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Start Something That Matters

Overview

The incredible story of the man behind TOMS Shoes and One for One, the revolutionary business model that marries fun, profit, and social good
 
“A creative and open-hearted business model for our times.”—The Wall Street Journal
 
Why this book is for you:
 
...

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Overview

The incredible story of the man behind TOMS Shoes and One for One, the revolutionary business model that marries fun, profit, and social good
 
“A creative and open-hearted business model for our times.”—The Wall Street Journal
 
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.
 
With every book you purchase, a new book will be provided to a child in need. One for One.™

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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: 9780812981445
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 5/15/2012
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 44,122
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.70 (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

one

the TOMS story

Be the change you want to see in the world.

-MAHATMA GANDHI

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,
Blake

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 39 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 10, 2012

    I Also Recommend:

    If you are looking for inspiration to start a new life and creat

    If you are looking for inspiration to start a new life and create something to make money at but doing something that fulfills you, this is the way to go. Whether you are interested in starting a business or not, this is an interesting “making changes” in your life idea book. I am always ready to read something that could possibly enlighten me somehow to make changes in my life for the better. Out of the box thinking is always interesting and inspiring to me and food for thought. Great advice and inventive ideas fill the pages and will provide the reader with new incentive to fulfill their spirit.


    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 29, 2011

    Motivating

    I have not reviewed a great number of books, but this one moved me. Blake Mycoskie has produced quite a following with TOMS and this book lays out how that came to be. It is written in a first person, straight forward manner that remains captivating throughout the book. He uses personal insight and first hand experience to explain how I as a regular person, can start something that matters. Obvously the goal is not to have a lot of TOMS look alike companies, but more appropriately, he explains the motivation and ability to successfully combine a for-profit company with a worthwhile cause. The adaptable nature of this basic idea allows his experience to transform ordiary companies to extraordinary businesses that can literally change lives. Even if you are not looking to start your own business or change the way you do business, this book is worthwhile reading for the insight alone.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 15, 2011

    Blessing!

    Awesome read. One of those reads that finds you exactly when you need it to.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 8, 2011

    Love it

    This book was amazing im not done yet but i cant put it down! A must readbfor all ages that will understand the struggles of being an entrepreneur!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 20, 2012

    I Also Recommend:

    I really found this book a great insightful read. There is great

    I really found this book a great insightful read. There is great advice, and some very good ideas that are worth to remember.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 7, 2012

    GREAT BOOK!

    Brilliantly written and certainly makes the point that things that matter can be done!! Very enjoyable and inspiring!!!

    William

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 7, 2012

    Best book ever

    I love this book and toms!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 9, 2012

    Great book

    Very motivating and inspirational! Filled with tons of information and great resources!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 2, 2011

    This book really changed my perception of entrepreneurship

    Before reading this book, i never gave any thought to charity or charitable organizations. I started my businesses with only one thing in mind, MONEY! Now i realize that although making money is great, it is not the only way to measure success. Giving and sharing feels just as good now as making money. I can now do both and feel better about my purpose in life. Starting a business is better when you know its for a purpose and when you know you can help change someones life for the better. Toms shoes is a biz with a purpose.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 8, 2013

    Love it

    I HAVE TOMS I WORE THEM TODAY!!!!!! I AM ONLY 9 BUT I MADE A DIFFERENCE!!!!! I LOVE TOMS!!!!!!!!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 27, 2012

    Highly Recommended eye opener

    This book is amazing and its an eye opener.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 28, 2012

    Recommended--You can still make $$, even when you match donations to sales!

    I like the idea of starting something that makes a difference in the lives of others. While the story is nice I was actually hoping to learn more about 'the how to' of starting a business that would benefit others. As an eBook purchase there isn't really a way to 'scan' the book to see if the desired information is available within the book.

    I do applaud Blake for his committment to follow through on his dream and to be persistent to reach his goal.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 20, 2012

    highly recommended!

    very interesting! can't stop reading it!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 10, 2012

    Anonymous

    Read this for a summer reading project for high school and actually liked it

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 30, 2012

    Goldentiger's Den

    Cloverwhisper clears away debris from a old cave. She walks inside and comes face to face with an adder. It raises up and becomes a little taller than her. It lunges at her and cloverwhisper dodges. She leaps on the cave wall and springs off. She spins arouns and leaps on its neck. She bites the back of its neck and it dies. She drags it out and throws it over the gorge. She clears out the rest of the den and waves sweet smelling flowers in the air. It completely covers up the scent of the adder. She makes him a wool and moss nest and leaves a rabbit by his nest. She goes out to hunt. - cloverwhisper

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 25, 2012

    Written for me

    I am learning a lot from this book. My husband and i have recently started a nonprofit and this book speaks to the question, is anyone else working this hard.

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    Posted March 24, 2012

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    Posted April 17, 2012

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    Posted November 5, 2011

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    Posted May 31, 2012

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 39 Customer Reviews

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