Special-edition, Congolese-inspired TOMS Shoes
We're teaming up with Giving Partner Eastern Congo Initiative (ECI), an advocacy and grant-making organization founded by Ben Affleck, on two Congolese-inspired designs with an additional give. Read More >>
TOMS x charity: water - An Eyewer collaboration
TOMS and charity: water, an organization founded in 2006 (like TOMS!) that’s dedicated to to helping bring clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations, join forces for the first-ever TOMS Eyewear collab! Read More >>
Giving TOMS Shoes in the DRC
Founded by Ben Affleck in 2010, ECI is an advocacy and grant-making organization that works with and for the people of DRC, the third most populous country in Africa, and one that struggled under a cycle of violence for nearly 20 years – particularly in the east. Read More >>
“Why not stick to shoes?” a successful businessman asked me after hearing my announcement at SXSW. “You have such a great business and you are helping so many kids, why risk it by doing something else,” he added.
Coming from a respected mentor, I had to pause and check my conviction. Luckily it was still there, for it was not a whim or spontaneous decision, but something I had been working toward for years.
TOMS started as a simple project to help get a small group of kids in Argentina new pairs of shoes in 2006. It was really just an idea without any case study or business model to rely on, and truth be told, I never imagined it would become what it is today. I simply wanted to help, and did not have the resources or the will to start a charity, nor did I believe being dependent on donors was the best way to insure the kids would continue to get the shoes they needed for school and their health. So I started a company with a one for one promise, and without any investors backing me, or the business community cheering me on, it was a risk — one that could have ended in a pretty public failure. Thanks to you, that was not our fate, and looking back now, that initial act of faith was the best and most meaningful decision of my life.
Over the past five years at TOMS, we’ve overcome so many obstacles and challenges that risk means something different today. I would argue that whatever chance we might be taking in a business sense, it is a small one compared to dealing with my conscious in the quiet morning hours knowing that we could have helped so many more people in many more ways with our model and movement, but instead played it safe. Four years ago, when I realized that our one for one model could serve more needs than shoes, it struck me that it was our responsibility to do so, and a real urgency set in. I started gathering a TOMS team together to find out more about sight and how to give more in a new way, responsibly. I went straight to Godaddy.com and registered the eyewear domain. It was like starting all over again. And we have been working on preparing for this day ever since.
A lot had to happen in order for us to embark on this new way of giving, but most importantly, we needed our customers to become a community, to transform TOMS from a company to a movement, and to inspire one another to do more. And this is exactly what you have done, through big actions and small. You’ve incorporated giving into your businesses and lives; you’ve served your local communities; you’ve raised the TOMS flag and shared the story of One for One; some of you have gotten married in TOMS and some of you are starting to have kids who are now helping kids. Heck, you have even gone without shoes — on one special day each year — to show your support.
And through all this, you have inspired everyone here at TOMS, countless businesses and non-profits, and millions of people spreading your stories around the world. Lastly, you have deeply inspired me, and as a result, given me and the TOMS team the courage to take this next step, to embark on a new journey.
“To whom much is given, much is responsible” is a quote I have tried to live by since first hearing it. In a way, those words kind of make “risk” feel trivial. Unfortunately, for so many, risk is not an option and every day life is a struggle. So today, as we celebrate the launch of TOMS Eyewear and our hopes of using it to serve thousands if not millions of people struggling with their sight around the world, I dedicate this special day to you. To every member of the TOMS community — from Ben Katz who bought the first pair of camouflage TOMS 5 years ago, to the retailers, campus clubs, customers, businesses, churches, and members of the media who have all helped share our story and create their own, all with the simple goal of creating positive change in the world we live in — I tip my hat, raise my glass, and quietly bow in respect and thankfulness for you.