Start Something That Matters

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Love your work, work for what you love, and change the world—all at the same time.
What matters most to you? Should you focus on earning a living, pursuing your passions, or devoting yourself to the causes that inspire you? The surprising truth is that you don’t have to choose—and that you’ll find more success if you don’t. That’s the breakthrough message of TOMS’ One for One movement. You don’t have to be rich to give back and you don’t have to retire to spend every day doing what you love. You can find profit, passion, and meaning all at once—right now.  
In Start Something That Matters, Blake Mycoskie tells the story of TOMS, one of the fastest-growing shoe companies in the world, and combines it with lessons learned from such other innovative organizations as method, charity: water, FEED Projects, and TerraCycle. Blake presents the six simple keys for creating or transforming your own life and business, from discovering your core story to being resourceful without resources; from overcoming fear and doubt to incorporating giving into every aspect of your life. No matter what kind of change you’re considering, Start Something That Matters gives you the stories, ideas, and practical tips that can help you get started. 
Why this book is for you:
• You’re ready to make a difference in the world—through your own start-up business, a nonprofit organization, or a new project that you create within your current job.
• You want to love your work, work for what you love, and have a positive impact on the world—all at the same time.
• You’re inspired by charity: water, method, and FEED Projects and want to learn how these organizations got their start.
• You’re curious about how someone who never made a pair of shoes, attended fashion school, or worked in retail created one of the fastest-growing footwear companies in the world by giving shoes away.
• You’re looking for a new model of success to share with your children, students, co-workers, and members of your community.
You’re ready to start something that matters.

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  • Start Something That Matters
    Start Something That Matters  

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Best known as the founder of TOMS Shoes and as a contestant on The Amazing Race, Mycoskie uses his experience with TOMS, as well as interviews with leaders of non-profits and corporations, to convey valuable lessons about entrepreneurship, transparency of leadership, and living by one's values. The brilliant, simple mission of TOMS (for every pair of shoes purchased, they will give another pair away to children in need around the world) has inadvertently turned its customers into brand ambassadors, making this for-profit company with defined charitable goals wildly successful. Mycoskie deftly balances personal tales about starting a business with generally applicable lessons. While his story sometimes becomes repetitive and he treads familiar ground with start-up tales (motivate your overworked interns by feeding them, never be afraid to get your hands dirty), he offers excellent advice about the importance of honesty and principles in business. This book will appeal to the Millennial generation, who are known for seeking socially relevant jobs, as well as older workers looking to get back in touch with their values. (Sept.)
From the Publisher
“A creative and open-hearted business model for our times.”—The Wall Street Journal
Library Journal
Mycoskie didn't just create TOMS Shoes, which for every pair of shoes purchased gives a pair to a needy child. He also proposed the One on One business model, detailed here, which combines profit building with philanthropy and personal fulfillment. It's part of a new movement called Conscious Capitalism. Mycoskie just won a 2011 Character Approved award, so expect to see more of him.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781400069187
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 9/6/2011
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 289,111
  • Product dimensions: 5.78 (w) x 8.54 (h) x 0.86 (d)

Meet the Author

In 2006, Blake Mycoskie founded TOMS Shoes with a simple business model: “With every pair you purchase, TOMS will give a pair of new shoes to a child in need. One for One.” In 2011, TOMS launched its second One for One product, TOMS Eyewear, which with every pair purchased helps give sight to a person in need by providing medical treatment, prescription glasses, or sight-saving surgery. Mycoskie will be using 50 percent of his proceeds from this book to create the Start Something That Matters Fund, which will support inspired readers in their efforts to make a positive impact on the world.
When Blake isn’t working at TOMS, he spends his time reading, writing, fly-fishing, and participating in just about every board sport.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1


the TOMS story

Be the change you want to see in the world.


In 2006 I took some time off from work to travel to Argentina. I was twenty-nine years old and running my fourth entrepreneurial start-up: an online driver-education program for teens that used only hybrid vehicles and wove environmental education into our curriculum-earth- friendly innovations that set us apart from the competition.

We were at a crucial moment in the business's development-revenue was growing, and so were the demands on our small staff-but I had promised myself a vacation and wasn't going to back out. For years I've believed that it's critical for my soul to take a vacation, no matter how busy I am. Argentina was one of the countries my sister, Paige, and I had sprinted through in 2002 while we were competing on the CBS reality program The Amazing Race. (As fate would have it, after thirty-one days of racing around the world, we lost the million- dollar prize by just four minutes; it's still one of the greatest disappointments of my life.)

