Blake Mycoskie visited Argentina in 2002 while competing in the second season of The Amazing Race with his sister.[12] He returned on vacation in January 2006, and noticed that the local polo players were wearing alpargatas, a simple canvas slip-on shoe that he began to wear himself and which are the model for the original line of Toms Shoes.[13] They are made from canvas or cotton fabric with rope soles, but Toms makes theirs with rubber soles.[9] Mycoskie said that when he was doing volunteer work in the outskirts of Buenos Aires, he noticed that many of the children were running through the streets with no shoes on. He decided to develop a type of alpargata for the North American market, with the goal to provide a new pair of shoes free of charge to youth of Argentina and other developing nations for every pair sold.[14] According to Mycoskie, Bill Gates encouraged him by saying that the lack of shoes was a major contributor to diseases in children.[15]

By 2011, over 500 retailers carried the brand globally and in the same year, Toms launched its eyewear line.[21] By 2012 over two million pairs of new shoes had been given to children in developing countries around the world. The Daniels Fund Ethics Initiative at the University of New Mexico has described the company as an example of social entrepreneurship.[14][22]

In 2009 Toms partnered with the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project to create limited edition shoes, and used profits to benefit education and medical support in remote areas of Africa suffering from AIDS outbreaks.[54] Toms has also produced shoes with a handlebar mustache symbol in place of the traditional Toms symbol in support of the Movember Foundation.[55] Toms is a supporter of the charity charity: water, with which it has partnered with for several years, including its WaterForward project, which aims to bring clean water to underdeveloped countries.[56] An additional partner charity is FEED, a charity where a consumer will purchase a pair of shoes and the company will donate twelve meals to impoverished schools in addition to a pair of shoes for impoverished children.[57]

Blake Mycoskie visited Argentina in 2002 while competing in the second season of The Amazing Race with his sister.[12] He returned on vacation in January 2006, and noticed that the local polo players were wearing alpargatas, a simple canvas slip-on shoe that he began to wear himself and which are the model for the original line of Toms Shoes.[13] They are made from canvas or cotton fabric with rope soles, but Toms makes theirs with rubber soles.[9] Mycoskie said that when he was doing volunteer work in the outskirts of Buenos Aires, he noticed that many of the children were running through the streets with no shoes on. He decided to develop a type of alpargata for the North American market, with the goal to provide a new pair of shoes free of charge to youth of Argentina and other developing nations for every pair sold.[14] According to Mycoskie, Bill Gates encouraged him by saying that the lack of shoes was a major contributor to diseases in children.[15]
Employees of TOMS travel to different countries on "Giving Trips" to deliver shoes to children in person. In 2006, Toms distributed 10,000 pairs of shoes in Argentina.[48][49] In November 2007, the company distributed 50,000 pairs of shoes to children in South Africa.[50] As of April 2009, Toms had distributed 140,000 pairs of shoes to children in Argentina, Ethiopia, South Africa as well as children in the United States.[46] As of 2012, Toms has given away over one million pairs of shoes in 40 countries.[45][51]
Students attending colleges across the United States have created TOMS campus clubs. As of March 20, 2014, 281 campus clubs existed in the United States with another dozen located in Canada.[52] By comparison, another nonprofit organization known as Lions Club International was established in 1917 and is known for working to ending the cause of blindness, reports 400 Lions’ campus clubs in 42 countries.[53]
Shoes have been given to children in 70 countries worldwide, including the United States, Argentina, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Swaziland, Guatemala, Haiti and South Africa.[45] Toms are sold at more than 500 stores nationwide and internationally, including Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, and Whole Foods Market, which include shoes made from recycled materials.[46]
In July 2011, Toms founder Blake Mycoskie participated in an event sponsored by the group Focus on the Family.[64][65] After being criticized for supporting a socially conservative non-profit, Mycoskie posted an apology on his website stating that he and his handlers had not heard of Focus on the Family before participating in the event and decided it was a mistake. He also stated that he and the company support equal human and civil rights.[66][67]
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