Why wait until you retire to be a philanthropist?

Blake Mycoskie advises...

BLAKE MYCOSKIE: Founder and Chief Shoe Giver of TOMS | C2MTL, MAY 21, 2013.

“I really do belief that the two can go hand in hand, and that if more companies incorporate giving into the DNA of why they exist, it’s really good for business. It helps with customer loyalty, it helps retain and motivate amazing employees; people want to do partnerships with you because other companies want to have the halo effect that is resulting from the giving, and the impact you’re making on society.  So, I actually think that it’s good business to incorporate giving from the very beginning and not wait until you’ve had the success, then you have plenty to give, so you give some of it away.”

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Sometimes life happens when you’re busy doing something else. This was certainly the case with Blake Mycoskie. In 2006, while taking a month off in Argentina from the daily stressors of his software company, Mycoskie had a revelatory experience. It all started with a conversation in a café.  And then moved on to a poor village on the outskirts of town. Impoverished village children needed shoes to complete mandatory school uniforms. Wealthier city dwellers had slightly used shoes to give away. All that was needed was a middleman (or a few middle people) to bridge the gap, distribute the shoes, and make the dream of school attendance a reality.

But kids outgrow shoes faster than locusts buzz through a corn crop. One pair would not last a lifetime. There had to be a better way to shod those in need.

And that’s when it clicked. Cut out the middleperson. Manufacture new shoes. One pair bought in the developed world would provide one pair to be given away in a developing nation. One for one. A business platform built upon the tenets of giving forth and getting back. And giving forth again. Again and again, and again.

For Mycoskie, charity has never been a business buzzword, a latter day add-on for tax purposes. Charity should be integral to everything a company does. And why shouldn’t he feel this way? Time and the notoriously fickle world of fashion have proven him right. His customers have become fervid apostles for the TOMS brand, and proselytize the way only true believers can. Who needs advertising when your customers willingly convert their friends and family to the fold? It just goes to show: when you’re authentic in your purpose, and your purpose is ultimately beneficent, people are bound to respond.

Blake Mycoskie recently became the youngest member of The B Team, a movement founded by Sir Richard Branson which unites inspirational business leaders comitted to finding a “new normal” – where profit embodies a sustainable collective achieving results far beyond the vernacular business models of today.

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