Social Entrepreneur & TOMS Founder Blake Mycoskie Coming for March 2 Ubben Lecture
December 19, 2013
Blake Mycoskie's idea, noted the Wall Street Journal, "has soulful simplicity: For every pair of rubber-soled 'alpargatas' shoes Mr. Mycoskie sells to the affluent, he gives away a pair to someone who needs it." On Sunday, March 2, 2014, Mycoskie -- the founder and chief shoe giver of TOMS and, as Fast Company puts it, "a leader in the social entrepreneurship landscape" -- will come to the campus of DePauw University to discuss his unique approach to business and building a better world.
The Timothy and Sharon Ubben Lecture Series will present "Conscious Capitalism and the Future of Business" at 7 p.m. in Kresge Auditorium, located in the Green Center for the Performing Arts. Like all Ubben Lectures, the event is presented free of admission charge.
Since it began in 2006 when Mycoskie was just 29 years old, TOMS has given ten million pairs of new shoes to children in need. The company also recently expanded its unique business model -- called "caring capitalism" by some -- to include TOMS eyewear, in which for every pair of glasses purchased, the company helps give sight to a person in need around the world.
TOMS’ humble beginnings happened unintentionally. While traveling in Argentina in 2006, Mycoskie witnessed the hardships faced by children growing up without shoes. His solution to the problem was simple, yet revolutionary: to create a for-profit business that was sustainable and not reliant on donations. The concept began with the name "Shoes for a Better Tomorrow," which was shortened to "Tomorrow's Shoes," and then simply became "TOMS." Mycoskie's One for One charity movement has turned into a global phenomenon.
"Corporate America has a long track record of charitable fund-raising and has been exploring brand tie-ins with charities for decades," wrote the Journal's Christina Binkley. "But TOMS is going a step further than most in blurring the difference between brand and charity; the brand doesn't exist outside the charitable work. Its success shows that good works can be a powerful profit engine."
Of Mycoskie, the business newspaper declares, "More Indiana Jones than corporate CEO, he travels the globe on TOMS's 'shoe drops,' in which he and a team distribute footwear to kids in underprivileged areas in South Africa, Haiti, Rwanda, Cambodia and elsewhere. Back at home, he lives on a boat docked in Marina del Rey."
"We're giving away shoes in 28 countries now," Mycoskie told Inc. in 2010. "The shoes not only help kids go to school, but they prevent life-threatening diseases. We're helping to prevent hookworm in Guatemala. In Ethiopia, we're preventing podoconiosis, a disease that can cause the feet and legs to swell to dangerous proportions. Kids get it from walking barefoot on volcanic soil. We're getting more involved in getting the best doctors and clinics there, so we can take it to the next level of prevention.
"When I go on shoe drops, I meet with our partners: nonprofits and other organizations involved in public health. They help us give away shoes all year long. We partner with organizations that are already in the community, because they really know what the kids need. They tell me what's working, what they need more help with."
Mycoskie is also the author of the book, Start Something That Matters, offering his own amazing story of inspiration, and the power of incorporating giving in business. The book became a New York Times best-seller.
A native of Texas who always had an entrepreneurial spirit, Mycoskie has started five businesses. His first was a successful campus laundry service, which he later sold. Between business ventures, he competed in the CBS prime time series, The Amazing Race. With his sister, Paige, Mycoskie traveled the world and came within minutes of winning the $1 million dollar grand prize.
In 2009, Blake Mycoskie and TOMS received the Secretary of State’s 2009 Award of Corporate Excellence (ACE). At the Clinton Global Initiative University plenary session, President Clinton introduced Mycoskie to the audience as “one of the most interesting entrepreneurs (I’ve) ever met.” He's been featured in People magazine's “Heroes Among Us” section, and TOMS was spotlighted in Bill Gates’ TIME magazine article “How to Fix Capitalism.”
Mycoskie is passionate about inspiring young people to help make tomorrow better, encouraging them to include giving in everything they do. His hope is to see a future full of social-minded businesses and consumers.
Established in 1986 through the generous support of 1958 DePauw graduates Timothy H. and Sharon Williams Ubben, the Ubben Lecture Series was designed to "bring the world to Greencastle." Three Ubben Lectures have already been presented during the current academic year: human rights advocate Martin Luther King III (seen below) spoke on November 21; Fox News Channel anchor and 1992 DePauw graduate Bret Baier visited on October 12; and former congressman and three-time presidential candidate Ron Paul delivered a September 10 speech.
Previous Ubben Lecturers have included Bill Clinton, Margaret Thatcher, Elie Wiesel, Benazir Bhutto, Mikhail Gorbachev, Tony Blair, Jane Goodall, Ross Perot, Shimon Peres, Barbara Bush, Oscar Arias, General Colin Powell, Willy Brandt, Peyton Manning, John Major, Ambassador L. Paul Bremer, Mitch Albom, F.W. de Klerk, General Wesley Clark, Spike Lee, George Will, Andrew Young, Lee Hamilton '52, ice cream entrepreneurs Ben Cohen & Jerry Greenfield, Mary Frances Berry, Ken Burns, Bob Woodward, Oliver Sacks, Gwen Ifill, Paul Volcker, Todd Rundgren, Karl Rove, Howard Dean, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Ralph Nader, Mike Krzyzewski, Harry Belafonte, Leymah Gbowee, Charles Fishman, David McCullough, Carl Bernstein, Jane Pauley, Alan Simpson, Julian Bond, Jimmy Wales, Jason Reitman, Candy Crowley, Paul Tsongas, William J. Bennett, Sister Helen Prejean, Allen Neuharth, Rebecca Skloot, Naomi Wolf and many others. (photo: Sharon and Tim Ubben with Barbara Bush; March 20, 1996)
A video history of the Ubben Lecture Series was created in 2008, and can be accessed here.Back