This week, I’ve been reading Entrepreneurial Journalism, by Mark Briggs. (Click here to see a previous post based on other ideas from this book.) Chapter 4 is called, “Don’t Wait; Innovate.”
Briggs lists his four elements of innovation: creativity, risk, hard work and optimism. Basically, he says that you shouldn’t wait around for the next big thing, but that you should instead go out there and create it. What do you have to lose?
After reading the title and first few sections of this chapter, my mind instantly went to an example, one of my favorite companies: TOMS. For those of you who may not know, TOMS is a shoe and eyewear company, but it is first and foremost a giving company. It has a unique business model: “With every pair you purchase, TOMS will give a pair of new shoes to a child in need. One for One.” And, since June 2011: “With every pair you purchase, TOMS will help give sight to a person in need. One for One.” Who would have ever thought that helping a child could be as easy and effective as buying a pair of cute shoes or sunglasses?
In 2006, founder Blake Mycoskie met in his travels some children in Argentina who had no shoes. Because many diseases are spread through soil and because many schools require shoes as part of a uniform that is mandatory for attendance, Mycoskie wanted to help the children he befriended. He created TOMS shoes, a shortened version of the “shoes of tomorrow,” and vowed to give away one pair for every pair that he sold. He modeled the shoes after traditional Argentinean shoes, and they quickly became popular.
(A couple of years ago, I attended a lecture by Mycoskie at Mississippi State University, where he told us that at one point early in the project, he got a call from a department store that wanted to order some TOMS, and the shoes had become so popular that he literally had none left in stock.)
They have now given away more than one million pairs of shoes to children in need and are funding sight restoration by surgeries and glasses, all thanks to the wonderful customers who believed in a great cause and a fantastic innovation. The best part is that Mycoskie didn’t wait until after he had turned a profit or after he had sold a certain number of shoes to begin his giving. He started right away.
The moral of the story is that, yes, innovation is a huge part of creating a new company, service or product, but it would be so much better if every new innovation came with some generosity that would truly help others. What would you change to improve the world? To learn more about TOMS and how you can get involved, check out their Movement page. Be sure to watch the video, it really shows the true meaning of what they do.