You need to have a why.
Why are you hustling every day? Why are you pushing yourself? Why are you sacrificing?
If you have a purpose, you’ll have the passion you need to follow through.
There is nothing more powerful.
And it’s become a necessity- in today’s world; it’s difficult to be a successful entrepreneur unless you are connected to a greater good and you communicate that with others.
Storytelling can be your greatest tool.
On today’s episode of The School of Greatness, I talk about creating a business with purpose with the creator of the One for One® model: Blake Mycoskie.
Blake Mycoskie is the Founder and Chief Shoe Giver of TOMS, which has provided over 86 million pairs of shoes to children since 2006. TOMS Eyewear has restored sight to over 600,000 people since 2011 and TOMS Roasting Company has helped provide over 600,000 weeks of safe water since launching in 2014. In 2015, TOMS Bag Collection was founded with the mission to help provide training for skilled birth attendants and distribute birth kits containing items that help a woman safely deliver her baby. As of 2016, TOMS has supported safe birth services for over 25,000 mothers.
Before TOMS, Blake, a native of Texas who always had an entrepreneurial spirit, started five businesses. His first was a successful campus laundry service, which he later sold. Between business ventures, Blake competed in the CBS primetime series, The Amazing Race. With his sister, Paige, Blake traveled the world and came within minutes of winning the $1 million dollar grand prize. Blake is an avid reader and traveler. He 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.
Blake is passionate about using commerce to make money while creating social good.
He says that people want to help others, they just need to be given the opportunity. He says that it’s important to connect in a way that lets the customer be the hero.
So get ready to learn why it’s powerful to connect people’s wants and needs on Episode 736.
Lewis: Episode number 736 with Toms shoes founder Blake Mycoskie. Welcome to the school of greatness my name is Lewis Howes, a former athlete turned lifestyle entrepreneur and each week we bring you an inspiring person or message to help you discover how to unlock your inner greatness. Thanks for spending some time with me today, now let the class begin.
Oprah Winfrey said “Don’t worry about being successful, but work toward being significant and the success will naturally follow.” I hope you are having a wonderful holiday season as we’re wrapping up the end of the year and I’m going to be sharing some of my end of year lessons. Some of the biggest lessons I learned from this year and it’s been a lot trust me, especially a lot of happening towards the end of the year. But I am excited about this interview with Blake because he has done some incredible things for business and charity and making the world a better place. He’s done it all and combined it in a powerful way and if you don’t know who Blake Mycoskie is if you never heard of Toms shoes he is the founder and chief shoe giver of Toms and the person behind the idea of 1 for 1, which is a business model which helps a person in need of every product purchased. You probably seen this, you’ve probably bought Toms shoes, you’ve probably bought this model from another company because many companies and brands have taken this model and implemented themselves where you buy a product and then give that product to someone in need as well, a very popular model right now.
In this simple idea has grown into a global movement Toms shoes has provided almost 90 million pairs of shoes to children since 2006. And in this interview we talked about the benefit of having a business that gives back, how to deal with negative backlash with empathy. So how to deal with a backlash when you try to do good to the world but people make you wrong for it still. The power of storytelling for your business and how your business will ultimately suffer if you don’t have a great story. Some of the major challenges that entrepreneur are facing right now and what they need to do to get out of them and whatever business an entrepreneur should be thinking about in terms of charity and giving back, that and so much more. We’ve covered things about his latest initiatives which are mind blowing what he has been able to create with his platform. How to do good in the world, how to change policy in the world through your platform and so much more. This is a really important interview and I’d like you to share it with your friends’ lewishowes.com/736. Let Blake know on Instagram what you think about this tag him as well @blakemycoskie @tomsshoes check them both out there.
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Also we have been seeing some incredible movement in our inner circle program, if you’re not aware of our inner circle group this is a group where thousands of entrepreneurs around the world are a part of and every month we deliver one of the top business and online marketing masterclasses that you can find. We collect and curate the most successful entrepreneurs, the best marketers all this things and we teach you each month a new masterclass with one of the top experts in the world on building online business and right now you can sign up at lewishowes.com/innercircle.
Guys this couldn’t be more timely of information if you are looking to build a business, if you are looking to a side hustle, a consulting business you’ve got to be thinking in terms of how can I do good in the world, how can I give back? How can I serve more people than just serving myself of making money, and I believe if you are not thinking about this and mindful about this your business will ultimately struggle and suffer if you are not looking into for ways to give in a more holistic approach in your business and your brands. So I’m very excited about this, again make sure to share this with your friends lewishowes.com/736. And without further ado let me introduce you to the one the only Blake Mycoskie.
Welcome everyone to the school of greatness podcast we have the legendary Blake Mycoskie in the house, good to see you man how are you doing?
Blake: That’s a nice introduction. I wish my wife would say that when I walk into the kitchen.
Lewis: We have like a couple of hundred mutual friends probably in this.
Blake: For sure, I think every single book here a book I’ve read and I know the author.
Lewis: Saw your Instagram page and saw Jessie Itzler doing a video for you and we’re talking about Scott Harrison and so many mutual friends who are entrepreneurs. A lot of people recommended to have you on here so I’m glad you’re finally here.
Blake: I’m so glad to be here.
Lewis: You are well known for creating Toms shoes which has been kind of like the gold standard with how to run a business with social good behind it and everyone uses you as an example. They’re like ‘I’m the Toms shoes of sunglasses and this.’ So everyone is kind of doing this you buy one and give one model right? What was your original inspiration for doing that and did you think it would actually last 12 years and grow? Or is it like maybe we’ll make it past a few years and give a bunch of shoes.
Blake: Yeah, I mean literally it wasn’t even a business when we launch it, we called it the Toms project and it was. What’s so interesting is there’s been so many people that have emulated this one for one model, but we didn’t really think about like we were creating a model, we just want to keep track of it like the easiest way to track of this. You know I was travelling in South America specifically in Argentina, I saw all these kids in the streets kind of sniffing glues and kind of going through tough times and none of them had shoes on and I asked this woman one day “Why are this kids not in school?” And she said “One of the reasons they are not in school is they have to have school uniform to go to school and part of that uniform is shoes and they can’t afford it.’ So their families can’t afford shoes then they don’t go to school and then they get into all kinds of bad stuff.
