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Shoeless


Countless things we take for granted in life. And we do not stop to think or imagine our life without them at all; we got so used to them that it becomes unimaginable to live without them.


Walking with shoes, access to a toilet or a running water tap at the time we desire are only examples of those things.


Tens of millions of people do not have any of these things. Thousands of shoeless youngsters with blisters, sore, and infections walk the roads of India, Argentina, Brazil, Congo, and many countries more, for they cannot afford a shoe price.


29-year old American entrepreneur decided to go for a vacation from his successful business ventures and to think of new ones. He chose Argentina for his vacation. Determined to entangle himself with the local culture, he took a quick course in the national dance – the tango, and wore their famous shoe – the alpargata.


In this visit, he met by coincidence, an American woman who traveled with bags of shoes to give them away to those in need. He was awestruck- he did not imagine before that moment that poverty is that cruel. He traveled to the villages to see that firsthand. After these visits, he reflected on the woman's effort and thought that although it is a very noble effort, there are two problems. First, these donated shoes are unsustainable. As soon as donations stop, these barefoot kids will not get the shoes. Second, donated shoes do not come in all sizes and shapes that will meet the need of all those shoeless people. It would be heartbreaking to go to a village with a bag of shoes to give away to kids in a queue, and one will be left out because no shoe fits his/ her size.


He put his entrepreneurial mindset into this dilemma and came up with a solution. He would build a business to manufacture alpargata – with some modifications and commercially sell these shoes typically like any for-profit business in America and other countries. For each pair he sells, another pair will be manufactured and donated to shoeless people. The trademark of his shoes is TOMS® - stands for Tomorrow's Shoes. So, if you paid for TOMS, you satisfied yourself with a fashionable shoe. The price you paid for it will be used to produce another pair that is going to be donated to suffering barefoot people somewhere in the world.


As an entrepreneur also, he knew that any idea needs publicity and well marketing. When putting the word out, people of all backgrounds and financial status loved the concept, and celebrities proudly wore those shoes to support the cause. Orders poured in thousands beyond his capacity at the beginning.


It was an incredible moment for sure when he took the first batch to those villages with his parents and friends to donate those shoes to the kids who were waiting in queues to get the experience they dreamed of.


Blake Mycoskie shared his TOMS® story and inspirational messages in an insightful book titled "Start something that matters." Blake's experience should inspire volunteers in the philanthropic institutes to think "sustainability" in their current noble efforts.