Catalyst interview with Blake Mycoskie of TOMS Shoes

I just listened to a segment on the Catalyst Podcast with Blake Mycoskie who is the Chief Shoe Giver and Founder of TOMS Shoes. He had some interesting things to say about his learning experience while creating TOMS.

Catalyst: What would you say to businesses who are thinking about doing some form of cause marketing?

Blake: I think there are some businesses that are meant to do just business. If you’re going to do cause marketing, it needs to be completely transparent, otherwise it will backfire. Take the AT&T commercials we did for example. It was completely authentic. I’ve been a customer since 1997, I run my entire business from my phone and I’m constantly building a business and at the same time helping people live better lives. And the one thing that connects those two things is the phone.

Catalyst: There are a lot of ideas being launched everyday. What made TOMS Shoes break through and what was the catalyst that made it happen?

Blake: First you need a Purple Cow idea, something worth talking about. TOMS wasn’t the first shoe company to be philanthropic but we were the first to give a shoe for every shoe purchased. Second, you have to be persistent. It took three hard years to get it off the ground.

Catalyst: What have you learned about leadership while running TOMS?

Blake: You can only be a leader by empowering other people. The more you try to control, the bigger the bottle neck you create and the more frustrated people get. Plus, empowering people shoes that you trust them. I have no day to day responsibility at TOMS because I have empowered people to run the business and they know I trust them.

Catalyst: What have you learned about yourself on this journey?

Blake: I started TOMS as an extrovert, now I’m an extreme introvert. When you are successful, everyone wants to spend time with you. The most important thing to me is spending time with close friends and families.  I like to just lay low and spend time with close friends.

Catalyst: What was the most difficult part?

Blake: Learning how to produce shoes. We had no idea how to do it. Manufacturers were trying to screw us on the price and we had to figure out how to scale from 10 shoes to 1,000 to 10,000.

Catalyst: What does TOMS mean?

Blake: It started with the idea of “Shoes for Tomorrow” then it went to “Tomorrow Shoes” but that wouldn’t fit on a label. So we shortened it to TOMS. It stands for a better tomorrow. We are all part of TOMS in some way.

Catalyst: What does the future of TOMS look like?

Blake: We want to focus less on us as TOMS and focus more on how we share the story with as many people as we can. We are intentional about building one on one relationships with churches and young people so that more people will go out and create the next TOMS.