Start something that matters reveals a story of a social enterprise – TOMS Shoes with a simple mission: When customers buy a pair of shoes, another pair will be given to children in need. The idea started in 2006 when the founder, Blake Mycoskie, traveled to Argentina. He came across a local charitable organization that was facing a problem of over-relying on donations whilst lacking suitable shoes for children. Thus, many of the poor children were still left barefoot.
After that, Blake decided to do something about this. At first, he wanted to start his own shoe charity; however, this idea did not survive since the organization needed a constant shoe supply. Thus, he began to combine the concepts of entrepreneurship and philanthropy for a new business model: a non-profit business with a social mission. This business model is a mix of helping people and making money to do it. TOMS was given as the business’s name, which meant “Tomorrow’s Shoes”. The mission was simple yet meaningful: “Sell a pair of shoes today, give a pair of shoes tomorrow”. The business focused on manufacturing and selling “alpargeta” – a type of casual slip-on shoes that local Argentinian people wear everywhere.
Also, this book shares many experiences to run a social start-up effectively, from having an appealing story, being courageous, utilizing every resource you have to managing your staff and supplier, and developing a good product. The most interesting part of this book is when the author mentioned how TOMS made use of its limited resources and applied the concept of simplicity in all aspects of his business. Blake suggested some ideas that other start-ups can apply, for example, adopting a simple operational process, simplifying working spaces, scheduling every task, and taking advantage of free online tools and platforms. He mentioned Netflix as an example since this company does not have a day off and a holiday control system. The reason is that they believe if the company employs the right staff, they will not take advantage of paid day-offs. In addition, this policy will reduce Netflix’s administrative and operational costs.
In conclusion, this book is a perfect mix of inspirations for entrepreneurial ideas and practical tips when you have to manage stakeholders and work processes, especially at the beginning of the operation. This book is about courage and fearlessness, which encourages readers to do something they have not done before and see where it takes you. His journey with TOMS Shoes is inspirational, especially considering Blake did not attend a fashion school nor work in the retail industry before.