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Founder of TOMS shoes inspires social entrepreneurship

Blake Mycoskie, One for One

Krannert students and aspiring entrepreneurs who met with Blake Mycoskie before his appearance in October as part of the Purdue Series on Corporate Citizenship and Ethics came away with a simple but powerful message: Find your passion and success will follow.

Mycoskie has created five businesses since college. His first was a successful national campus laundry service; his second startup, Mycoskie Media, was purchased by Clear Channel Media. Between business ventures, he competed in the CBS primetime series The Amazing Race with his sister, Paige, coming within minutes of winning the $1 million grand prize.

After The Amazing Race, Mycoskie attempted to create the first TV cable channel dedicated entirely to reality programming. His fourth startup was an online driver’s education school that featured hybrid cars and SUVs, which he sold to focus on the creation of his latest venture, TOMS Shoes.

Mycoskie founded the company in 2006 after visiting Argentina, where he had befriended a group of shoeless children. "Most people in developing countries grow up barefoot," he noted. "Whether they’re playing, doing chores, or just getting around, not having shoes puts these children at risk. And many children can’t attend school because shoes are a required part of the uniform."

As TOMS "chief shoe-giver," Mycoskie operates the company on the one-for-one business model, giving one pair of new shoes to a child in need for every pair sold. "Using the purchasing power of individuals to benefit the greater good is what we’re all about," Mycoskie said.

More than 140,000 pairs of new shoes were delivered to children around the world during the first three years of the company’s existence. By the end of 2009, TOMS gave an additional 300,000 pairs of new shoes to children in need all around the world, including in the United States.

Mycoskie’s commitment to social entrepreneurship has gained the attention of the media as well as world leaders. In 2009 at the Clinton Global Initiative University plenary session, former President Bill Clinton introduced Mycoskie as "one of the most interesting entrepreneurs (I’ve) ever met." Mycoskie and TOMS also have been featured in People magazine’s "Heroes Among Us" section and in the Bill Gates Time magazine article "How to Fix Capitalism."

Introduced in 2003, the Purdue Series on Corporate Citizenship and Ethics is hosted by the Krannert School and the College of Education’s James F. Ackerman Center for Democratic Citizenship. Sponsors include the Purdue Employees Federal Credit Union, Karl and Kathy Krapek, and the Chrysler Foundation.

Speakers chosen from a variety of disciplines discuss business ethics and the role citizens play in corporate ethics, providing an overview of the impact of corporate ethics on business, the economy and society as a whole.

In addition to Mycoskie, past speakers have included Lech Walesa, Nobel laureate and former president of Poland; Jerry Greenfield, co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s Homemade; Paul Sarbanes, former senator and co-author of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act; and Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Maryland’s first woman lieutenant governor and the daughter of Robert F. Kennedy.

— Eric Nelson

For more information on the Purdue Series on Corporate Citizenship and Ethics, visit