As someone who works frequently with students, I can tell that one of their most frequent doubts and questions is what should they do with the rest of their lives. Many of them approach the date of their graduation with many doubts about whether they should follow their passion or just go along with the crowd and do what others say will amount them to a prosperous future. In addition, in many of the occasions, school does little to help them figure it out. This is one of the reasons that I founded my company, PaperPlane, which creates tailor-made international immersion programs for students and allows them to connect to professionals, world leaders and fellow students around the world and visit different companies, organisations, and incubators. Its creation was inspired by opening people’s minds and helping them find their passion while traveling the world.
In his book “Start Something that Matters”, Blake Mycoskie, the founder of TOMS, mentions that “If you’re not sure about your passion, here are three questions I sometimes ask people: If you did not have to worry about money, what would you do with your time? What kind of work would you want to do? What cause would you serve? Once you answer these questions, you’ll have a good idea of what your passion is”.
On the business side, Start Something that Matters is a great account of the powerful impact that a social enterprise can achieve in the world. Moreover, it is an inspiring story of how purpose and profit can align to create a successful company and create a worldwide movement for change. In the book, Mycoskie chronicles the founding of TOMS since his inception of the idea, which came on a trip to Argentina after noting how many families couldn’t afford shoes, and narrates through the startup era at his apartment in Los Angeles until the recent acquisition of 50% of the company by private equity fund Bain Capital, which valued the company roughly at $625 million dollars, according to Reuters. The book also portrays the stories and inception of other recognised companies such as Zappos, which is admired by its corporate culture, and of charity:water, a not-for-profit which has been highly acclaimed for its transparency and open resource allocation.
The book narrates how TOMS pioneered the one-for-one model, in which for every pair of shoes sold, they donated another pair to someone in need, giving millions of pairs of shoes up to date. Even though the one-for-one model has been recently put under fire because of the way it can put local small businesses out of operation, TOMS has reacted by providing sustainable solutions, for example, developing local manufacturing of the given shoes in countries like Haiti, Ethiopia, and Kenya. They have also started selling eyewear, giving a pair of glasses for every pair sold, as well as providing clean water for every pound of coffee that they sold. TOMS has already opened a coffee shop in London in which they also do talks with social entrepreneurs to encourage people to follow their passion. The one-for-one model in shoes became so popular that it created the One Day Without Shoes movement, which has been widespread across the globe and has generated millions of shoes donations. As TOMS Chief Digital Officer Zita Cassizzi says, “It’s different from traditional marketing because we’re not just a shoe company, a sunglasses or a fashion company, or a coffee company. We’re not just selling – we’re also a movement”.
When we look at the personal side of the book, Start Something that Matters is a call to action, an encouraging story that will motivate any reader to follow their heart and create their own thing that matters in the world. The book shows that you can do well while doing good, and presents living proof of it in the story of TOMS Shoes, that as Mycoskie says, “Anyone can make a difference, so you don’t have to have it be some huge, global campaign, you can start small, and that is just as important”.
In conclusion, a highly recommendable and engaging lecture that will appeal to the dreams that we all have, of creating something that matters and generates value to the world.