Toms Founder Blake Mycoskie Tells Siloam Springs Crowd To Embrace Giving

Blake Mycoskie, an entrepreneur and the founder of Toms Shoes, spoke Thursday morning in Siloam Springs before a crowd of more than 1,500, encouraging listeners to incorporate giving into as much of their lives as they can.

Scruffy, wearing jeans and a purple sweater and, of course, a pair of the slip-on shoes that inspired his radical business model, Mycoskie engaged his audience for 45 minutes inside Bill George Arena on the campus of John Brown University. The event was part of the school's Leadership Week sponsored by The Soderquist Center for Leadership and Ethics.

"Giving feels good," Mycoskie said to those in the audience. "The truth is I hope every single person here gets to feel just the way I felt when I put that first pair of shoes on a child's foot."

Mycoskie founded his company in 2006, working out of his apartment with a staff of three unpaid interns.

The idea began, admittedly, as "just a side project" but it wasn't long until it became a full-time business.

The mission behind Toms Shoes is what makes it unique. For every pair of shoes sold, the company donates one pair of shoes to a child in need.

Mycoskie adopted the idea following a trip to Argentina, where he witnessed children living in poverty who were unable to attend school because they didn't have shoes.

Under this One For One mantra, the company has donated more than 1 million pairs of shoes. There are shoe drops, with volunteers hand-delivering shoes to children, conducted six days a week in more than 20 countries around the world.

"I hope two million is what's next for us," Mycoskie said. "We didn't set out to give away one million shoes, we set out to help kids. It was a big deal for the media [when the 1 million milestone was reached] but it was no more important than 900,000 shoes. We did celebrate a little, but that is not our goal. Our goal is to help kids."