So when I think back to that moment with the idea I had was so simple like I basically went and volunteered for this organization for the day who had gone and donated shoes. So then went to wealthy families in Buenos Aires collected this slightly used shoes they took them to the kids before the school year and that was their donation, and I went and volunteered and donated shoes got the joy of seeing kids getting shoes. That night I came home and I was talking to my buddy who was a teacher of all things and his name was Lejo and I said “Lejo I did this thing and it felt so good.” And he said “What’s gonna happen if they need another pair of shoes?” And it was like I went from a 10 to a 5, maybe we didn’t actually do something good today maybe we just like prolong the future problem and that’s when I had the idea you know. I’ve never been in charity, I’ve never been in philanthropy but I’m an entrepreneur I started a few businesses and what if you could start a business where every time you sold a pair of shoes you give a pair away and in that way it’s really easy for the customer to understand, it’s really easy to keep track of it. It was like buy a pair we give a pair that’s 1 for 1, and that was it just like you know at the time I was running another company an online education company that I started, this is like a side project we didn’t have like a business plan, we didn’t even have a checking account like it was like let’s do this. At the time I was a single guy like 29 years old love Argentina love going down there.
Lewis: I love Argentina.
Blake: Right, and so I thought this is cool. Once a year right before school I’ll go down there I’ll give a couple of hundred kids shoes and then I’ll come back Christmas and give them all shoes make it sustainable and it’ll be my cool little project, like that was the idea. And now we have given 88 million children pair of shoes.
Lewis: That’s amazing.
Blake: And it’s been amazing and I think you know the fact that there’s been so many other companies take this 1 for 1, and actually call it a model now and emulate it has been one of the things that I and people at Toms are most proud of. Like it is amazing when we read about companies that are helping people with eyeglasses or you look at companies that have done it in diapers stuff. There’s actually an interesting way of offering a product to someone that they want to buy and at the same time help someone who has need that they would be able to afford it. So, that’s I think one of the things that we’re most proud of is that it has permuted business culture around the globe.
Lewis: How many of this 1 for 1 models out there business?
Blake: Hundreds or thousands I mean I go to Korea and they are like there. I guess it just made sense to people like there’s a lot of people that wants something and there’s a lot of people that need something and you connect the one and the need through commerce and you can actually make it work.
Lewis: So do you think this model would work 30-40 years ago?
Blake: No. I think the reason why, well the number 1 thing that I say that if you really plot like the growth of Toms 2006 when I started, it’s also the year that Facebook when off campus.
Lewis: And social media in general.
Blake: 2007 was the year that YouTube started you know. So literally you can plot our growth to the growth of social media. So I think that the reason that is so important is and this is why other brands have emulated this both from a given perspective and also from a business perspective is that it became about storytelling, and that’s so much what you’re about. It’s about connecting people to the story, to the power of something bigger than themselves and you can never do that through advertising because it wouldn’t be authentic. But what is authentic is when you got first pair of Toms in 2007 and you watch the video of us giving them to children in Argentina, you want to post that on your Facebook or Myspace and say like ‘look I did this, I’m actually wearing this shoes because it’s helping this kids to get shoes.’ So I think that’s a big part of why we were able to grow, and then the other part of our growth is really I had to investors and went from 0 to half a billion in sales but no investors.
Lewis: Have a billion in sales in 5 years?
Blake: 6 years.
Lewis: Wow that is crazy. Well this are like affordable shoes this aren’t like $300 shoes. How much?
Blake: $48 our boot sale are like 150 back then its $40.
Lewis: Wow half a billion in sales.
Blake: But that because of connecting in a way that it allow the customer to be the marketer, it allow the customer to be the hero. So that’s what I think is so unique and then frankly we got to half a billion in 6 years and over the last 6 years we haven’t grown hardly because it’s been hard to have that fresh story, it’s been hard to have a reason for someone to get so engage. Now, people love our shoes and we still sell a ton of shoes every year and the business has been very successful and we’ve helped millions of kids ever year to get new shoes. So our mission stayed great but we haven’t had that like astronomical growth again, because so many people have emulated it. So, unfortunately our success and the number of kids we helped around the world it’s been incredibly gratifying, it hasn’t until recently had like a big story to tell. So that has been like any business you have to kind of like, then you become more focus on the fashion trends and getting the styles right and we built a great men’s business of the last couple of year, but that doesn’t happen overnight.
Lewis: A business can thrive off of one story after 10 years?
Blake: I think you could like maintain, so I guess thriving is all relative like.
Lewis: Maintain get the same amount of sales.
Blake: I think you can maintain that base, you know we’ve maintained basically half a billion dollar business or a little bit less than that over the past 4 or 5 years because we had that base and they are buying the shoes because they are connected to the mission, they respect Toms as a brand, they like the quality and style all that. But in order to have another level of growth I think you need to engage your customers in a new story or in something that they feel that when they move it makes a difference. So that’s been something you can never predict to when that’s gonna happen or how that’s gonna happen, but I think when you look at, I mean Apple is a great example of that you know if you look at the different peaks and value of Apple over a 40 year of time. So I think bands are a great example in the 70’s then they almost went bankrupt and then now they’re a 4 billion dollar.
Lewis: And how you have stayed inspired by the same story? Because it’s like you’ve had every press covers there is possible over the decade and everything commercial for the first 4 or 5 years, I think I’ve seen like a chase bank commercial one time.
Blake: AT&T commercial and a bunch of them.
Lewis: Commercial helps sell shoes when you’re doing this, when other people are talking about this story of the story. But yeah how do you stay inspired for that long?
Blake: Well, it’s been hard I mean part of what has inspired me a lot in the last say 4 to 5 years is I say going from being the athlete to the coach. I was like the start athlete for the first 6 to 7 years.
