One idea can impact millions

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TOMS Shoes Founder has a message for Key Clubbers: Change the world

Interview by Kasey Jackson

In 2006, Blake Mycoskie took a trip and got an idea that would change the world. Sounds like an overblown statement, but it’s not. It’s just a drop in the bucket. In reality, life for millions of people around the world changed because of the vision of one young man who wanted to make a real difference. And he’s not done yet.

Mycoskie founded TOMS after a trip to Argentina moved him to help the children there—children he met who had no shoes. The company implemented the One for One idea: Buy a pair of TOMS Shoes for yourself and someone in need, somewhere, gets a pair of shoes as well. For free.

Since that initial idea, the One for One promise has grown into a clean water initiative, an eyeglasses project and now a project focusing on something very near and dear to the Kiwanis family: maternal health and safe birthing practices.

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Key Club magazine reached out to Mycoskie to see what he’s up to now, and to pick his brain about how he comes up with such life-changing ideas.

KCM: You’ve had so many successful ventures. TOMS Shoes just happens to be the most popular, most recognizable. Tell us a little about one of your latest big ideas: TOMS Roasting Co.

BM: We’ve known for several years that TOMS needed to go beyond giving shoes, that we have a responsibility to do more, especially as we’ve become successful. So we followed up shoes with TOMS Eyewear, which helps save and restore people’s sight, and then last year launched something completely different and unexpected, which was coffee. But not coffee for coffee’s sake, but coffee for water. I’m not sure most people realize how important water is to the coffee-making process. It takes a tremendous amount of water to wash and preserve high-quality coffee beans. So with every bag of TOMS coffee you purchase, we will give one week of clean water to a person in need. One for One.

“The numbers are pretty humbling today. And even though we have given nearly 40 million pairs of new shoes to children in need around the world, saved or restored the sight of over 300,000 people, and provided for over 100,000 weeks of clean water for people who need it, there is still so much left to do. We feel like we’ve only just begun.”   ~ Blake Mycoskie

How many pairs of TOMS Shoes have been given away to date?

The numbers are pretty humbling today. And even though we have given nearly 40 million pairs of new shoes to children in need around the world, saved or restored the sight of over 300,000 people, and provided for over 100,000 weeks of clean water for people who need it, there’s still so much left to do. We feel like we’ve only just begun.

For the past several years, Kiwanis-family members around the world, along with our partner UNICEF, have focused their efforts to eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus. If you had one message for these thousands of volunteers who are working to change the world one child and one community at a time, what would it be?

Blake & CT

My message is to not give up. The fact that innocent babies are dying unnecessarily is heartbreaking. From what I know about this issue, I know that even though the task will sometimes feel insurmountable, if you stay focused and committed and passionate, MNT can be prevented and even eliminated one day. It takes time, and yes, often it takes money, but it can be done.

There’s quite a specific feeling that pulls people to help others in need, and you obviously know exactly how this feels. What would you say to people out in the world who feel that same way and want to do something, but they just don’t know what to do or how to get started?

If you’re passionate about something, you should try not to worry about the actual size of the problem or the need, or how big the solution needs to be. You might even want to distill it down to helping one person. So that’s my big piece of advice: Start small, focus, get it right and then let the growth come.

Learn more about TOMS and its One for One promise at www.toms.com

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