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Blake Mycoskie @ SXSW: ‘Toms Will No Longer Be a Shoe Company’

On June 7, Toms will announce a new product and it won’t be shoes. Blake Mycoskie, founder of the popular shoe company, gave an afternoon keynote about the growth of Toms and to set the stage for what’s next.

The man whom Bill Clinton has called “the most interesting entrepreneur I’ve ever met” started his company almost by accident. He was in Argentina after losing The Amazing Race, met volunteers in a café who were running a local shoe drive, and decided to jump in on the project. Inspired by his experience collecting donated shoes and delivering them to an Argentinian village, he returned to his home in Los Angeles with an idea. The question he asked himself was, why couldn’t entrepreneurship solve this problem instead of charity?

Thus, Toms was born. He developed the business organically with friends and family, and as many success stories go, was unprepared for rapid growth. He credits a 2006 Vogue article published shortly after he sold his first order to a store in LA, with pushing him over the top. From there, it’s been nothing but up.

His message to the crowd today is that businesses must incorporate giving into their strategy. And, the reasons are simple:

-Customers become your greatest marketers, because they have a story to tell
-It’s better for attracting and retaining employees, because people want to be part of something.

Between Blake’s keynote and Gary Vaynerchuk’s Thank You Economy talk yesterday, it’s clear that businesses need to do more good in the world, and connect with their customers in a more authentic way to succeed. Closing his talk, Mycoskie teased the crowd by stating that on the aforementioned June date, Toms will announce what’s next for the brand, which will no longer be “just a shoe company” and that its next product will also be a “one for one.”


Kirsten Cluthe is a consultant with The Frontier Project and a mediabistro contributor.

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