The TOMS Story
TOMS was founded in 2006 by Blake Mycoskie, inspired by a trip to Argentina where he saw extreme poverty and health conditions, as well as children walking without shoes. That’s when he recognized the traditional Argentine alpargata shoe as a simple, yet revolutionary solution. He quickly set out to reinvent the alpargata for the U.S. market with a simple goal: to show how together, we can create a better tomorrow by taking compassionate action today.
To realize this mission, Blake made a commitment to match every pair of TOMS purchased with a new pair given to a child in need. One for One. “I was so overwhelmed by the spirit of the South American people, especially those who had so little,” Mycoskie said. “And I was instantly struck with the desire — the responsibility — to do more.”
During its first year in business, TOMS sold 10,000 pairs of shoes. Blake returned to Argentina later that year with family and friends and gave back to the children who had first inspired him. Thanks to supporters, TOMS gave the One Millionth pair of new shoes to a child in need in September 2010. TOMS now gives in over 50 countries and works with charitable partners in the field who incorporate shoes into their health, education, hygiene, and community development programs.
TOMS’ giving partners are made up of NGOs, charities, and non-profits already established and working in the countries in which TOMS gives. Their expertise guides TOMS to give new shoes responsibly, making sure there aren’t adverse socioeconomic effects, and to ensure that sustainable giving is possible. Giving shoes to the same children on a regular basis is the idea upon which TOMS was started, and is what truly improves the lives of children and their communities.
The TOMS Movement
The TOMS movement was started by young people, and they continue to be a huge driving force. With Campus Programs and internships, compassionate young people are getting involved with TOMS like with no other brand. To keep their thumb on the pulse of the movement, many TOMS supporters stay connected with the active TOMS Community on Facebook and Twitter.
Enthusiastic college students were also responsible for getting the first One Day Without Shoes off the ground in 2008. One Day Without Shoes is the day in April when TOMS asks people to go without shoes to raise awareness of children growing up barefoot and the impact a pair of shoes can have on a child’s life. It’s grown far beyond college campuses, and in only its third year, people of all ages got involved — in 2010, over a quarter of a million people went barefoot and over 1600 barefoot events took place globally.
When you buy a pair of TOMS shoes, you’re also helping improve the health, education and well-being of a child.
On their own, shoes have a limited ability to change life. But when combined with programs run by our Giving Partners, they can become a powerful tool in helping create opportunities for a better future.
How it works
We work with more than 75 Shoe Giving Partners who have ongoing programs to help kids, families and communities around the world. Shoe giving is integrated into our partners’ everyday work such as: health checkups; distribution of medicine and vaccines; microfinance programs; youth leadership programs; school support; and vocational training for older teens.
But before we give, we listen to our partners; they’re the experts on the ground. Then together we develop a strategy that supports their goals and respects the cultures in which they work.
Shoes we Give
Our Giving Pairs are new shoes, made for school and play. We provide a range of sizes, to fit kids from toddlers to teens. And we also collect feedback on the fit, durability and comfort of the shoes, so we can continue to improve our current selection and develop new shoe styles.
These are the shoes we currently give, and we’re developing more. We currently give shoes in more than 50 countries. Where we give is driven by the needs our Giving Partners see on the ground. We work closely with them to add new communities and countries where shoes will have the greatest impact.
TOMS have a similar project for restoration of sight to visually impaired people in about 12 developing countries.
Brand Genetics: Enterprise & Compassion