A simple pair of shoes is bringing a big name and a big event to campus next week.
TOMS Shoes, a company that for every shoe purchase donates a pair of shoes to a child in need, began in 2006 under the inspiration and direction of founder and “chief shoe giver,” Blake Mycoskie.
Since then, Mycoskie has spoken on numerous college campuses and put TOMS “on track to give the one millionth pair of new shoes to a child in need this month,” according to the company’s website.
“We wanted to try to find and speaker we wouldn’t have to beg students to come hear,” said Amanda Pittman, marketing associate for the College of Business Administration.
Pittman said COBA originally wanted to invite Mycoskie as a part of its distinguished speakers series, but realized it would take the efforts and resources of several departments to finally bring the entrepreneur to campus.
“It just got bigger, and more people wanted to participate and could participate,” Pittman said.
ACU Board of Trustees member Gary Skidmore also made a connection that helped turn the possibility of a visit from Myscoskie into a reality. Skidmore heard Mycoskie speak at a conference in spring 2009 and had the opportunity to speak with the TOMS founder.
“He clearly has the capabilities of running a big business. He saw a need during his personal travels and acted on it,” Skidmore said. “I was very impressed and moved by the story that he told.”
Although he knew nothing about the shoe company before the conference, Skidmore said he has since become an evangelist for TOMS shoes because he believes in the message Mycoskie is trying to spread with his “one for one” philosophy.
“He is showing how you can blend great business skills with philanthropy and social justice – and be successful in the process,” Skidmore said.
On Monday, Skidmore will introduce Mycoskie before he addresses the entire ACU body in Chapel. Mycoskie will also speak at an Honors College luncheon in a more question-and-answer setting, Pittman said. He will conclude the day with a discussion in Hart Auditorium proctored by COBA.
ACU’s administration will follow Mycoskie’s visit on Monday with a campus-wide “Style your Sole” party on Tuesday. These events, which vary in size, are hosted nationwide and allow participants to customize a plain pair of TOMS. ACU has sold almost 700 shoes for the event, Pittman said.
“As far as we know, this is one of the biggest [events] that’s ever happened that is university sponsored,” Pittman said.
The party will not only recognize TOMS’ mission, but will also showcase products from other nonprofits like Eternal Threads. Each nonprofit will have its own tent to display its work and any products it has for sale.
“We kind of will have this bazaar atmosphere going on,” said director of strategic marketing Kris Evans.
The university is also supplying all decorating supplies for the event, and there will be a limited selection of shoes available Tuesday for those who still want to purchase a pair. Music group Thus Far will provide music at the party, which begins at 3:00 p.m. in the mall area outside the McGlothlin Campus Center.
“Mycoskie strikes a chord that runs deep across all college campuses about social justice,” Skidmore said. “I think everyone will find it a very unique experience.”