When I returned to Argentina, my main mission was to lose myself in its culture. I spent my days learning the national dance (the tango), playing the national sport (polo), and, of course, drinking the national wine (Malbec).

I also got used to wearing the national shoe: the alpargata, a soft, casual canvas shoe worn by almost everyone in the country, from polo players to farmers to students. I saw this incredibly versatile shoe everywhere: in the cities, on the farms, in the nightclubs. An idea began to form in the back of my mind: Maybe the alpargata would have some market appeal in the United States. But as with many half-formed ideas that came to me, I tabled it for the moment. My time in Argentina was supposed to be about fun, not work.

Toward the end of my trip, I met an American woman in a café who was volunteering with a small group of people on a shoe drive-a new concept to me. She explained that many kids lacked shoes, even in relatively well-developed countries like Argentina, an absence that didn't just complicate every aspect of their lives but also exposed them to a wide range of diseases. Her organization collected shoes from donors and gave them to kids in need-but ironically the donations that supplied the organization were also its Achilles' heel. Their complete dependence on donations meant that they had little control over their supply of shoes. And even when donations did come in sufficient quantities, they were often not in the correct sizes, which meant that many of the children were still left barefoot after the shoe drop-offs. It was heartbreaking.

I spent a few days traveling from village to village, and a few more traveling on my own, witnessing the intense pockets of poverty just outside the bustling capital. It dramatically heightened my awareness. Yes, I knew somewhere in the back of my mind that poor children around the world often went barefoot, but now, for the first time, I saw the real effects of being shoeless: the blisters, the sores, the infections-all the result of the children not being able to protect their young feet from the ground.

I wanted to do something about it. But what?

My first thought was to start my own shoe-based charity, but instead of soliciting shoe donations, I would ask friends and family to donate money to buy the right type of shoes for these children on a regular basis. But, of course, this arrangement would last only as long as I could find donors; I have a large family and lots of friends, but it wasn't hard to see that my personal contacts would dry up sooner or later. And then what? What would happen to the communities that had begun to rely on me for their new shoes? These kids needed more than occasional shoe donations from strangers-they needed a constant, reliable flow.

Then I began to look for solutions in the world I already knew: business and entrepreneurship. I had spent the previous ten years launching businesses that solved problems creatively, from delivering laundry to college students to starting an all-reality cable-TV channel to teaching teenagers driver education online. An idea hit me: Why not create a for-profit business to help provide shoes for these children? Why not come up with a solution that guaranteed a constant flow of shoes, rather than being dependent on kind people making donations? In other words, maybe the solution was in entrepreneurship, not charity.

I felt excited and energized and shared those feelings with Alejo, my Argentinian polo teacher and friend: "I'm going to start a shoe company that makes a new kind of alpargata. And for every pair I sell, I'm going to give a pair of new shoes to a child in need. There will be no percentages and no formulas."

It was a simple concept: Sell a pair of shoes today, give a pair of shoes tomorrow. Something about the idea felt so right, even though I had no experience, or even connections, in the shoe business. I did have one thing that came to me almost immediately: a name for my new company. I called it TOMS. I'd been playing around with the phrase "Shoes for a Better Tomorrow," which eventually became "Tomorrow's Shoes," then TOMS. (Now you know why my name is Blake but my shoes are TOMS. It's not about a person. It's about a promise-a better tomorrow.)

I asked Alejo if he would join the mission, because I trusted him implicitly and, of course, I would need a translator. Alejo jumped at the opportunity to help his people, and suddenly we were a team: Alejo, the polo teacher, and me, the shoe entrepreneur who didn't know shoes and didn't speak Spanish.

We began working out of Alejo's family barn, when we weren't off meeting local shoemakers in hopes of finding someone who would work with us. We described to them precisely what we wanted: a shoe like the alpargata, made for the American market. It would be more comfortable and durable than the Argentine version, but also more fun and stylish, for the fashion-conscious American consumer. I was convinced that a shoe that had been so successful in Argentina for more than a century would be welcomed in the United States and was surprised that no one had thought of bringing this shoe overseas before.

Most of the shoemakers called us loco and refused to work with us, for the hard-to-argue-with reason that we had very little idea of what we were talking about. But finally we found someone crazy enough to believe: a local shoemaker named José. For the next few weeks, Alejo and I traveled hours over unpaved and pothole-riddled roads to get to José's "factory"-a room no bigger than the average American garage, with a few old machines and limited materials.

