In just four years, Santa Monica-based TOMS Shoes has done as much to revolutionize the way business intersects with philanthropy as any brand in the world.
Blake Mycoskie launched TOMS in 2006 with the simple goal of selling 250 pairs of canvas shoes out of his Venice apartment and at American Rag on La Brea. Mycoskie then gave away 250 matching pairs to children at a school in Los Peatones, Argentina. Today, TOMS has sold over one million pairs and is the top-selling shoe at Nordstrom. Through its one-for-one movement more than one million pairs of shoes have been given to children in need from Ethiopia, Argentina, Haiti, the U.S. and elsewhere — one pair given for every pair sold.
Last Sunday during a brief downpour at the school in San Pedro, I chatted with Blake about returning to where it all began four years ago and donating the one millionth pair of TOMS.
This post originally appeared in LAist.
one of the boys with a monkey in San Pedro, Argentina
A few days ago, we did three shoe drops in the San Pedro area of northern Argentina. On that day, we spent nearly twelve hours traveling from village to village. Usually we’d start in buses, driving along paved roads created by the government, then we’d transfer to jeeps built for handling tougher conditions of the inner jungle’s terrain.
On the second and third drops, our jeep parked on the side of the road and we hiked the rest of the way through the wilderness. Walking through the jungle was awe-inspiring, and we were all totally floored by what we saw. We imagined out loud what it was like to grow up there.
hiking to a village in San Pedro, Argentina
The second TOMS shoe drop was one of the smaller ones, and while there were many kids seemed to go by in an instant. Like many of us who were new to the experience, we could tell that some of the children weren’t sure what to expect at the beginning. But by the time we left, they (and us) all had huge smiles on our faces.
Giving away TOMS Shoes in San Pedro
I cannot even describe the emotion felt after placing a brand new shoe on a child’s foot. A lot of the time, their feet were dirty, swollen, and blistered with sores – sometimes their feet were even different sizes. Some of the older kids blushed and dusted their feet off before we fitted them with TOMS. Some were outgoing and eager to play with us right away. Others were shy, seemed embarrassed, or unsure about all the activity.