FN Summit: Blake’s Tale Drives Toms

Blake Mycoskie tells a good story.

And according to the founder of Toms Shoes, the tale surrounding his brand helped propel it to its current success.

“In this day and age, every brand needs a strong, simple, authentic story,” he said, referring to his company’s well-known one-for-one mission. “[Early on], I realized that if we focused on our story, we wouldn’t have to spend millions of dollars on marketing.”

Speaking at the FN Summit, Mycoskie said Toms’ management philosophy and charitable aspect also contributed to early growth.

Additionally, taking a page from Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard’s playbook, Mycoskie said that from the beginning he has preferred to manage by absence, using his time out of the office to attend trunk shows, interact with customers and, of course, go on shoe drops.

“The young staff had to make decisions themselves because they didn’t have me to tell them [what to do],” the entrepreneur said.

Mycoskie also touted Toms’ philanthropy, imploring other executives to make donations through their companies. And if they couldn’t offer product, he suggested offering employees time to volunteer in their own communities.

While Mycoskie mainly focused on his company’s strengths, he did touch on a few issues that presented challenges. One, he said, was packaging: “I hated shoeboxes. When I first started, I decided to be known for getting rid of them,” he recalled. “We shipped everything in canvas bags, and it almost put us out of business. They would get all tangled up. So we will continue to use shoeboxes as long as we are in this industry.”

On the horizon, the executive said Toms aims to set up a factory in one of the areas it benefits. A test location is already in Ethiopia.

“We’ve had a lot of challenges with that — it’s easier said than done,” he said. “But it is a long-term goal to have shoes made by the people we are serving.”

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