Each day ended with a long discussion about the right way to create our alpargata. For instance, I was afraid it wouldn't sell in the traditional alpargata colors of navy, black, red, and tan, so I insisted we create prints for the shoes, including stripes, plaids, and a camouflage pattern. (Our bestselling colors today? Navy, black, red, and tan. Live and learn.) José couldn't understand this-nor could he figure out why we wanted to add a leather insole and an improved rubber sole to the traditional Argentine design.

I simply asked him to trust me. Soon we started collaborating with some other artisans, all working out of dusty rooms outfitted with one or two old machines for stitching the fabric, and surrounded by roosters, burros, and iguanas. These people had been making the same shoes the same way for generations, so they looked at my designs-and me-with understandable suspicion.

We then decided to test the durability of the outsole material we were using. I would put on our prototypes and drag my feet along the concrete streets of Buenos Aires with Alejo walking beside me. People would stop and stare; I looked like a crazy person. One night I was even stopped by a policeman who thought I was drunk, but Alejo explained that I was just a "little weird," and the officer let me be. Through this unorthodox process, we were able to discover which materials lasted longest.

Alejo and I worked with those artisans to get 250 samples made, and these I stuffed into three duffel bags to bring back to America. I said good-bye to Alejo, who by now had become a close friend: No matter how furiously we argued, and we did argue, each evening would end with an agreement to disagree, and each morning we'd resume our work. In fact, his entire family had stood by me, even though none of us had any idea what would happen next.

Soon I was back in Los Angeles with my duffel bags of modified alpargatas. Now I had to figure out what to do with them. I still didn't know anything about fashion, or retail, or shoes, or anything relating to the footwear business. I had what I thought was a great product, but how could I get people to actually pay money for it? So I asked some of my best female friends to dinner and told them the story: my trip to Argentina, the shoe drive, and, finally, my idea for TOMS. Then I showed them the goods and grilled them: Who do you think the market is for the shoes? Where should I sell them? How much should we charge? Do you like them?

Luckily, my friends loved the story, loved the concept of TOMS, and loved the shoes. They also gave me a list of stores they thought might be interested in selling my product. Best, they all left my apartment that night wearing pairs they'd insisted on buying from me. A good sign-and a good lesson: You don't always need to talk with experts; sometimes the consumer, who just might be a friend or acquaintance, is your best consultant.

By then I had gone back to working at my current company, the driver- education business, so I didn't have a great deal of time to devote to hawking shoes. At first I thought it wouldn't matter and that I could get everything done via email and phone calls in my spare time.

That idea got me nowhere. One of the first of many important lessons I learned along the way: No matter how convenient it is for us to reach out to people remotely, sometimes the most important task is to show up in person.

So one Saturday I packed up some shoes in my duffel bag and went to American Rag, one of the top stores on the list my friends had compiled, and asked for the shoe buyer. The woman behind the counter told me that the buyer wasn't normally around on weekends, but I was in luck, because on this particular Saturday she happened to be at the store. And because it wasn't a busy day, it turned out that she had time to see me. I went in and told her the TOMS story.

Every month this woman saw, and judged, more shoes than you can imagine-certainly more shoes than American Rag could ever possibly stock. But from the beginning, she realized that TOMS was more than just a shoe. It was a story. And the buyer loved the story as much as the shoe-and knew she could sell both of them.

TOMS now had a retail customer.

Another big break followed soon afterward. Booth Moore, the fashion writer for the Los Angeles Times, heard about our story, loved it-and the shoes-and promised to write an article.

One Saturday morning not long after, I woke up to see my BlackBerry spinning around on a table like it was possessed by demons. I had set the TOMS website to email me every time we received an order, which at the time had been about once or twice a day. Now my phone was vibrating uncontrollably, so much so that, just as suddenly, the battery died. I had no idea what was wrong, so I left it on the table and went out to meet some friends for brunch.

Once I arrived at the restaurant, I saw the front page of the Times's calendar section: It was Booth Moore's story. TOMS was headlines! And that's why my BlackBerry had been spinning so crazily: It turned out we already had 900 orders on the website. By the end of the day, we'd received 2,200.

That was the good news. The bad news was that we had only about 160 pairs of shoes left sitting in my apartment. On the website we had promised everyone four-day delivery. What could we do?

Craigslist to the rescue. I quickly wrote up and posted an ad for interns and by the next morning had received a slew of responses, out of which I selected three excellent candidates, who began working with me immediately. One of them, Jonathan, a young man with a Mohawk haircut, spent his time calling or emailing the people who had ordered shoes to let them know their orders weren't coming anytime soon, because we didn't have any inventory-in fact, they might have to wait as long as eight weeks before we had more. And yet only one person out of those 2,200 initial orders canceled, and that was because she was leaving for a semester abroad. (Jonathan, by the way, is still with TOMS, running the company's global logistics-and he still has the Mohawk.)

