.

“Giving doesn’t just feel good,” Mycoskie said. “It’s actually really good forbusiness.”

Matt Bowman, a mechanical engineering senior and committee coordinator for Texas Cowboys, said Cowboys looks to inspire students at the University in hopes of developing future entrepreneurs.

“[We are] all about giving back to the community, whether it be the University or our philanthropy,” Bowman said. “[Mycoskie] does so much to give back to his community, [through] his ‘one for one’ model, and what we really want to do is bring him to the University and spread his knowledge. … Maybe one day we’ll develop the next TOMS.”

Tom Rhea, psychology junior and Texas Cowboys Lectureship co-chair, said the Cowboys was not interested in attracting a speaker for the sole purpose of “filling seats.”

“We are meant to serve not only the University, but the entire city of Austin,” Rhea said. “We wanted to bring someone who had that mindset of service and passion to our campus.”