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 >>
Start Something that Matters, a book by TOMS Chief Shoe Giver, Blake Mycoskie, challenges readers to make a positive change in the world and start a project that matters to them. We’ve received many stories from likeminded individuals that have been inspired to start something that matters. One such individual is Matthew Clough, former intern and friend of TOMS, who started his own business with a giving element. Your purchase of a backpack from stone+cloth, helps to provide an education to a child in Tanzania, Africa.
You may remember Matthew’s story from a past post where he wrote a letter to Blake detailing his mission to start something that matters. Now that Matthew has his first year of business under his belt, he shares with us the challenges and successes of building a business. We decided to hand over the writing reigns to Matthew so that he can tell his story to the TOMS community in his own words.
A Sewing Machine and a Dream.
“Do what you can with what you have, where you are.”
I was at my house, doing just that. Sitting at my desk in front of a used sewing machine and a pile of canvas, I began sewing up simple bags, selling them, and explaining the money was going to help put kids in school in Tanzania. I had zero resources and zero entrepreneurial experience, but had a wild imagination and was determined to make an impact.
I had a full-time job and was struggling to gain momentum for the project. A few friends mentioned the business model was similar to TOMS and suggested I reach out for help. After countless attempts, I received a phone call and was offered an internship at TOMS HQ.
I officially have the first year of business under my belt. After long days and sleepless nights, the biggest thing I learned about starting a company is that you have (or must learn) to be a problem solver. While I was at TOMS, Blake explained he keeps a journal to write down problems he faces. By doing this, he can go back and revisit the problems he was working through. What might seem like an impossible task, feels manageable, and helps him through problems he is currently facing.
I took this advice to heart and have been diligent about writing in my journal – especially when problems arise.
In the early part of the year, I was purchasing materials for production. I bought 100 yards of denim and had it stonewashed to give a broken-in look. When I went to pick it up, they explained the fabric was ruined during the stone-washing process. It was a costly mistake and I had very little money in the bank. I was pulling my hair out trying to figure out how to gather more money to purchase the fabric again. It held up production and almost caused me to postpone launching the project. At the time, it felt like a huge issue, but looking back, was completely manageable. Now, whenever a problem arises, I remember that stressful time, and no matter how big of a problem it feels like at the time, I know I’m probably making a bigger deal out of it than I need to. Learning that from Blake has helped me tremendously in how I approach and solve problems that I face with stone + cloth.
When starting your own business, you’ll learn managing productivity is extremely important. So many challenges can arise, big and small, and it’s important to keep your eye on the task at hand. When I wake up, I define the three most important things I’ll do that day, and focus on those before I do anything else. Another key component is following the 50/10 rule. Work for 50 minutes, take a break for 10. During the 50 minutes, I work - cell phone is on silent, and I’m working in a way where I know people won’t distract me. You’ll find that having an end goal, or break, will make you more productive. To approach long-term projects, the first thing I do is write down the goal, and work backwards. I outline every action step that needs to be completed. It seems simple, but whenever I do this, large projects seem much more manageable.
To this day, I still feel an overwhelming amount of support from TOMS. This holiday season, Blake was kind enough to invite me back to help create a unique gift for all the TOMS employees.
There is this quote I love to keep near me when I’m jumping into something I’ve never done before: “Leap and the net will appear.” After taking the leap of starting something that matters, Blake, and TOMS, was the net that caught me, and has helped to shape the reality I live in today.
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