Near and dear to my heart

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.

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7 thoughts on “Near and dear to my heart

  1. Christi,
    Interesting post. I can definitely see where you’re coming from. I think it’s great when companies incorporate charity into their mission, and I think TOMS is an obvious example of that, especially since their Buy One Give One Model has inspired a lot of other similar projects. I also think it’s just good business. I recently read somewhere that well over 50 percent of people would be more willing to buy a product from a company that had some sort of social conscious at the heart of its main goal. Here’s hoping that a lot of other companies catch on and that the business model is successful in the long-run.

  2. I agree. I like how you tied the whole TOMS mission into this weekend’s readings. You make a good point. They were able to turn an innovative idea into a successful company. They’ve expanded and inspired others to promote well-being and charity, which is something we need more of in this world. It’s true, people are more willing to buy something if they know their purchase is going to a good cause. For instance, while I was standing in line at Wal-Mart the other day, I noticed a box filled with these neat little tubes of mints. I’d never seen them before, so I reached up and grabbed one off the shelf. The label read “Feed the Hungry.” This group called Project 7 produces these mints, and each tray they sell (I think there were maybe 15 tubes in one tray), will go towards providing the hungry with food. Each tray provides 7 meals in American communities. Now, I really didn’t need any mints, and I’m also really poor, so the thought of paying $1.38 for a thing of tiny breath fresheners kinda made me cringe, but, the project’s goal totally convinced me to contribute to the cause…so I bought a tube. This whole concept is an great way to get people interested in your company/project/idea or whatever you’re trying to produce!

    • Now I’m going to have to find some of those mints and try them, Sarah. I’m sure those that were fed thanks to the revenues appreciate your purchase! Another thing I love about TOMS is that they regularly send emails and post stuff on their site that shows videos of what they’re actually doing. It’s so great to see the kids’ faces light up when they can go to school and play soccer safely with their friends.

  3. Christi,
    I love TOMS, and pretty much every magazine I read promoted this campaign, which is how I found out about it. I think the part you included in your last paragraph about being innovative and doing something to help others is important. I don’t think a lot of companies or people think about this when they’re coming up with new ideas or products. I will check out the video, and I have not thought about what I would do to change the world. It’s something that I need to think about though, maybe even for my master’s project.

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