ABC’s Shark Tank has provided hours of entertainment for viewers over the past 14 years. During that time, fans of the show have seen their favorite shark make life-changing deals with entrepreneurs. Occasionally, however, viewers will notice that the panel of investors will include a guest shark. One of those guests is Blake Mycoskie. If you have ever tuned into the show and didn’t know much about this guest, we’re going to share with you why this entrepreneur and investor deserves to be sitting next to America’s favorite business personalities.
Born on August 26, 1976, in Arlington, Texas, Blake Mycoskie’s entrepreneurial inclinations were evident from a young age. At just 18, he founded a campus laundry service, “EZ Laundry,” expanding it across several universities.
A Trip to Argentina and the Birth of TOMS
The birth of TOMS is inextricably linked to a serendipitous journey that Blake Mycoskie undertook to Argentina in 2006. While many entrepreneurs find inspiration in market analyses or brainstorming sessions, for Mycoskie, it was the simple, touching reality of everyday life in the Argentine countryside that sowed the seeds for TOMS.
Argentina, with its rich culture, tango rhythms, and expansive landscapes, was where Blake first encountered the traditional Argentine alpargata—a lightweight, casual shoe that locals wore. While the alpargata became a design inspiration for the first TOMS shoe, it was another sight in Argentina that deeply moved him: children walking barefoot in rural and urban areas, exposed to various hazards and diseases.
Bare feet might seem innocuous, but in many parts of the world, the lack of shoes can lead to cuts, infections, and soil-transmitted diseases. Moreover, in numerous schools, shoes are a mandatory part of the uniform. Without them, children are barred from receiving an education. This further perpetuates the cycle of poverty.
Mycoskie saw not just a problem but an opportunity. An opportunity to marry commerce with compassion, to create a sustainable solution that wasn’t about handouts but about empowering communities. Thus, the concept of TOMS was born—with a unique ‘One for One’ promise at its core. For every pair of TOMS shoes purchased, another pair would be donated to a child in need. It wasn’t just about shoes; it was about dignity, health, and opportunity.
Launching TOMS required more than just replicating the alpargata design for the global market. It required creating a brand narrative that resonated with consumers, turning them from mere buyers into partners in a global mission. The story of those Argentine children, their needs, and the transformative power of shoes became central to TOMS’ identity.
Expanding the One for One Model
The genius behind TOMS was not merely its stylish designs or market positioning, but its groundbreaking ‘One for One’ business model. The model seamlessly merges profitability with philanthropy. When customers bought a pair of TOMS shoes, they weren’t just purchasing footwear – they were also providing another pair for a child in need. This direct link between consumerism and charitable giving created a unique emotional bond between the brand and its consumers.
By 2010, the model had proven tremendously successful. TOMS had distributed over a million pairs of shoes to children worldwide. The company has reached vulnerable communities in places like Haiti, India, and various African nations. But Blake Mycoskie recognized that the ‘One for One’ model could be adapted to address more than just footwear needs.
This realization prompted the introduction of TOMS Eyewear. The company is much like its shoe counterpart. For every pair of glasses or sunglasses sold, TOMS would help restore sight to someone in need. This aid came in different forms – from prescription glasses to medical treatments or sight-saving surgeries. The move wasn’t just a commercial expansion; it was a deliberate attempt to combat preventable blindness and visual impairment, which affect millions globally.
But why eyewear? Visual impairment directly impacts a person’s quality of life, education, and employment opportunities. In many developing regions, a lack of access to basic eye care can transform treatable or preventable conditions into lifelong disabilities. TOMS aimed to bridge this gap.
Collaborating with eye care organizations, TOMS ensured that its interventions were culturally appropriate and sustainable. This involved training local health volunteers, establishing vision centers, or even equipping mobile clinics to reach remote communities.
The eyewear initiative demonstrated the flexibility and scalability of the ‘One for One’ model. Blake’s vision of TOMS was not just a shoe company but as a powerful vehicle for holistic change. By broadening the model’s application, TOMS reinforced a critical message: Businesses can be structured to tackle diverse global challenges and consumers can be active participants in these solutions.
This expansion was a strategic masterstroke for TOMS. Not only did it augment the brand’s product range, appealing to a broader consumer base, but it also deepened TOMS’ identity as a pioneering force in the world of social entrepreneurship. It underscored the belief that businesses can and should play a pivotal role in addressing pressing global issues.
Authorship and Thought Leadership
Mycoskie’s insights took the form of the New York Times bestseller, “Start Something That Matters”. Through this book, he recounted the TOMS story while also laying out a blueprint for entrepreneurs eager to blend purpose with profit.
A Dive into Shark Tank
Blake’s expertise and keen business acumen made him a perfect fit as a guest shark on the popular entrepreneurial reality show, Shark Tank. In this role, he brought his unique perspective on blending business with philanthropy, guiding and mentoring budding entrepreneurs on national television.
Touch Up Cup
There are several Shark Tank episodes that are great for students to watch. But one in particular would be a great example of how to be a young entrepreneur. Carson Grill and his dad Jason entered the Shark Tank seeking $150,000 for 10% equity in their company called Touch Up Cup. Touch Up Cup is a patented solution for eliminating the extra cans of paint most homeowners have in their garages and attics.
It was clear that Carson knew his stuff. During the time in the Tank, the 15-year-old did most of the talking about the business and its success so far. As Carson was explaining, he mentioned that they had a strategic partner that handled the picking and packing as well as their EDI (Electronic Data Interchange). To which Mycoskie replied, “I didn’t know what EDI meant until my 5th year at TOMS”.
Blake offered the duo more than they asked for by offering $200,000 for 25% equity. Daymond John also made an offer for $200,000 for 17.5% but the Grill’s took Blake’s offer. Mycoskie helped build the company to make over $3 million in sales. Carson was even able to purchase his first car on his own when he turned 16.
Recognition and Global Impact
Over the years, Blake’s contributions have garnered global recognition. Honors like the Secretary of State’s 2009 Award for Corporate Excellence (ACE) and acknowledgments from institutions like The Clinton Global Initiative have come his way. Yet, it’s his unwavering commitment to creating a positive change that truly sets him apart.
Blake Mycoskie’s life and ventures serve as a testament to the power of purpose-driven entrepreneurship. He has not only crafted successful businesses but has also ignited a movement. One that showcases the immense potential businesses have in shaping a better world.