A true entrepreneur, Blake Mycoskie started five successful businesses by the age of 30. As part of a promise to revisit every country he traveled to while on The Amazing Race, Blake returned to Argentina. While the sights and sounds of Argentina were inspiring, the poverty in which many lived truly moved him. In May 2006, Blake founded TOMS: Shoes for Tomorrow on a simple premise — for every pair purchased, TOMS Shoes gives a pair to a child in need. One for One. In less than 3 years, TOMS has given approximately 115,000 pairs of shoes to children in Argentina, South Africa, Ethiopia and the U.S., and is now sold in over eight countries worldwide.
During my twenties, I launched 5 successful businesses and began to call myself a serial entrepreneur. I worked hard, I worked passionately, and was always curious how to make the next idea grow. A South American vacation to learn polo and kick back was the remedy of choice when the hustle of starting a business from the ground up started to weather me. Little did I know that trip to Argentina in 2006 would change my life forever.
I jumped head first into Argentine culture. I was hooked (and still am) on mate and having a blast learning polo when I picked up on the alpargata trend. A lightweight canvas shoe as popular as a house-shoe, the alpargata is worn even for dancing the night away in the disco. Perfect.
The children of Argentina also had a lasting impact on me. The villagers on the outskirts of Buenos Aires exuded the same pride and passion as those in the heart of the city, but in a drastically different light. I met so many kids in those areas who walked miles barefoot for food or water or to go to school. An innocent soccer game in a field put them at risk for cuts and infections in their feet.
The eagerness to help (and maybe the caffeine in the mate) kept my mind racing until a simple thought came through. Instead of asking my friends to send their old shoes to these kids or even supporting a local shoe drive, why not create a sustainable way to give these children shoes?! With this idea, One for One and the Shoes for Tomorrow project was born… a shoe company that for every pair sold would give a pair to a child in need.
I learned how to make the traditional alpargata, brought some back to the states, and launched a TOMS Shoes website. I returned to Argentina later that year with friends and family and 10,000 shoes for those children, a journey we documented in the film For Tomorrow: The TOMS Shoes Story.
To date, TOMS Shoes has given over 140,000 pairs of shoes and plans to give 300,000 this year. The hard work, passion, and curiosity that led me to the idea of TOMS Shoes three years ago are the same qualities that drive this One for One business today. Wearing a pair of TOMS Shoes is a little reminder of a big impact that each of us can be a part of, and that’s pretty cool.