I bought my first pair of TOMS last year. I chose the black canvas, and wound up traipsing around Western Europe in them. With each step I took through the back alleys of Venice and cobblestoned streets of Berlin, I silently thanked TOMS founder (and Chief Shoe-Giver) Blake Mycoskie for engineering such a soft shoe that was easy to pack and – bonus! – a do-good piece of footwear I was proud to own. So when his book, aptly titled Start Something That Matters, appeared on my desk at work from my boss, no less, I was excited to dive in. The appeal of TOMS, I realized as I flew through Mycoskie’s 185-page tale of finding passion, profit and meaning, is in its simplicity, both in the company’s product and its underlying philosophy of One for One. When you buy a pair of TOMS, Mycoskie donates another pair to a child in need – One for One. In fact, when you buy a copy of Start Something That Matters, a new book is provided to a child in need as well. TOMS is one of the fastest-growing shoe companies the world has ever seen, and for good reason – there really is a certain kind of beauty in its sheer ease of both style and philanthropy. I think that in times like these, the simpler the concept, the better. That goes for shoes and giving.
There isn’t anything earth-shattering in Mycoskie’s book – let’s know this. But again, sometimes things aren’t meant to be earth-shattering in order to have an impact. TOMS shoes themselves aren’t all that fancy. They’re made of cloth, more or less. And yet, TOMS has sold over one million pairs of shoes and given that same number to underprivileged children in more than 30 countries.
In Start Something That Matters, Mycoskie offers his readers six core lessons he learned while building his shoe empire from such innovative organizations as charity: water, FEED Projects, and (local shout-out!) the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation CIBC Run for the Cure. He writes in a fairly engaging voice, and I finished the book in a few days. If you have, say, Malcolm Gladwell or Seth Godin on your bookshelf already, I doubt you’ll find anything super-mad-crazy-inspired or pivotal in Start Something. But if you’re looking to flex your entrepreneurial muscle for the first time, or you just want to know how your red TOMS got to be on your feet, go on and pick this up for a quick and generally satisfying read. Mycoskie, ever the minimalist, lives on a boat. If there is anything to be taken away from his story, it’s that simplicity, simply put, works. If the shoe fits, wear it!