Scully/The World Show

Season 20, Episode 5 of 52

Can entrepreneurship and philanthropy truly meet organically? Most entrepreneurs are generous people, who derive great pleasure from philanthropy. The usual prescription is to slowly integrate charity work in a linear fashion as the company, and the profits, grow. One must first build the business, establish a solid foundation, make sure the profit margin is somewhat consistent, and then, indulge in giving back. But there are those entrepreneurs who are simply not satisfied with this sequence. They want the for-profit side of their firm to be closely intertwined with the charity side, from the get-go. Such is Blake Mycoskie, Bob's guest on the Entrepreneurs series, founder and CEO of TOMS. The idea behind TOMS is relatively simple, yet quite exceptional. It's "one-for-one". The customer buys a pair of TOMS shoes and in return, the company gives away a pair to a needy child. When Mycoskie started thinking about building his career, he had his mind set on doing it the way it's been done by most entrepreneurs, especially by those he looked up to: creating prosperity through his company and then, in the later stages of his life, donating away that wealth. One trip to Argentina, in 2006, convinced him of the urgency of giving back to those in dire need. He saw that there were many children who did not own even one single pair of shoes. This sad state of affairs, as he understood it, went deeper than just the obvious risks of foot-related diseases such as hookworm or podoconiosis. It also prevented those same children from attending school, since shoes are mandatory to most institutions' uniform. Not having footwear meant not having the same chances in life as others, it meant a depleted self-esteem and being cast aside. Mycoskie had not done endowment work before but felt a strong calling. "Instead of starting a charity where we ask people for donations and we're dependent on them every year, let's start a for-profit business, but let's build the giving into the model from day one", he thought, "so every time we sell a pair of shoes, a child who desperately needs one is getting a pair as well." Needless to say, this idea was strongly discouraged by his colleagues and consultants. How do you make a profit when you give away half your value? It quickly turned out that this business model was not only viable, but greatly profitable. People who bought TOMS shoes were their best ambassadors and marketing force. Appealing to a customer's better side made for huge advertisement that other companies would have paid to get. People shared their newly bought TOMS on social media, talked about them with family and friends and proudly displayed their charitable nature by the same token. TOMS offer the same quality and value as other big-brand names, at a competitive price. Being benevolent has never been more fashionable and accessible. The company has since diversified its production with added items such as ballet flats for women, men's boots, sunglasses and eyeglasses, but the core principle of "one-for-one" still remains. They focus their charity by working with local non-profits already established in targeted communities. These organisations are there to help in a myriad of ways, such as building schools, making sure there is drinking water, vaccines, anti-malaria nets, etc. TOMS works with them as they integrate the shoes into their health regimen. Meet the man who is walking his way over the rainbow, this week on The World Show.

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