Now I had to return to Argentina to make more shoes. I met with Alejo and José, and we immediately set out to manufacture 4,000 new pairs. We still had to convince the shoemakers to construct our design; we had to find suppliers willing to sell us the relatively small amounts of fabric needed to fulfill the orders; and, because no one person or outfit could construct the entire shoe from start to finish, we had to drive all over the greater Buenos Aires area ferrying fabrics to stitchers, unfinished shoes to shoemakers, and so on. That meant spending half the day on the very busy streets of the city in our car, driving like madmen. Alejo, who was used to it, was talking on two cellphones at once while weaving in and out of traffic as I gripped the seat, white-knuckled. I was scared out of my mind. Running a driver_ed course in America didn't prepare me for this.

In the meantime, back home, publicity kept growing as the Los Angeles Times article sparked more coverage. The next big hit came when Vogue magazine decided to do a spread on TOMS, although I doubt they knew our company consisted of three interns and me working out of my apartment. In the magazine, our forty-dollar canvas flats were being featured next to Manolo Blahnik stilettos that sold for ten times as much. After Vogue, other magazines, such as Time, People, Elle, and even Teen Vogue, wrote us up.

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Table of Contents

Author Note xi

1 The Toms Story 3

2 Find Your Story 21

3 Face Your Fears 45

4 Be Resourceful Without Resources 69

5 Keep it Simple 97

6 Build Trust 123

7 Giving is Good Business 153

8 The Find Step 175

Acknowledgments 187

A Reader's Guide 191

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Interviews & Essays

There is something different in the air these days: I feel it when I talk to business leaders, give speeches at high school and college campuses, and engage in conversation at coffee shops. People are hungry for success - that's nothing new. What's changed is the definition of that success. Increasingly, the quest for success is not the same as the quest for status and money. The definition has broadened to include contributing something to the world, and living and working on one's own terms.

When I started TOMS, people thought I was crazy. In particular, long-time veterans of the footwear industry surmised that the model was unsustainable or at least untested - that combining a for-profit company with a social mission would complicate and undermine both. What we've found is that TOMS has succeeded precisely because we have created a new model. The giving component of TOMS makes our shoes more than a product. They're part of a story, a tribe, and a movement anyone can join.

TOMS is just one example of a new breed of companies that are succeeding at a volatile time in capitalism's history. The growth of TOMS would never have been possible during my parents' generation, or even when I was first getting started in business in the not-so-distant past. In this fast-paced and constantly changing world, it's easier than ever to seize the day, but in order to do so, you must play by a new set of rules. Increasingly, the tried-and-true tenets of success are just tried, not true.

Start Something That Matters combines the story of TOMS with that of charity: water, FEED Projects, method, Zappos and many other incredible organizations. This book will teach you that having a story may be the most important part of your new venture; that fear can be usefuL; that having vast resources is not as critical as you might think; that simplicity is a core goal for successful enterprises; that trust is an invaluable leadership style; and, finally, that giving may be the best investment you'll ever make.

If this sounds like the way you want to do business and live your life, this book will get you started...

Carpe Diem,

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 54 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 16 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 22, 2011

    Makes you believe

    If you've ever had a dream of how you can change the world or start a business or pursue your passion, Start Something That Matters will make you believe you can do it. Blake's easy-to-read book includes not just the story of TOMS but of other dreamers who have made an impact to illustrate his seven key principals. I got my book free as a blogger, but it's one I would be willing to pay for.

    And for every book sold, a children's book will be donated to kids who need books. It's a win-win.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 20, 2011

    Everyone Needs to Read This!

    Blake wrote this book to open people's brains to the concept of starting a business that makes money, and a difference, at the same time. The TOMS story is fantastic, and he explains other similar businesses and what they are achieving around the globe. A must read for entrepreneurs and anyone considering a start-up. Spread the word--there are good things happening out there!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 15, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Highly recommended!

    Blake Mycoskie started TOMS shoe company after visiting Argentina and learning that many children there didn't own shoes, leading to infections and diseases from dirt-born parasites. The business donates one pair of shoes for every pair sold. This quick read describes the challenges and joys of getting the business going, along with how it became so successful; however, the majority of the book focuses on how we as humans can become our own destiny. The chapter titles say it all, among them: " Find Your Story, Face Your Fears, Build Trust, and Giving is Good Business." The chapters are simplistic but contain information which is so true. Decide what it is you really want, have the courage to go for it, and remember the people who helped you along the way. In other words, give back as much as you are able.