Lewis: You’re Tom Brady.
Blake: That’s nice I’ll take that compliment. But then the only way to stay inspired was to move more into a coach role and not just a coach for people at Toms, about 4 years ago I decided to sell half the business and the reason I did that is because we had built it to the size kind of plateau, we’re trying to go international retail things that I didn’t really know a lot about and this was lonely. You know I had no board of directors, no like partners and I mean every time we wrote a 30 million dollar check it was like my personal checking account, like if we want to place a big order or try to do something literally it was like writing a personal check every single time. So, I ended up bringing in a partner, I sold 50% of the business we brought in a great CEO amazing guy from Starbucks Jim Holling, who was there with Howard for many years in building Starbucks. That allowed to having less pressure day to day to be running everything buy also huge equity that allowed to invest in other social entrepreneurs. So a big part of what’s inspired me in the past 4 years is not just been like kind of the spiritual guidance of Toms, but really helping other non-profit get started, other social entrepreneurs get started and really seeing them thrive. Like there’s this great organization I always love talking about because of my very first investments called ‘Art Lifting’ and there was this really smart young entrepreneur from Boston and when she was going to school every day as an undergrad she would see homeless people on the street, but they would be trying to sell artworks that they could create and she was like “If you took this art and you put it in a gallery and it wasn’t had the stigma of someone who is homeless you would pay a lot of money for this.” So she created the first art gallery for profit to represent you know homeless artist, and she’s now expanded all over the world and so now you have all these amazingly talented people who unfortunately had some negative events on their life that ended up getting them on the streets. Now they are not only selling original pieces in galleries but in their life to like hotel groups. So that’s a perfect example of what’s inspired me is called art lifting.
Lewis: How many people have you invested in?
Blake: I think we invested in 30 or 40 of this companies now. Not all of them have work out but a lot of them are actually thriving businesses.
Lewis: It seems like the younger generation wants to buy things that have more social good behind them. I mean some people just want the Gucci or whatever the most fashionable thing, but most people out there are like interested in learning about giving in a certain way and then buy something that is doing something good in the world.
Do you think if an entrepreneur starts a new business today that they can grow and thrive without having a give and back component or are they more likely to fail without giving back?
Blake: You know it’s a really good question something I thought a lot about and get that question a lot when I speak in universities and stuff, I think that a company has to be transparent with their social purposed from the beginning to really connect with customers. I don’t think they have to have a 1 for 1 and I don’t think they necessarily have to have a percentage of their sales going to this thing, but I do think they have to be very clear on why they exist and it just can’t be about making money. So like you could be their supply chain like.
Lewis: They just sponsored the show actually.
Blake: That’s a perfect example and everlane I think is an example of organization while they’re not doing 1 for 1 they’ve been inspired by Toms to say “Our mission is to have a radically transparent supply chain to provide a quality apparel at a price that cuts out the middle man.” So everlane is a great example where.
Lewis: They’re not giving back they are just like taking that money.
Blake: And making it more transparent and so I think to answer your question that’s what modern business has to do. You have to have a purpose bigger than just making money, if your purpose is to sell and just make money I think it’s very hard to attract and retain young customers.
Lewis: Unless you’re like a software that just had the best solution.
Blake: I think with tech you could get away with it, I think you know social media and get away with it. But if it’s something where there is a choice of multiple brands and all things are equal I think what you’ll find is that customers who’d rather support an organization that has a social purpose.
Lewis: And a powerful story behind. How easy it is to create a social impact business?
Blake: Well, one of the things that’s harder is you have a cost structure that’s different than traditional business. Now, the only way it financially can make sense is if the cost it takes to either have a different supply chain, or the cost it takes to do giving like us that cost is not just seeing as cost but as an investment in your marketing customer loyalty.
Lewis: That is marketing essentially. Because how many shoes are you giving away?
Blake: 10 million.
Lewis: And how much does that cost.
Blake: Like almost 50 to 70 million dollars a year.
Lewis: On giving away product.
Blake: But what you’ll find is that because you’re doing this and it was more in the early days than it is now is that it is connecting people in a way that your brain and the advertising came by that’s the difference I think, like it’s really hard. Now, some brands can get away with certain types of aspiration advertising and Nike is an example of that. But most brands if you want to have that level of intimacy and connection with your customer it’s got to be deeper than the surface level of advertising. And that’s where I think giving is really a unique opportunity or I say giving also something like the supply chain of transparency to everlane.
Lewis: If you are starting a business today and you are starting from scratch what type of business you would create that wasn’t Toms? An entrepreneur starting from scratch you know what industry would it be in?
Blake: So, I’ve thought about this and too many other things going on to do this business, so maybe someone will run it and build something great. But I really think in the clean energy space, like one of our issues in our time is going to be climate change it already is and I think there’s more technology today in every day it’s like microprocessors like solar, wind like this stuff is getting more and more affordable and there’s all different types of incentives to get into this business and I think what’s happened is the [?] of this powerhouse of this companies. So it has every like checkbox to me of what is a great entrepreneur opportunity. It’s got you know the big guys or slow fat and happy, it’s a new technology that is rapidly getting better, it is what young people really care about because this environment they need this earth.
If I was starting from scratch I think there’s so many opportunities in the clean energy space that entrepreneurs and all different sizes can capitalize on.
Lewis: Yeah you could have an energy company with the recycled energy, you could give it to a community and afford it.
Blake: There’s so many ways to do that.
Lewis: You could power life a thousand cities a year.
Blake: One of the biggest things problem is we do a lot of work in places like Malawi, Haiti or Cambodia all these different places that often times are people living without running water and without electricity. And one of the biggest health issues is especially for kids who are wanting to do their homework and stuff at night is dark very early in some of these communities’ different times of the year, and their inside this huts or in this dwellings and their burning coal or something to have light, but they’re breathing like a smoke and they get horrible lung disease. So you know from my public health perspective giving people solar or some type of energy is a game changer.
