It’s all about the shoes.

May 3, 2009

Here’s another feather in entrepreneurship’s cap.

I stumbled upon TOMS Shoes through a recent BusinessWeek Special Report on Social Entrepreneurs in the US. Perfect caricature of the curious consumer, I clicked around – and quite suddenly, the Tufts undergrad, student of our Digital Democracy course in me became engaged. TOMS shoes is the most thorough intersection of entrepreneurship, social activism, technology and social media I’ve yet seen!

TOMS shoes was founded by Blake Mycoskie, on the premise of giving one pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair of shoes that is purchased – a movement the company terms “One-for-One”. Yes, a movement – that’s what the company explicitly calls it. The shoes themselves are simple, inspired by the aesthetic of a type of traditional Argentine footwear, leaving much creative space for wearers to customize their own pairs. For less creative/inclined to personalization types, there’s a broad selection of colors and patterns to choose from. Most shoes are priced just under $50 – not bad at all, for two pairs of shoes. To date, TOMS Shoes has given 140,000 pairs of shoes to children in need.

Technology kicks in here:

  • Mycoskie, whose title is Chief Shoe Giver, maintains a blog, and a twitter account, with details on TOMS’ shoe drops, both locally and abroad. (Previous locations include Argentina and New Orleans.)
  • TOMS Shoes has a partner non-profit, Friends of TOMS, whose site acts an avenue for volunteers to sign up for shoe drops and get mobilized to serve their own communities.
  • TOMS Shoes actively uses and organizes on twitter and facebook.
  • TOMS Shoes and its founder just became the first business featured in an AT & T advertisement (video above), because Mycoskie has been a customer of the phone network since 1997 and relies on it to conduct his business internationally. Originally 30-seconds long, the spot was so popular that AT & T expanded it to a minute-long spot. (There’s a great “the making of” video for the ad as well, that explains the approach of AT & T and Mycoskie to the advertisement.)

TOMS Shoes sells shoes, gives shoes, organizes consumers and volunteers – all through the comprehensive use of social media, mobile technology and the internet. I’m impressed!

-Hui Lim


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