an article I wrote about Blake for my Journalism class……
Out with the Old and In with the TOM’S
By: Alecia Norman
On Monday February 1st, Georgia Southern University played host to Blake Mycoskie, founder of TOM’S Shoes, as part of its Leadership and Civic Engagement Week. Students lined up at the Performing Arts Center up to two hours ahead of schedule dressed in TOM’S Shoes and anxiously waiting for the doors to be opened. One student said that she had been wearing TOM’S for years and couldn’t wait to meet the man behind the shoes. As students filed in frantic voices could be heard as some searched for a “good” question to submit for the Q&A session after the speech.
The Welcome was given by Allison Beasley, a Political Science Major. She quoted the French solider Ferdinand Foch saying that “the most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire.” She challenged the audience to find their passion and inspiration in life.
Mycoskie entered the stage and immediately took the audience on the journey of the creation of TOMS Shoes. He spoke of how a young Philosophy major drop out came to be the founder and “Chief Shoe Giver” of a company that has been featured in magazines such as VOGUE, Vanity Fair, and O. Mycoskie was inspired one day while participating in an impromptu volunteer project in Argentina. He joined a group of American volunteers to give away shoes on a “shoe drop.” Without these shoes the children of this village would not have been able to go to school because shoes were a part of the uniform. While remembering this day Mycoskie said that he was so excited to be participating in this shoe drop. “I felt like my spirit, my heart, my everything was filled up.” This day inspired him to create a shoe company that would give away a new pair of shoes for every pair sold.
After returning to America with nothing but a “business model” for giving and 250 pairs of shoes to sell he was rejected from many stores before one agreed to sell his shoes on a trial basis. Mycoskie knew that he would change the lives of many children with his shoe drops but he had no idea the ways that he would be changed. He worked to sell as many shoes as possible and the response was greater than he imagined and in one year’s time he sold 10,000 pairs of TOM’S. “When we gave away those first 10,000 pairs, that’s when my life changed” said Mycoskie.
Sustainability was a major topic of the night. Mycoskie talked about the importance of building a business that was sustainable. “Creating something that can continue to feed itself” is what he did with TOM’S. After his initial investment into the business it was not necessary to add any additional money to sustain the company. Mycoskie credits the success of TOM’S Shoes to the fact that charitable giving is thoroughly woven into the fabric of the company. “Giving not only feels good, but it is a really good business strategy… People want a cause, they want to be a part of it” said Mycoskie. For this reason TOM’S has no need to spend money on advertising because the customers take care of it.
As the presentation closed with a Q&A session moderated by Dr. Todd Deal, Mycoskie admitted that out of his five business adventured prior to TOMS two of them were “complete disasters” but he learned from them and transferred that knowledge to his business today. Mycoskie believes that in order to be a good business person you have to take risks. “You can’t be afraid of failure” Mycoskie said, as he encouraged students to follow their dreams and do what inspires them.
According to the Vice President of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, Dr. Teresa Thompson, in addition to the filled auditorium there were another 600 students in the overflow room. As the students exited the PAC, they appeared to be excited, inspired, and motivated. “I have been waiting since school started to see him speak and he did not disappoint” said Junior, Hayley Wise, adding that she wanted to go right out and purchase her first pair of TOM’S. Wise’s thoughts seemed to be the concurring sentiment as several students signed up to participate in the Style Your Sole event later this semester where you can design your own pair of TOM’S.