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"No act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted."

- Aesop, Ancient Greek fabulist

Shoeless days are over? A story about the Company TOMS – One for One

By Patrick Hurd on 22 July 2012

Even though it would be hard to believe for Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha, but a large portion of the world’s children walk about their ways without any shoes on their feet.

Now this might not sound so terrible at first. But the fact that these children are walking around barefoot has more impacts than you think. First, there are numerous health issues. Soil-transmitted diseases are a leading cause of diseases in developing countries. These diseases can penetrate the skin through bare feet. Also, cuts and bruises form a risk. If these get infected and are not treated right, they may have large consequences on the health of young children. Second, in some regions you are not allowed into the school if you are not wearing shoes, as this is part of the school’s uniform. And by not going to school, the children will be left behind intellectually. Not only will this affect their own life, but will also leave potential behind for the community, which is not something developing countries should be aiming for.
african kids without shoes
All this was the inspiration for the creation of a company called ‘TOMS’. TOMS, which is short for shoes of tomorrow, is a shoe company based on a ‘one-for-one’ principle.  Meaning that for every pair of shoes they sell, they will give a pair of shoes to one of those kids in need. The founder, Blake Mycoskie, was travelling in Argentina. It was there that he witnessed many children walking around bare feet and came up with this concept. He decided to sell his company and start TOMS. Since the launch in 2006, TOMS has given over one million shoes to children in 25 countries around the world including the United States (Louisiana, Kentucky, Mississippi and Florida), Argentina, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Guatemala, Haiti and South Africa. This is an amazing accomplishment, given the fact that it is a for-profit company.

Can you imagine what could be possible if more companies would base their business on this model? Of course not all industries could permit it due to margins, but there is a lot of opportunity to be drawn from this. And TOMS itself took that step. Not only are they selling shoes by the one-for-one principle, but they are also selling eyewear in the same manner, TOMS Eyewear. For every pair of TOMS glasses sold, they will fix the eyesight of a person in need. Either by prescription glasses, sight-saving surgery, or medical treatment. Mr. Mycoskie did not stop there either. He has written a book called “Start Something That Matters”. A book about the story of TOMS, a book about the stories of like-minded companies, and a book that tells you how you can love your work, have a positive impact on the world, and work for what you love, all at the same time. And again, he is selling this product based on the one-for-one principle. For every copy of the book sold, they shall provide a children’s book to a child in need of one.
african kids with toms shoes
Not only does TOMS make you aware of a situation needing attention, they act upon it in a very innovative sustainable entrepreneurial way, and inspire others with the way they do business. This is definitely a company to follow, learn, and draw inspiration from.
Wonder how those kids would cope with a pair of Manolo Blahnik or Jimmy Choo shoes?


To purchase your own TOMS shoes, visit: www.toms.com


Patrick has studied Development Economics at The Erasmus University in the Netherlands.