|Intro||American entrepreneur, author, and philanthropist|
|Known for||Founder of Toms Shoes|
|From||United States of America|
|Birth||26 August 1976, Texas, USA|
|Residence||Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California, USA|
Blake Mycoskie (born August 26, 1976) is an American entrepreneur, author, and philanthropist. He is the founder of Toms Shoes.
Early life and education
Mycoskie was born in Arlington, Texas to Mike Mycoskie, an orthopedic surgeon, and Pam Mycoskie, an author. After first attending Arlington Martin High School, he graduated from St. Stephen's Episcopal School in Austin in 1995. Mycoskie, who began playing tennis when he was 10, attended Southern Methodist University on a partial tennis scholarship in 1995, and elected a dual major in philosophy and business. After an Achilles tendon injury he sustained as a sophomore, which effectively ended his tennis career, Mycoskie left SMU and launched his first business, EZ Laundry. Originally focused on SMU, which had no on-campus dry cleaning service, EZ Laundry expanded, ultimately employing more than 40 people, servicing three universities, and generating approximately $1 million in sales. Mycoskie sold the company to his partner in 1999.
Following college, Mycoskie moved to Nashville and founded Mycoskie Media, an outdoor billboard company which focused mainly on marketing country music. The company was quickly profitable, and was bought by Clear Channel nine months after its launch.
In 2001, Mycoskie and his sister, Paige Mycoskie, applied for the cast of Survivor. A member of the Survivor production team told them about The Amazing Race, which had yet to debut, and they instead pursued a team position on that show. They competed in the second season of The Amazing Race and finished in third place, missing a million dollar prize by four minutes. Mycoskie moved to Los Angeles later that year.
In Los Angeles, Mycoskie co-founded the cable network Reality Central with Larry Namer, a founder of E! Entertainment Television. Raising $25 million from venture capitalists, along with other members of reality show casts, the network launched in 2003 with a plan of airing original content and re-runs of reality programming. Although the network had moderate success, it folded in 2005 after Rupert Murdoch launched the Fox Reality Channel and outbid Reality Central for advertisers and programming. Determined to pursue an entrepreneurial path, Mycoskie then partnered with the founders of TrafficSchool.com to create DriversEd Direct, an online driver's education service which additionally offered behind-the-wheel training in hybrid and sport utility vehicles. To promote DriversEdDirect, he created Closer Marketing Group, a Santa Monica-based marketing firm specializing in brand development and viral marketing.
Mycoskie visited Argentina on vacation in 2006. While there, he met an American woman who was part of a volunteer organization which provided shoes for children in need. Mycoskie spent several days traveling from village to village with the group, as well as on his own. "(I witnessed) the intense pockets of poverty just outside the bustling capital," he wrote in a 2011 article for The Business Insider. "It dramatically heightened my awareness. Yes, I knew somewhere in the back of my mind that poor children around the world often went barefoot, but now, for the first time, I saw the real effects of being shoeless: the blisters, the sores, the infections."
Inspired, Mycoskie returned to the United States and founded Shoes for Better Tomorrows. Designed as a for-profit business which could continually give new shoes to disadvantaged children, he created the "One for One" business model: the company would donate a new pair of shoes for every pair of shoes sold. An early example of social entrepreneurship, the shoes, similar to the Argentinian Alpargata, were created to appeal to a worldwide audience, which would both sustain the company's mission and generate profit. Shoes For A Better Tomorrow, later shortened to TOMS, was started in 2006; by 2013, the company had donated more than 10,000,000 pairs of shoes to people in need. The shoes are sold globally in more than 1000 stores.
In 2011, Toms expanded to include eyeglasses in its "One for One" offering—for every pair of sunglasses purchased, sight-saving medical treatment, prescription glasses, or surgery is donated to a person in need. While Mycoskie conceived the idea, a "Sight Giving Partner," the Seva Foundation, was contracted to administer the actual program, which launched in Nepal, Tibet, and Cambodia. In a 2012 interview with Fast Company, Mycoskie said it was helpful for him to work with Seva. "I've been there when (people have had) surgery... and I've handed out the glasses. But as Toms grows, it has to be less about 'What's Blake's most intimate, joyful experience?' and more about 'What's the great need?'"
Mycoskie published the book Start Something That Matters in 2011. In it, he wrote about the virtues of social entrepreneurship and the concept of businesses using their profits and company assets to make charitable donations or engage in other charitable efforts, using his experience with Toms to demonstrate both the intangible and real returns. For every copy of Start Something That Matters sold, Mycoskie promised to give a children's book to a child in need. Fifty percent of royalties from the book were then used to provide grants to up-and-coming entrepreneurs, and Mycoskie increased this to 100% in late 2012. The book became a New York Times best-selling business book, and a number one New York Times best-seller in the advice category.
At SXSW in 2014, Mycoskie announced the launch of TOMS Roasting Co., a company which offers coffee sourced through direct trade efforts in Rwanda, Honduras, Peru, Guatemala, and Malawi. TOMS Roasting Co. will donate a week of water to people in need in supplier countries for every bag of coffee sold. In 2014, Mycoskie announced that TOMS would launch an additional "One for One" product every year.
In August 2014, Mycoskie sold 50% of Toms to Bain Capital, retaining his role as Chief Shoe Giver. In a company press release, he said: "In eight short years, we've had incredible success, and now we need a strategic partner who shares our bold vision for the future and can help us realize it." He will donate 50% of the profits from the sale to establish a fund that identifies and supports social entrepreneurship and other causes. Bain committed to matching Mycoskie's donation to the fund, and will continue the One For One business model.
Mycoskie, who lives in Los Angeles, met his ex-wife, Heather Lang, before the two worked together at Toms. They have one son, Summit, and one daughter, Charlie. Lang runs Toms Loves Animals, a program launched in May 2014 in conjunction with Toms. His sister, Paige Mycoskie, is the founder and designer of Aviator Nation, a surf lifestyle brand inspired by vintage sportswear; his brother, Tyler, works in marketing at Toms. Mycoskie is an avid golfer and fly fisher.
Awards and honors
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health Next Generation Award, April 9, 2015
- Keynote speaker, SXSW Interactive, 2014
- USA Today, "Five Best Communicators In The World" 2013
- ISPA Humanitarian Award (2013)
- Fortune "40 Under 40" (2011)
- ABC News Person of the Week (2011)
- Keynote speaker, SXSW (2011)
- Secretary of State’s Award of Corporate Excellence (2009)
- Bloomberg Businessweek "America's Most Promising Social Entrepreneurs" (2008)
- People "Heroes Among Us" (2007)
- People’s Design Award from the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum (2007)