The start-up he’d founded six years earlier had grown into a global company with more than 0 million in revenue, and it was still delivering on its promise to donate a pair of shoes for every pair sold, but Mycoskie felt disillusioned.
His days were monotonous, and he had lost his connection to many of the executives in charge of daily operations.
Back home, I hosted a dinner party for some women friends to get their advice.
They loved the shoes and were even more excited when I shared my vision of helping children in need.
After founding and selling several companies (a door-to-door laundry business, an outdoor advertising company, an online driver’s education service) and making a brief detour into reality TV (I competed on with my sister and created an all-reality cable channel), I decided to take some time off in 2006 to learn to play polo in Argentina.
I know that sounds like a strange mix of pursuits, but I’ve always been happiest chasing my latest interest.
That is our greatest competitive advantage: It allows us to build an emotional bond with customers and motivate employees, because they know they are shopping and working for a movement bigger than themselves.
After my time away from the business, I returned with renewed energy. I got the idea for TOMS on something like a sabbatical.
In the fall of 2012 I did something I never thought I’d do: I took a sabbatical from TOMS.
It was not your typical travel-the-world sabbatical.
While in Buenos Aires, I met a woman who worked for a nonprofit, delivering shoes to children in poor rural areas.
She invited me to accompany her, and the experience was truly life-changing.
(To this day, some people are puzzled when they meet me, because they’re expecting a guy named Tom.) My polo instructor, Alejo, and I persuaded a local shoemaker to help us make a more fashionable version of the our first shoes were a “minimum viable product.” They had glue stains on them, were in Argentine rather than U. sizes, and didn’t always fit the same from pair to pair; but they were just good enough to test the concept among my friends in Los Angeles.