Blake Mycoskie founded TOMS Shoes in 2006 with a simple business model: “With every pair you purchase, TOMS will give a pair of new shoes to a child in need. One for One.” In 2011, Blake Mycoskie and TOMS launched its second One for One product, TOMS Eyewear; every pair of sunglasses purchased helps give sight to a person in need by providing medical treatment, prescription glasses, or sight-saving surgery. Blake Mycoskie will be using 50 percent of his proceeds from this book to create the Start Something That Matters Fund, which will support inspired readers in their efforts to make a positive impact on the world.
I also got used to wearing the national shoe: the alpargata, a soft, casual canvas shoe worn by almost everyone in the country, from polo players to farmers to students. I saw this incredibly versatile shoe everywhere: in the cities, on the farms, in the nightclubs. An idea began to form in the back of my mind: Maybe the alpargata would have some market appeal in the United States. But as with many half-formed ideas that came to me, I tabled it for the moment. My time in Argentina was supposed to be about fun, not work.
Toward the end of my trip, I met an American woman in a café who was volunteering with a small group of people on a shoe drive-a new concept to me. She explained that many kids lacked shoes, even in relatively well-developed countries like Argentina, an absence that didn’t just complicate every aspect of their lives but also exposed them to a wide range of diseases. Her organization collected shoes from donors and gave them to kids in need-but ironically the donations that supplied the organization were also its Achilles’ heel. Their complete dependence on donations meant that they had little control over their supply of shoes. And even when donations did come in sufficient quantities, they were often not in the correct sizes, which meant that many of the children were still left barefoot after the shoe drop-offs. It was heartbreaking.
I spent a few days traveling from village to village, and a few more traveling on my own, witnessing the intense pockets of poverty just outside the bustling capital. 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-all the result of the children not being able to protect their young feet from the ground.