Blake Mycoskie knows how to create successful business. In the past four years, he has managed to launch a shoe company that now works with clients such as Nordstroms and with partners such as Ralph Lauren while simultaneously becoming the number one sought-after speaker on college campuses.
But Mycoskie also knows how to give; and it is by giving a pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair of shoes he sells, Mycoskie said in chapel on Monday, that his shoe company, TOMS, reached success.
“Giving fills you up in a way that nothing else can. But giving doesn’t just feel good, it’s a better thing for business,” Mycoskie said.
The unique business model developed by Mycoskie was enough to make ACU administration invite the TOMS founder to campus as well as plan the university-wide Style Your Soul party for the beginning of this week.
“When you hear his story, you’re like how is that not ACU?” said Amanda Pittmore, marketing associate for the college of business administration. “That’s exactly what we are trying to do here.”
In Chapel on Monday, Mycoskie told the story of his journey from owning and running an online driver’s education program to providing his one-millionth pair of shoes to a child in need this month.
For many children around the world, owning shoes is more than a fashion statement. Without shoes on their feet, many children cannot attend school and therefore cannot get an education. Spending some time in Argentina in 2006 put Mycoskie in direct conflict with the problem and helped sparked his idea for TOMS.
Mycoskie identified a dramatic change in his life in response to the simple Argentinian-style shoes now covering the feet of many Americans. But he also clearly stated this change was not brought on by what he had received but what he was able to give.
“When I had the idea for TOMS it was just an idea. When I went on that first shoe drop, my life changed radically,” Mycoskie said. “If you build giving into your life, you will be blessed more than you could ever imagine.”
Kris Evans, director of strategic marketing, related Mycoskie’s mission back to President Phil Schubert’s inauguration speech challenging students to “outlive their lives.” Evans said the Style your Soul event was an opportunity to hear a continuation of this idea.
The party on Tuesday afternoon allowed participants to decorate their own pair of TOMS with a large assortment of paints, markers and other arts supplies. Just under 700 pairs were soldÂ Â to ACU and Abilene community membersÂ prior to the party.
But TOMS shoes was not the only charity-driven organization in attendance, with six non-profits showcasing both their purposes as well as items for sale in their own individual tents.
Hill Country Hill Triber, a nonprofit providing supplemental income and marketable skills for refugees in Austin, sold colorful and intricate handwoven bags made by refugee women in the Austin area. Only a small portion of the proceeds from a Hill Triber purchase are used to buy supplies, while the rest of the profit goes directly to the women weavers. Jessica Goudeau, educational development director, said college students understand the need and benefits of integrating giving into business.
“This generation is really excited about social justice,” said Goudeau. “Giving out charity doesn’t help people feel self confidence.”
Though helping out others may begin as a trend – in this case, a pair of cloth shoes – Ben Fulfer, senior sociology major from Memphis, said student’s motivations can quickly change to support the real purpose for giving.
“The trendiness will allow people to get involved who never would be involved,” said Fulfer. “There are some people who came [to Style your Soul] because it’s popular, but then they get roped in.”
Or perhaps trends are only the result of a product’s true purpose.
“This generation is unique in the fact that they’re not just interested in what’s popular but in things that make a difference,” Evans said. “People are interested in TOMS, not because of fashion but because of underlying reasons.”
However, students find themselves involved with and passionate about a cause. Mycoskie said it was important to start small.
“At first, I just wanted to sell 250 shoes,” Mycoskie said.
Good business mixed with giving, and he has now sold 1,000,000 pairs.