    This is truly an inspiring book which I am happy to highly recommend. Am sending a copy to my son in college this week!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 21, 2011

    This book just keeps on giving!!

    I just finished reading Blake¿s' book Start Something that Matters, and I was so engrossed in the content, I could not put it down. From cover to cover, this book is full of inspiration, business building strategies and examples of how one idea can change a life! From a corporate perspective I thoroughly appreciated Blake¿s description on the qualities that are essential in a team and leadership: trust, autonomy, engagement, creating champions and partnerships, and the foundation of corporate giving (in more ways than just money). From the community service perspective, I valued Blake¿s examples of the many ways in which an idea can help millions, and how giving creates a cycle of reciprocity. Blake stressed the importance of having a story and sharing your story, this is critical for any project, and business. His tips on creating, sharing and living your story will make a difference in how I approach my next big project. A book that will definitely make a difference in our world! Charmaine Hammond, Author, On Toby¿s Terms

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 7, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Loved this book Read it today

    WOW!!! I loved this book. The way the information was presented made me want to keep reading. I loved the stories of other businesses that are charity based and how they started and are now thriving. The need in the world is huge and it may seem impossible to do anything, but this book gives you small doable solutions to help out others.

    Have you ever thought that you are only one person and cannot do anything to help.well read this book and you will know that there are tons of things you can do every day to help someone somewhere. I read this book in one setting and I couldn't put it down. The personal stories and the stories of others brought the book to life. Why not have a business that is for-profit and for helping those in need. If we don't have enough then how can we help anyone?

    This is a book that everyone out there should read and think about. What can you do? Anything is something to someone out there in need. I will be making this book and a pair of TOMS part of my Christmas giving this year. Get this book and start something that matter how small someone will be eternally grateful for what you do. READ THIS BOOK TODAY! The publisher is giving one book to a child in need for every book purchased.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 4, 2013

    One of the best business books I've read

    As a photographer who is looking to take her craft full-time but also give back, this book was just what I needed to read. Blake not only shares what he has learned through the journey of building the TOMS brand and company but also what others who have similar business models have learned to help others who want to build businesses that are not only for profit but also help others. Great tool! I will definitely be reading it again :)

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  • Posted May 8, 2012

    Mediocre Read

    The idea of "buy 1, give 1" was a good idea. It's inspiring to know that Blake built Tom's from the bottom to the top but once I read passed that part, the book kind of sank for me. I would not recommend purchasing but worth browsing in-store or borrowing from the local library.

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  • Posted April 22, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    It is a fascinating read, and a great book for helping the buddi

    It is a fascinating read, and a great book for helping the budding entrepreneur to "find the right niche". It is a great book for casual non-fiction reading, even if I didn't want to create a company that would serve both to feed me and give back to the community.

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  • Posted April 17, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    One of the best books I've read on the entrepreneurial spirit.

    One of the best books I've read on the entrepreneurial spirit. Mycoskie started a shoe business on guts alone and it's interesting to read how when he met a brick wall (the shoe dogs) he kept searching for someone who would make his shoes. His ideas of using interns, keeping his business model simply and rewarding his employees with fun when he didn't have a great deal of money all make sense. He offers additional stories on other successful companies and websites of interest. Most of all Mycoskie believed in the power of his idea and the story to sell his product. It's a lesson anyone interested in starting something that matters will immediately get. Now I need to add this book to my personal collection and start my own dream.

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  • Posted April 6, 2012

    A Book that Makes Us Feel Good about Younger Americans

    Start Something That Matters Blake Mycoskie ©2011, Chief Shoe Giver, TOMS Random House Publishing Group, NY ISBN 978-1-4000-6918-7 (eBook 978-0-679-60352-8) 185 pp. (Hdbk) While visiting Argentina, the author notices simple shoes many natives wear. He decides to adapt the style to American markets and starts his own business. As part of his business model he vows that for every pair he sells he’ll give a pair of free shoes to a child in a third world country. How he and a few helpers begin producing his TOMS shoes in a small apartment in California is a story of persistence, follies and successes told with humor and a good-natured tone. The author challenges others to follow his lead and start a business not only for profit but to change the world. An admirable, quick-to-read account of an admirable young man, one worth learning from and copying.

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  • Posted April 4, 2012

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    Could not put down

    What an amazing man! Great story.

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    Posted September 7, 2011

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