How TOMS Shoes was born..
TOMS Shoes is a for-profit company that is based in Santa Monica, California, which also operates a non-profit subsidiary, Friends of TOMS. The company was founded in 2006 by Blake Mycoskie, an entrepreneur from Arlington, Texas.The company designs and sells lightweight shoes based on the Argentine alpargata design. With every product sold, TOMS will donate a pair to a person in need.
While competing on the second season of The Amazing Race with his sister, Mycoskie visited Argentina. He returned there on vacation in January 2006 and had the idea to develop a shoe company where for every pair sold, a new pair would be donated to a child in need of shoes. Blake had once said of his revelation, “I was sitting on a farm pondering life, and it occurred to me, ‘I’m going to start a shoe company, and for every pair that we sell, I’ll give a pair to someone who needs them.’” Mycoskie took to wearing the local alpargata shoes. After Mycoskie noticed the numerous children without shoes in the poorer villages, he returned to the United States and sold his online driver education company to self-finance the shoe company.
Alpargata is the spanish name of the catalanish espardenya, which derives from espart, the Catalan name for esparto, a tough, wiry Mediterranean grass used in making rope. Espardenyes have been made in Catalonia since the 14th century at least, and there are Catalan shops still in existence that have been making espadrilles for over a century. Traditional espardenyes have a canvas upper with the toe and vamp cut in one piece, and seamed to the rope sole at the sides. Often they would have laces at the throat that would be wrapped around the ankle to hold the shoes securely in place. Traditional espardenyes are worn by both men and women.
These shoes have also been worn by Argentine farmers for hundreds of years and were the inspiration for the classic style of TOMS. These canvas or cotton fabric shoes are now manufactured in many styles including a Wrap Boot, Stitchouts, Cordones, and Botas. The sole is constructed of rubber. TOMS offers several vegan styles as well.The company name is derived from the word “tomorrow,”and evolved from the original concept, “Shoes for Tomorrow Project.”
For every pair of TOMS Shoes purchased, a pair of new shoes is given to a child in need. Over 1,000,000 pairs of shoes have been given to children under the One for One movement since TOMS launched in 2006. The canvas shoes have been given to children in more than 20 countries worldwide, including the United States (Louisiana, Kentucky, Mississippi and Florida), Argentina, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Guatemala, Haiti, and South Africa. TOMS are sold at more than 500 stores nationwide and internationally, including Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, and Whole Foods, which features styles made from recycled materials.
TOMS has partnered with both Nordstrom and Disney, designing a special line for infants and toddlers based on Disney designer Mary Blair’s original drawings in order to commemorate the 45th anniversary of the “It’s a Small World” attraction at the Disneyland theme park. The shoes were carried exclusively at Nordstrom beginning in February 2011. In January 2009, TOMS collaborated with Element Skateboards to create a line of TOMS shoes, skate decks and longboards. For each pair of TOMS Element shoes and/or skateboard bought, one of the same was given to kids at the Indigo Skate camp in the village Isithumba in Durban, South Africa. Blake Mycoskie is hoping to expand the One for One model into other areas like housing, water and schoolbooks. Mycoskie would like to create partnerships with companies so his customers can buy what they need while the same things are given to those who need them across the globe.
With help from 501 (c)(3) non-profit organizations and non-governmental organizations (NGO’s), TOMS is able to give shoes to children in need year-round. The non-profit organization Friends of TOMS also coordinates “Shoe Drops” around the world for employees and volunteers to experience TOMS giving first-hand. A shoe drop in early 2009 in Uruguay was filmed to be included as part of a national AT&T commercial Volunteer opportunities are open to the public. Volunteers on shoe drops are able to hand-deliver shoes to children. TOMS currently gives in over 20 countries.