TOMS Shoes: a solid footing for a sustainable business

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Blake Mycoskie put a human face on the theme of community service at the centennial celebration yesterday at Radford University. The California-based entrepreneur and founder of TOMS Shoes has given away 400,000 pairs of shoes to needy children under a socially responsible one-for-one philosophy: for every pair of shoes sold, his company gives away a pair.

Since TOMS Shoes (short for shoes for tomorrow) started from Mycoskie’s apartment in 2006, it has sponsored shoe drops in such countries as Argentina, South Africa and Haiti.  Mycoskie, 33, told an audience of alumni, faculty, students and guests that the pairing of philanthropy and capitalism can result in a successful business model.

While the company did not earn a profit during its first three years, Mycoskie is looking for that to change this year. Due to nationwide publicity and sales of the canvas shoes to such outlets as Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus, Toms SHOES has hired additional personnel and beefed up manufacturing to meet growing demand. The company ranked No. 6 this year in the retail category of Fast Co.’s 2010 most innovative companies.  Its shoes retail at anywhere from $48 to $70.

Growing sales are proof,  Mycoskie says, that the purchasing power of individuals can be harnessed for a greater good. 

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell also spoke at the 100-year celebration. He said tuition rates in Virginia have doubled over the last decade, putting a burden on students and families. Virginia needs to invest in its highly ranked system of higher education, he added, because it helps provide the trained workers that attract business. 



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