Saturday, May 30, 2015

A Bit of Backstory: TOMS

In my most recent post, I mentioned that as part of the “Where I Went Today” feature, I will include a photo of me with my TOMS at each small business I visit as a consumer. Since TOMS is not a small business, and this is a small business blog, I want to talk a bit more on that subject today. 

A study done earlier this year revealed that Millennials spend their money differently than previous generations. Given the option, Millennials want to give their money to companies that are doing more with their dollar than taking it to the bank. Millennials care about where businesses are making an impact—whether it’s with sustainable practices, donations to charity, direct assistance to someone in need, or generating awareness. 

As a Millennial, I understand this mindset. We’re a generation that is aware of things like carcinogens, population growth, environmental science (think how much of our waste ends up in landfills), bullying, organic-versus-nonorganic practices, and infinitely more. We don’t want to contribute to the problems—we want to be part of the solutions. Since we have to buy things like food and clothing, anyway, it takes a bit of the load off to know that where we choose to make those purchases can be part of that positive change.

TOMS is an amazing example of the sort of business that’s doing something far beyond the scope of selling. In less than ten years, it has gone from an idea in one twenty-something’s head to offer shoes on a one-for-one basis (buy a pair of shoes, and a pair of shoes also goes to a child without) to a global movement that has not only provided well over 35 million pairs of shoes to children in need, but also extended the program to offer eye care, clean water, safe births, and bullying-prevention. TOMS shoes have become iconic because of their distinct appearance and because of what they stand for: making a difference.

Many of the businesses I hope to visit and many of the products I plan to cover on YCIYWT have that multi-layer effect. At first glance, they are one thing—a coffee roaster, perhaps, or a company offering skincare solutions—but upon closer inspection, they actually offer much more; and they do so in a quality way, a way that would make you want to buy, anyway, but with the underlying values also harness your yearning to be part of the change.

Because TOMS shoes to me are a symbol of how great a change we can make if we truly want to, I see them as a very natural vessel to encourage others to pursue their dreams, be the change they wish to see in the world, and explore new possibilities. Also, since they are shoes, after all, they’re a natural part of the travels I will be taking, and recording them as part of the journey is a fun way to keep track. 

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