How TOMS Shoes founder Blake Mycoskie got started

blake_mycoskie.top.jpgBlake Mycoskie, founder of TOMS Shoes, in EthiopiaInterview by Jessica Shambora, reporter


(Fortune Magazine) -- My first venture was a door-to-door laundry business for students that I started while on a partial tennis scholarship at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. I wanted to do something that didn't depend on my hands to create value.

My father is a doctor, so when he's playing golf, he's losing money. When I came out of a business class and saw my trucks picking up laundry, I thought, I'm in class and making money at the same time.

red_shoe.03.jpg
TOMS shoe

After we expanded EZ Laundry to four colleges, I sold my share. I moved to Nashville to start an outdoor-media company that Clear Channel scooped up three years later.

In 2002 my sister and I teamed up to compete on the CBS reality show The Amazing Race. We didn't win, but my travels during the show led me back to Argentina in 2006. On my visit I saw lots of kids with no shoes who were suffering from injuries to their feet.

I decided a business would be the most sustainable way to help, so I founded TOMS [in Santa Monica], which is short for a "better tomorrow." For each pair of shoes sold -- TOMS are based on the classic alpargata style worn in Argentina -- we donate a pair to a child in need.

AT&T (T, Fortune 500) found the story so compelling that it decided to feature us in a television campaign last year. Today TOMS can be found online and in stores like Whole Foods (WFMI, Fortune 500) and Nordstrom (JWN, Fortune 500), and on the feet of more than 400,000 kids in countries like Argentina and Ethiopia.

Secrets of my success

Personalize it

Storytelling is the new marketing. I think that's why AT&T called me to appear in its commercial, because stories get shared and spread much more than a message or a product.

Beware experts bearing gifts

As entrepreneurs we often get pressured into hiring an industry executive. While it's good to hire people with experience, it can also be a stumbling block because they think about the business the same way everyone else does.

No clock punchers

Walk away from anyone who is unduly focused on vacation and compensation. It's a sign of potential trouble. No matter how talented you are, if you don't really want to work at TOMS, you'll never work out here.

Spend!

Instead of squirreling away your earnings early in your career, spend on experiences that will enrich your life -- like diving with great white sharks. It can expose you to influential people who could open doors for you.  To top of page

Just the hot list include
Frontline troops push for solar energy
The U.S. Marines are testing renewable energy technologies like solar to reduce costs and casualties associated with fossil fuels. Play
25 Best Places to find rich singles
Looking for Mr. or Ms. Moneybags? Hunt down the perfect mate in these wealthy cities, which are brimming with unattached professionals. More
Fun festivals: Twins to mustard to pirates!
You'll see double in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Ketchup lovers should beware in Middleton, WI. Here's some of the best and strangest town festivals. Play
Overnight Avg Rate Latest Change Last Week
30 yr fixed4.74%4.75%
15 yr fixed4.10%4.04%
5/1 ARM4.32%4.39%
30 yr refi4.75%4.75%
15 yr refi4.11%4.04%
Rate data provided
by Bankrate.com
View rates in your area
 
Find personalized rates:
Company Price Change % Change
Bank of America Corp... 27.02 -0.36 -1.31%
Advanced Micro Devic... 25.09 0.06 0.24%
General Electric Co 12.69 0.31 2.50%
Ford Motor Co 8.59 0.18 2.14%
AT&T Inc 33.02 0.35 1.07%
Data as of Oct 23
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 25,191.43 -125.98 -0.50%
Nasdaq 7,437.54 -31.09 -0.42%
S&P 500 2,740.69 -15.19 -0.55%
Treasuries 3.17 -0.03 -0.94%
Data as of 12:37am ET
Sponsors

Sections

Bankrupt toy retailer tells bankruptcy court it is looking at possibly reviving the Toys 'R' Us and Babies 'R' Us brands. More

Land O'Lakes CEO Beth Ford charts her career path, from her first job to becoming the first openly gay CEO at a Fortune 500 company in an interview with CNN's Boss Files. More