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Tiffany Montgomery
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TOMS founder on why giving is good business

By Tiffany Montgomery
May 25, 2010 8:01 AM

One of the most inspiring speakers at the Surf Summit presented by SIMA and BRA this year was Blake Mycoskie, the founder of TOMS shoes.

For every shoe TOMS sells, it gives away a pair to a someone in need.

Blake shared his tale at Surf Summit, and how making giving a key mission of his business turned out to be a successful selling strategy as well.

Entrepreneur through and through

Blake is a born entrepreneur. He was already on his fourth company, an online driving school, when he got the idea for TOMS while traveling in Argentina.

He met some people there who were going to poor areas of the country to give shoes to kids. He decided to volunteer on the shoe drive, and it changed his life.

He saw the need first hand, and felt great after helping. But he had a nagging worry: What will happen when the charity leaves?

That’s when Blake got the idea that changed his life. Why not look to business instead of charity to come up with a sustainable solution, and create a footwear company based on a traditional Argentine shoe?

He found a way to get 250 samples made while in Argentina, which took a month.

The giving hook

Blake flew home to LA, and turned to his female friends for input.

They liked the shoes, but he noticed their faces really lit up when he told them the “one for one” concept.

With no background in fashion, his friends also gave him a list of the top stores to get into in LA.

He couldn’t get through to any buyers via email, the cold calling method buyers prefer these days, and decided to go against the rules and show up in person at stores.

He got lucky in one boutique where the buyer was actually in the store expecting someone else. Blake slipped into the appointment, and his first sale - 80 pairs - was made.

That sale proved very fortuitous, and led to one of the keys of the company’s success: the ability to attract media attention.

The store that bought the shoes created a nice display, and shortly after the shoes debuted, an LA Times reporter noticed it.

On the next page:

What happened when the story ran; why giving works

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