Lewis: It’s powerful. Now, I’m curious I remember hearing this maybe like 5 years ago or 6 years ago about all this negative backlash you were getting, Toms shoes were getting. I cannot remember what the article was but something about like you’re giving the shoes not empowering people to work or this and that. How do you deal with the critics or the haters or the backlash of trying to do good? Your mission and intention is to serve humanity and yet shame on you for trying, you’re hurting people here or whatever it was. How do you handle that type of high and then low right afterwards of the negative effects that people are talking about.
Blake: Well the first thing is you develop thick skin, I mean I remember like myself 6-7 years ago to today and my ability to deal with critics or kind of the faceless people online like they can really dig in on comments on social media or whatever is tough. But at the same time I think one of the best lessons I learned was to try to find, try to be curious enough to see where it’s coming from and to really see is there a way to maybe like not get into a debate with what group but to learn enough to say like ‘okay, well maybe there is some business opportunity here.’ So one of my favorite stories to tell is I think it was 5 or 6 years ago, one of the biggest critics we were getting was kind of like you should teach a person to fish not give them fish. I agree, like in a perfect world I can teach people to become a shoemaker they can have shoes for their kids, they could sell them like yes and that’s typically what I find with critics is they’re coming from an idealize often times you know even kind of more academic perspective, which is great but they’re not like arena. So like what you have to get you have to do is you have to recognize with empathy that they’re outside the arena and you have to say “Okay, well how can I take this and potentially transform it into something that works in the arena?” And so with [?] we’re getting around like we needed to create more jobs like we really wanted to transform people out of poverty, you got to create basic needs which is food, shelter, shoes, education and then you got to create jobs.
Lewis: The shoes provide education which provides jobs right?
Blake: Yeah, it can well shoes can provide education but I think in some level the critic about job creation was a fair one, especially because we got to a scale where we could by making some changes we can have an impact on this communities. So in 2013, I said by 2016 we are gonna create 25% of all Toms giving shoes in the countries we give them in.
Lewis: That’s powerful
Blake: That’s a big statement we ended up going 25% goal to 50% in 2 years and it made us more money. So it was like the best, the reason it made us more money was we were now sourcing like India, Kenya, Ethiopia some of these places. We were making the shoes there and we didn’t have to pay for shipping which is one of the most important things and we were able to used materials, so now we are [?] jobs, we’re satisfying a ton of critics and we’re more cost efficient in giving the shoes who needed them the most.
Lewis: So the critics are actually a powerful.
Blake: That one little case it helped. Now there is a lot of other criticism that weren’t helpful but in that case what I learned was if you just immediately kind of fight opposition with opposition then you miss the ability to really understand what an adversary or someone is coming at, because if you understand them enough then you can potentially use it to your power. So what I realized was people where not critiquing us because they didn’t appreciate our giving model, but what they really were saying was a company of your scale should be more responsible with the supply chain and if you can you should create more economic stimulation. So you know we’ve had some failures too, like we try to do a factory in Haiti and that was the first factory we did outside of our traditional supply chain and everyone celebrated and all these stuff, 2 years later we had to shut it down and it was super painful because what we realized is that we were trying to do something to answer the critics but we weren’t really thinking what was good for the business. So then we went to India and India actually has some really great factories that by working with them we can create more jobs in this communities that desperately need them and they can be sustainable. Now we make school shoes for kids in India you know leather shoes and it’s been great for the business and great impact. So it’s just one of the things we kind of have to take criticism and you have to look at it with a beginners mind, but you also have to have in the back of your mind that it has to be sustainable in a business perspective. It can’t just be a.
Lewis: Critics need but it’s got to be smart that is interesting though. What would you say the biggest challenged you face personally right now in your life?
Blake: Right now my schedule, on the way here my wife and I just got into it, I mean it was just not pretty. I have 2 kids a 4 year old and a 1 year old and we split our time between Wyoming and Los Angeles, I know we are going to get to it but literally I’m kind of semi-retired chairman of Toms, maybe come into the office a couple of times a month to now like I’ve been working on like I’m back in the start of days and this is kind of throwing my family through a tailspin.
So my biggest challenge right now is I’m so passionate about this new campaign that we’re working on and I think its potential impact on American history but at the same none of my family needs to change and life’s like. So, I think with a lot of people who are entrepreneurs who love what they do, one of the biggest challenges is managing your time because it’s everything that an opportunity to move your mission forward is something takes time.
Lewis: So how do you manage it all then?
Blake: So what I’m trying to think about now is really just been, there’s a great book called ‘Essentialism’ I think that book is great like I’m trying to go back to that book right now and start each week with what are the things that only I can do, like literally they might be the most amazing person that wants to meet with us on this new campaign we’re working on. But they have to absolutely have me in the room or could they get 90% of what we can get done if I’m not there but my chief of staff is there or the head of marketing or whatever. So, I think the biggest thing is just really trying to remove yourself from meetings because that often takes the most time, only I could do this right so this is what I need to be with my time is communicating in meeting with people who have audiences that engage people who want to be activate, I need to spend less time saying yes to meetings and that’s good because I don’t really like meetings. But it’s so hard when you have people who really have great ideas and great opportunities for partnership, not just to say yes and the next thing you know you have no time.
Lewis: I always try to create a list of all the things I’m doing right now, all the things that I don’t need to be doing that I’m doing and the things that only I can do.
Blake: And that third part so critical.
Lewis: And try to just focus to list that things I’m doing and things I don’t need to be doing but someone else can do.
Blake: That only you can do. I think the other thing is eliminating whenever you hear the word should in your vocabulary that’s probably something you should do. So whenever you say I should do this it’s actually you’re guilt or the way that you’ve been program to think you have to do something you really don’t have to do. So, I found myself whenever I, I should get into that or I should be in that meeting then actually it’s a trigger of actually you should be, because if the reason you’re going is you have this kind of guilt that you should be there it’s probably not absolutely necessary.
