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After dropping out of Southern Methodist University, Texas-born Mycoskie built a number of successful businesses including a laundry service and a billboard company, before he was inspired to start Toms after a trip to Argentina made him realise there were still many children whose families were too poor to afford shoes.
With the help of a local shoemaker, he designed a simple canvas espadrille and brought back 250 pairs to the US, with the original aim of selling the shoes to raise money to send back to the country.
The campaign will run for three weeks and we have up to one million pairs of shoes to give away.
However, while Toms’ social message has largely been celebrated, it has attracted some criticism from people who say Toms is simply treating symptoms of poverty rather than looking at the deeper fundamental causes.
Mycoskie says he’s tackled this criticism by shifting some of its manufacturing from China and into developing countries to provide job creation.
We’re bringing stuff to help people but it can still be a slow process – you get people trying to take advantage of you, although we’ve got better at dealing with that.” Toms, which employs 500 people mainly based at its California HQ, is also keen for its workers to experience the reason behind the company’s mission.
After working at Toms for a year, workers are offered the chance to go on a shoe-giving mission with an NGO.
Its shoes are now manufactured in six countries, including Ethiopia, Kenya and Haiti.