Mission Driven Entrepreneurs Episode 54 - Start Something that Matters by Blake Mycoskie of TOMS

TOMS is one of those companies that have come up with a unique business model which is inspiring other entrepreneurs who are motivated by more than just money. From my generation The Body Shop showed the world how products could make a difference, and as soon as I heard about TOMS (which was many years ago now) I was excited as I knew this was a new kind of business model, one that was simple to understand and effective.

For those of you are not familiar with the company, TOMS was originally (and still is on the whole) a shoe company. For every pair of shoes bought, the company donates a pair of shoes to a child in need. TOMS shoes has provided over 35 million pairs of shoes to children since 2006. A model that is ‘for profit’, sustainable, and not reliant on funding.

Blake's ‘one for one’ model has now grown in to a global movement, with other companies (some mentioned in the book) following suit.

The cornerstone of their range is their famous slip on shoe which originates from South America, where Blake dreamt up the idea for the company while travelling; having seen many children suffer from not having shoes. The company has now expanded into eyewear, bags and coffee - all with an equivalent 'one for one' benefit.

TOMS shoes

Start Something That Matters is like sitting down with the inspirational founder, and his hope is that his book inspires others to turn their passion and dreams into a reality - exactly what Mission Driven Entrepreneurs is all about!

So what did I learn or find interesting? Four things:

  • Find your passion

I often get asked this by people in my workshops,  "But how do I find my passion?"

Blake challenges us with 3 powerful questions:

  1. If you didn’t have to worry about money, what would you do with your time?
  2. What kind of work would you want to do?
  3. What cause would you serve?

For many people (me included) it can take time to really locate what you feel passionate about. But being curious, honest and noticing what you are interested in are good first steps. Understanding what you don’t like is also useful, as is being creative about how you can integrate what you do like doing, and are interested in, into your working life.

  • Find your story

This has been the bedrock of TOMS and their story is certainly why I buy their shoes. Its simple and easy to understand, something I want to be part of.

  • Face your fears

The book has a real focus on facing your fears, and the risks successful people have taken. I found talking about fear useful as it is something most entrepreneurs have to learn to deal with, unless you have nerves of steel! I have really struggled with my fears - particularly in the early days - so it's very helpful for this to be acknowledged as totally normal!

  • Consider the pros and cons of funding

The book considers funding, and this is an area I find particularly interesting having grappled with this over the years via the companies I have founded or co-founded.

Here Blake argues the case for the frugal start-up, and renowned Silicon Valley venture capitalist Mike Maples also adds weight to this by saying that many overfunded companies are in more danger of failing than underfunded ones. Clearly this depends on what sector you are in and what your cash flow requirements are, but certainly I can see that securing rounds of funding can be a major distraction to the founding team.

The book is full of practical advice and case studies of some amazing people really making a difference in the world. There are also some useful websites and resources. Certainly in the last 16 years from when I set up my first company technology has allowed start-ups to massively reduce their infrastructure costs; from their website costs to the ability to easily locate freelancers via sites like elance.

In my role as career coach I like to open my clients' eyes to the myriad of possibilities to ‘do good’ without being preachy. I think Blake’s book hits the right note and it will be one I will be recommending in the future.

If you are thinking about setting up your own business but want to really think through whether this is the right move for you then we have a programme called Career Maximiser which can help you do just that. https://admin.thecareerfarm.com/programs/career-maximiser/

If you get the chance to read Blake Mycoskie’s book, Start Something That Matters  do let me know whether you liked it as much as me!