Lewis: What do you think entrepreneurs struggle with the most right now with all the social media out there and all the different opportunities and building a team and hiring and managing people, what do you think the biggest challenge for entrepreneurs of all of it?
Blake: Well, I think that right now we’re in a very unique time where there is a lot of capital to a lot of crappy ideas. There’s a lot of venture capital being thrown at entrepreneurs that really don’t have businesses. So I think the hard thing for entrepreneurs right now is and I worry about entrepreneurs wasting 5 years of their life chasing something that really there’s not a purpose for just because they can access the capital and then they’re gonna look back and then who knows what’s gonna happen at the economy, and that capital is not going to be there and the worst thing is time. Because you can spend so much capital available now to mediocre companies and mediocre ideas that it’s not so much about losing that capital I mean that’s gonna happen, but worst is the loss of time. So if your peak time to start something then you’re kind of mid 20’s or 30’s before you have a family and all these other things and you could just focus and you waste that time on something that’s just kind of a mediocre idea.
Lewis: And you never get any sales.
Blake: Exactly, and you don’t do it because you have so much capital you can keep trying to make it perfect. We always say its progress not perfection and some of the best things that came out of you know the last bus was the minimum viable product you know really trying to get launch, doesn’t have to be perfect try to get revenue, and try to get customers. So I think the biggest thing that I worry about at the state of entrepreneurship now is there’s just too much capital.
Lewis: I’ve never taken raise money or anything, I’ve always kind of like hustle on my own the last 8 years and just reinvest the money back in building the team and everything and I always get like friends who are raising money and raise a few million here and there, some of them works out some of them doesn’t and they go and start a new thing and I’m like I don’t know if I can live with myself, if it didn’t work out I didn’t pay this people back. For me, it’s more of like the time is not a big of deal for me it’s like letting people down that believe in me and then I said sorry I can’t pay you back.
Blake: It’s great that you have that perspective because it’s very rare and that’s unfortunately I think part of the reason that’s rare is our media meaning our financial media you know has done a horrible job money raising not making money.
Lewis: Like this person is raising money and 7 years later they haven’t done anything.
Blake: I’m not gonna even say the names of the companies that like have eclipse Toms sometimes and the media like love but they make no money, like they’ve raised a ton of money and I was like “Isn’t the purpose last time I check if you start a business is to make money and make it sooner than later”
Lewis: You get this like false belief around yourself like all the presses talking about us and look what people invested but then 3 months later no one talks about you and you still haven’t launch anything for a year. That I feel like is so enticing though because you can have a nice background or degree and like resume and have a great pitch deck and have 2 or 3 key people in your team and say “We’ve got this next big idea and give us 5 million bucks.” And then live off that for a few years and not have to execute.
Blake: It’s not gonna last much longer, so if you’re an entrepreneur and watching this and you’ve got some money I would like horde it and try to get something launch and try to get some revenue quick because I think we are headed to the direction with some challenging times up ahead.
Lewis: Yeah, that’s tough. Now, so you took kind of a backseat the last few years, you sold half of it and you said you are in and out of the office a couple of days a month, I’m assuming someone else is running it but you’re still like the face and but something happened recently or has been happening the last couple of years for all this shootings happenings schools, bars and things like that. And one happened here in Los Angeles recently and what happened to you and your family when that happened?
Blake: I mean crazy statistic is in the last 340 days of the year 2018 we’ve had over 300 mass shootings.
Lewis: 300? What’s considered a mass shooting?
Blake: More than 4 people.
Lewis: Shot or killed?
Blake: Killed I think.
Lewis: 300 of those in the United States? Is that for real?
Blake: Yeah like almost 1 a day.
Lewis: No way, do we not just here about some of this?
Blake: You don’t hear about them and no it’s small towns it’s actually communities of color. I mean this is gun violence.
Lewis: So might not be a terrorist thing.
Blake: No, this is plaguing this community’s day in day out. The only thing you do hear about are at the club or bar. So what happened was many people you read about what happened in parkland, you read about just a few months ago in Seneca and in yoga studio, you somehow get a little bit numb to it with this happening so often and you start to expect that this is the new normal.
Lewis: Till it happens to you or your community.
Blake: That’s the thing and unfortunate I was that was not the case in my case that was and it is what it is. About a month ago we had shooting in Thousand Oaks which is 15 minutes from my house and 12 people were killed and my wife called me the next morning, I was actually on my way to Toms back at the uber and I was just like catching up on my emails and stuff, and she said “I’m not gonna take our son to school today, I’m scared this happened.” And I just don’t know where we are safe right now because Thousand Oaks is in the news reports it listed as the top 10 safest city in America. So if it can happen there it can happen anywhere.
Lewis: It’s not like in the ghetto in L.A this is like a suburban neighborhood.
Blake: My wife it was interesting she said someone has to do something about this and I said I agree. I got off the phone and you know I’ve told the story a few times but it was as if, I mean whatever your religious beliefs are like it was a divine moment for me where I realized like she was saying rhetorically someone has to do something, throwing her hands in the air. But everything in the universe and in my brain said ‘no, that’s you’ like you have a platform you build a business to help people. You’ve got millions of customers you know you have the access and you have the resources through Tom success to take some of those resources and do something. So, I wrote a very passionate towards the EO and my partners on the board and I said “Look guys, we’ve been talking about doing other things for years but we’ve always been talking about the last couple of years like how do we have more of an impact on issues in our country that are plaguing us?” Like how do we really dig in right here locally and really have an impact beyond this basic needs. And we have been talking about this for a couple of years. So we made a really bold decision within 3 days we literally made a commitment.
Lewis: So you convinced them all 3 days, like how many people?
Blake: Probably about 5 people in terms of my financial partners and my CEO and then about 10 more people on the leadership team.
Lewis: Calling them, emailing them it’s like behind me.
Blake: I basically took every single ounce of relationship, capital and business capital I had.
Lewis: Did you need 100% participation on this or is it majority?
