Blake: I started TOMS as a spontaneous response to help kids. I wasn’tlike I had a shoe company and then decided to help kids. If that had been the case, our pricing would probaly be very different. I said, “How much moey do I need to charge so that I can give a pair of shoes away and have an office, hire people and grow this movement.” And that’s where I came up with the price. It’s really that simple. Yes, they are expensive because I want to give shoes away, but that was the whole model. If people can’t buy into that idea, then they shouldn’t buy our shoes in the first place.
CC: What were some of the major obstacles when you were trying to launch TOMS Shoes?
Blake: Definitely production. And it continues to be a challenge. Because I didn’t have any experience in shoes. Anyone who reads this article, I hope they get inspired by the fact that you don’t need experience. Sometimes not having experience is the greatest thing in the world. If you have experience, you’ve already heard that you can’t do it this way, and you can’t do it that way, but with no experience you just do it your way.
CC: What advice do you have for young people who are attracted to what you’re doing through TOMS?
Blake: I don’t think you can truly go out and start successful businesses and discover groundbreaking ideas by trying to do so. I think groundbreaking ideas and service companies get started when someone sees something–that there’s a problem, that something doesn’t work, that there’s a need in their life that’s not being fulfilled. My advice to budding entrepreneurs is, don’t try and be an entrepreneur, try to identify the problems in the world that you want to solve. That, often, will lead to a great business idea. If you just go out and try to make money by starting a business, you’re going to come up with something that’s just like what everyone else has done. But if you look at the world and see opportunities that can be taken more seriously, then you come up with a great idea.
Last October I was invited to speak to a group of high school students at an FBLA convention.
In my presentation, I shared this video clip …
This is Vinod Khosla (one of the founders of that *little* technology company, called Sun Microsystems–now a venture capitalist) speaking to students at Stanford University. I learned about this clip, by reading Tina Seelig’s book, What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20 .
These are things I’m telling my boys:
1. Pay attention to the world around you.
2. Find a problem that really bothers you.
3. Think about what it would take to solve this problem.
Do well in school, yes.
Go to college, yes.
Solve problems and start movements–absolutely within your power–YES!