Blake: No I didn’t, I kind of picked 1 person at a time and then overtime. And the truth is everyone I talked to at the company, you know philosophically yes we agree like someone has to do something like this is getting to epidemic proportion like we personally like there’s sensible gun legislation that we can greatly reduce gun violence. But the main thing was like is this right? Like are we going to alienate a lot of customers because this is very political you know?
So like there’s all this very real concern about like how it’s going to affect our business, are we the right brain to do this? Do we have credibility and the space? Like all these things which are very fair and something in my gut and this is where I give a lot of credit to my partners I just said like “Guys, there’s only a few times in your life when you know something and I know I can’t show you the data, but like I know in my gut that we are the ones that want to do this.” So that’s the type of conversation that I had.
Lewis: You haven’t said that in 10 years.
Blake: No in my life and I’ve been pretty quiet, I mean there’s a lot of decisions Toms the last 4 or 5 years that maybe I wouldn’t have made it exactly that way whether it’s a product thing or distribution thing or giving strategy. So, when I spoke out this strongly it was a point where it’s kind of like ‘okay if we don’t do this then that’s gonna have its own implications’ I never had to do an ultimatum, I was never that way. But the thing was like we built Toms because we believe in a better tomorrow, business can be part of the tomorrow. So this is an opportunity to really walk the walk and I know because I know our customers I’ve built this company from the ground up, I know they’ll be there for us. They might not agree 100% with us but they will appreciate the fact that we are putting it on the line. So after 3 days convinced the team and it was herculean effort not me but as I got 1 or 2 people then I started like everyone together and then 3 days later we went on Jimmy Fallon or I went on Jimmy Fallon.
Lewis: So 3 days of convincing and then 3 days later.
Blake: No we were kind of doing both kind of like convincing and having a small team just in case I got the.
Lewis: The in house startup.
Blake: Totally an in house startup and then the biggest thing we had to do is we created a simple technology on our homepage which is the other reason why people are nervous. This is right before the biggest sales week of the year, this is Black Friday, Cyber Monday you know all that stuff, which is like our whole year is based.
Lewis: 30% is that week.
Blake: Exactly. So and I said I want to take down all the shoes and put a technology there to help people send a postcard to the representatives urging them to pass universal background checks on Black Friday or 2 days before. So that was also kind of like part of the reason why it was such a harden.
Lewis: Like wait a week later.
Blake: And that was the question and I said no and said ‘if we wait a week it looks like a marketing campaign.’ We believe in this and we don’t want another shooting to happen we want to get people moving in the right direction.
Lewis: Do we care more of our profits on Black Friday or saving people’s lives?
Blake: And that was it and when you had it that way that was an easier discussion to have because everyone really at Toms is there for the right reason and even though they aren’t responsible for [?] they also want to make sure that if we can actually make a difference in people’s lives we’d do that. And we’ve always led that way and I’ve always been proud of Toms in that regard. But what happened was we literally created the simple technology were any single person in the United States have go on the website put their name and address, the address would tell them basically trigger who their representative is in congress.
Lewis: In their state.
Blake: And they [?] and we would print and mail and pay for the mailing for the representative. So the goal was to get thousands of people to do this and get all this post cards and flood the offices of this congress people so that when it comes back in session they would vote for universal background check.
Lewis: Just not like getting guns and all, this is for what reason?
Blake: So basically we are 100% pro second amendment 100% pro guns, I mean I grew up in Texas hunting, I have lots of friends that are hunters we have no problem with guns, what we have a problem with is when guns get in the wrong people’s hands and that’s where you see this huge spike in gun violence. So right now in our country there is no universal background check at a federal level. So that means you can be a felon, you can get out of jail, you can go and buy 5 AK-47.
Lewis: No way.
Blake: 100% you can go to the gun shop. Second thing you can be a person who has a mental health track record and go buy guns. You can be a domestic abuser you can have a record of abusing your spouse and go buy a gun and you can be on the terrorist watch list and still go buy a gun.
Lewis: No way.
Blake: I swear this is why, so when I learn this that’s why, we’re not fighting picking a fight politically this is a human issue 90% of Americans say they are in favor of universal background checks, but there’s not been the political will to get it done because it’s become so [?]. Because people here guns and ‘oh you’re taking my guns away.’ So that’s the biggest thing I had to really get across on Jimmy Fallon and then the media I did after. It’s like look we have no problem with guns what we have a problem with is people going and buying them so easily where they are not fit to have them. So once we started convincing.
Lewis: This has been what people have been saying in the media all year and the last couple of years more shootings happened, they’ve been bringing that point about background checks and they keep talking about it and the media has been talking about it but no one is doing about it.
Blake: Well no one created an organized way to harness the voices. So what we did is we did 2 things we said “Look we’re going to make the largest corporate contribution in the history of the United States.” We get 5 million dollars and that was 5 times larger and the 2nd largest contribution.
Lewis: 5 million dollars for what?
Blake: To the organization that are working in gun violence. So that is March for Our Lives, Mothers Demand Action so this organizations are because it is a complex issue of all different ways you can decrease gun violence. Then we created the technology on Toms.com where any American can go and send a postcard in less than 30 seconds. We launched it like I think like 18 days ago, now in this show I think probably 24 days and we have already had 700,000 Americans sent a postcard. I mean we are hoping to get 20,000, it’s hard to get people to act but we realize there were so many people in our country that were so fed up reading about another shooting and needed a way to feel that they can be a part of the solution, not just you know saying ‘our thoughts and prayers are with you.’ Like there’s this pent up demand, we didn’t realize at the time for people to have actually opportunity to act. So by giving them the ability to go to toms.com to send a postcard, to help get universal background check pass it kind of like unleashed this pent up need that so many people had and it’s been amazing. And the other thing that’s been amazing and this is something that we can never predict but some of our biggest supporters have been gun owners. The lead singer of band Florida Georgia Line, country music band millions of fans, he’s a gun owner and he put a video on Instagram said “Look, I’m a proud gun owner but I’m also a parent and I’ve got a daughter and I don’t like the idea that she’s gonna go to school and have to go a lockdown.” And then we have another person that’s. So what we’ve seen especially on social media the videos that have gone the most viral on this have all been gun owners, because they are like look I’m a gun owner like I have problem with that but we’ve got to be more sensible, and I think that’s why we’re seeing the tide turning you know and speaking to Congressman Thompson today from California who’s working on the legislation that’s gonna be on the house floor the second week of January, he’s like “Everyone got in for 6 years, this is gonna pass in the house and if we do things properly and keep showing the American people want to be heard this could be a law.” And that would be a change in American history, I mean this is something that decades has not happened. So it’s exciting and so.
Lewis: This is like Toms circuit 2006.
Blake: It feels exactly like that.
Lewis: Social media taking off and spreading the story. There’s a new pain in the world that you’re solving.
Blake: It’s like in a sense I think for me personally and I think this is a lesson for entrepreneurs or anyone who feels like there’s this peak in values and careers, you need a battle to fight.
Lewis: You do otherwise is just like trying to make some money.
Blake: And even if you’re doing something good, even if you’re helping millions of kids shoes overtime if you’re really an entrepreneur in your blood it’s like you need that battle to fight, you need to do the impossible. So, when I pitch this to my internal team and there’s this resistance, I’m actually glad there was resistance because I don’t think we could have executed this well. But because there was some initial resistance, because there was concerns about sales because of that we executed so intensely and so carefully and because of that you know we’ve seen this go viral, we’ve had something like 7 billion media impressions in 3 weeks.
Lewis: How have sales been through Black Friday and the holidays?
Blake: The great thing is this we don’t all have our numbers for our wholesale accounts but all of our online numbers have been up and up significantly.
Lewis: Because there was no shoes to buy.
Blake: Well you can still find shoes below but above the fold there was only the post card and it’s been that way for almost 2 weeks.
Lewis: Almost 700,000 as of us recording probably goes out goes close to a million.
Blake: And if you’re watching go to the website and you could be like the final person. I want to go back on Jimmy Fallon when we hit the million.
Lewis: So what do they do? They go to toms.com?
Blake: This is Christmas Eve we’ll still be in the homepage front and center.
Lewis: Through January 1st.
Blake: Definitely through January 1st until congress is back in session.
Lewis: It’ll take?
Blake: 22 seconds.
Lewis: You just type in your name and your zip code and then it tells you where to send it and you click send?
Blake: And then we pay for the post and the printing of it.
Lewis: Is there a thank you at the end?
Blake: The thank you has a button in it and it will send to all your twitter, Facebook everyone so it becomes a viral loop. So that’s what’s been, so yeah I mean it is working.
Lewis: You’re fired about this?
Blake: So fired up you know because you get to be part of a solution and like I just hate hearing about experiencing things of pain and suffering in our world knowing that we have as humans the tools and technology to make it better. And I also in realizing the macro thing that now has got me so fired up is as a brand we’re going to look for things going forward that had become politicize that are not political human because there are more and more things that are dividing us now that used to be not political and to me that is the pain point of identified is there are things, and I don’t know what’s the next thing is going to be yet, but I know there will be a next thing. This is a human issue that whether you are on the right or the left or you’re from this part of the world, we all care about the same thing and Toms can be a business that gets people together to make those changes. So that’s where I’m realizing that’s really what Toms 2.0 is about.
Lewis: That’s cool.
Blake: And the interesting thing is the business impact one of the things that has been fascinating to me is and I saw the statistics today so it’s fresh in my mind. So up until 4 weeks 85% of our sales were woman and 15% male and that’s pretty much that way since I started the company.
Lewis: Why is that?
Blake: The original shoe we did was this slip on and it’s a more feminine looking shoe. Now, there’s still millions of guys that have worn it overtime but for the most part it gravitated towards women.
Lewis: Like a flat?
Blake: Yeah like a flat more thin kind of slip on. So about 2 years ago and this is like kind of look backing now like I’m so grateful. About 2 years ago we realized if we we’re gonna grow our business and kind of get that next growth, we had to bring a great men’s designer and create like boots and trainers and shoes that guys could wear beyond our original shoes. So we actually built this amazing product line in the past 2 years, the problem is we can never get any guys attention for them to see it because most guys assume that Toms are what my girlfriend wears.
Lewis: Kind of like Ogs.
Blake: Exactly Ogs is a good example of this that’s why they hired Tom Brady. But we couldn’t afford to hire Tom Brady. So we have this issue for 2 years we have great men’s product but we never get enough attention because we don’t have a huge marketing budget because we spend so much money on giving. So this happens people in gun violence don’t have a gender connection right?
Blake: So now about half of our traffic to our website was guys and half was girls. As of now this last week 40% of our sales are men now, from 15% to 40 because they saw it. So they went there for a post card and then they saw this boots that are really masculine and waterproof and it’s freezing cold and snowing in Wyoming. So one of the things that’s interesting to me and this is kind of the entrepreneur lesson you can have the right product but if you don’t have the right mechanism to get the right people in front of your product your business isn’t gonna grow. So what I realized is while our growth has been flat line the last few years even though our product is better than ever the reason it’s been falling is we didn’t have a fight big enough to attract this attention.
Lewis: Not spending on advertising.
Blake: No, almost spent 5 million dollars in giving so it’s a significant investment in resources but what’s that’s done is it got all these guys to Toms maybe for the first time and then they see this boots or they see these sneakers and they’re like “Oh, that’s actually for me.” So I think what we’ll going to see if I come on a year from now I think we’re gonna have a much bigger business and I think we’re gonna have a business much more balance on a junior basis which makes it you know a lot more dependable or predictable in the future. So it’s been really amazing to me to see how like many lessons we’ve learned in such a short period of time just by doing the right thing. At the end of the day we took a huge leap of faith.
Lewis: Huge risk.
Blake: It was very risky 4 weeks ago it feels less risky today.
Lewis: Feels like you’re the smartest guy in the world.
Blake: When you’re an entrepreneur every day you wake up and you know you’re either going to be a genius or an idiot but you will never be a regular guy or girl trying to get through the day.
Lewis: You’re always going to be remembered for something right.
Blake: You know like they really got through the day. So I’ve been an idiot for many times in my career, a genius maybe a couple of times. I don’t know ultimately how this is going to affect the business long term because we’re getting a lot of awareness now, but what I do know is everyone at Toms internally has this kind of renewed kind of hope and purpose because they realized we can use business, use the community and technology to have an impact in something like politicians have a hard time doing. So that’s what’s exciting.
Lewis: 700,000 is cool let’s get it to a million. Tag tom at Instagram.
Blake: Either @toms or @blakemycoskie.
Lewis: Make sure to tag Blake and myself let’s get this message out there. I want to ask you 3 final questions.
Blake: Ok great.
Lewis: This is called 3 final truths. So I want you to imagine that you get to choose the last day on earth it can be 500 years from now any day you want. You’ve achieved everything you want, you’ve grown the businesses, grown the entrepreneurs, solved human problems and all the things you want to do in your lifetime you’ve done it and it’s a beautiful moment but it’s your time to go and for whatever reason all the things you created in your life they have to go with you so no one has access to your information. But you get to leave behind 3 things you know to be true about all your experiences in your life. What would you say are your 3 truths?
Blake: Well, I think I would start with the phrase it’s used a lot but it’s been really important to me and my life since I was 18, I had one of my best friends passed away when I was 18 and I could’ve been on a plane it was a plane crash and I realized that I could never predict when that day would come and I should make the most of every day. So when I was 18 I started signing every letter and to this day every email that I sign I sign in carpe diem because I believe the greatest honor we can give to the people who’ve come and passed before us and the greatest kind of honor we can give to whatever your spiritual belief in terms of how you’ve been created is to seize the day, truly live every day as if it’s your last. So carpe diem would be my first truth.
My second truth was also has been very influential in my life and it was also given to me by a great entrepreneur named Bob Deadman, Bob Deadman started a company club corp and he was one of the largest donors to SMU the college I went to and I got to meet him when I started my first business, it was a laundry business and I asked him for a piece advice and he wrote down on a piece of paper ‘The more you give the more you live.’ And I think is absolutely true like there is nothing that has given me more joy, more of fulfilments than the moments of truly giving and giving outside your comfort zone. Not just giving when it’s comfortable or its easy check to write but giving really feels sacrificial, giving that causes you to be on a plane to give kids in the slum and I’ve never had a day in this planet where I involved and incorporated giving into it that I felt like was not more meaningful days. So, I would say carpe diem, the more you give the more you live.
My third one and this one doesn’t come to me as immediately as those 2 because those have been so engrain in my life’s work, but I do think one of the things that I worked on a lot and my wife has really helped me a ton is really to be present. Because there’s so many things going on, there’s so many digital distraction’s there’s so many people pulling at your time and so you can come up with all the different strategies in the world about how to manage your time or how you’re going to commit to certain things, and we talked about that earlier in the show. But I think the thing is you can only truly be in one place at a time. Multitasking is kind of bullshit I think like I am here right now and fully present with you and I am excited about answering this 3 truths, but when I get home I only have the opportunity to be present with my kids or my wife you know. And then tomorrow if I am with a friend and having lunch I have the ability to be present with them and I think that is a practice, it takes a lifetime and you’ll never perfect it we’ll always try to get better. But I think the more moments I have it tattooed on my arms because I wanted to be reminded every time I look down like just be present because that’s the only moment that we actually have in the present and more that you’re present especially with your love ones with the people you care about.
Lewis: Seize the day be more present.
Blake: Carpe diem, the more you give the more you live, be present.
Lewis: You talked about your wife a few times can you share the greatest lesson she has taught you and how important she is in your life.
Blake: It’s so interesting because when I’m my best self is when I’m most connected to her, when I’m truly thriving whether it’s business or our kids or with my friends, it’s really when I’m spending time with her listening to her in a way that she knows kind of what’s best for me. But I think the thing that she had taught me the most is really goes back to the thing that I still continue to struggle with though is just life is about, is this very important relationships you have and you’ve got to make time in your calendar to have it. She is so good at saying no to things and I’m not and she is so good at not answering emails. So I think the thing that I am really grateful to Heather is she’s really helped me slow down kind of really understand what’s important. The reason I know that is so important in my life is also the thing I struggle with and things we argue about because it is hard to do, but when I do it it’s when I feel the most connected and the most present. So it’s that and then the other thing is she is an incredible defender anything that’s unjust, you know she’s a huge animal activist I mean she would do anything for any animal on the planet. She is the original phone call and saying someone has to do something about this after the Thousand Oaks led to all this and the ending gun violence.
Lewis: That’s cool sounds like a powerful woman.
Blake: Very much so.
Lewis: Well I want to acknowledge you like you’ve been leading the way in your business for a long time doing the things that people have said is crazy. For doing the hard thing constantly because this right now is not a popular thing to do with your team, with your business until it is. But you have the vision and the courage to constantly step beyond what’s possible is really inspiring and I would acknowledge you for constantly serving other entrepreneurs with your heart, with your leadership, with your words and your actions most importantly by doing the hard thing and making a real change in the world. So I acknowledge you for everything it’s been really cool to connect with you and I hope you achieve everything you want for your whole life.
This is the final question what’s your definition of greatness?
Blake: So my definition of greatness is someone who lives authentically, someone who is present and some who really seize the day because I feel like when you are an authentic person and you’re present in the moment and you don’t take any moment for granted that’s when you can live your best life and when you live your best life that’s when you can achieve greatness.
Lewis: Thank you so much man appreciate it.
There you have it my friends I hope you enjoyed this episode with Blake Mycoskie, make sure to take on the challenge and go to toms.com and follow through with this, share this with your friends lewishowes.com/736 for full the full show notes.
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Adam Hinden – Sea You Soon
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