A story by LA Weekly priced the manufacturing cost of a pair of Toms Shoes at $3.50-$5.00 in U.S. dollars, and noted that the children's shoes given out by the company were among the cheapest to make, which is not necessarily apparent to consumers. According to garment-industry author Kelsey Timmerman, many people he spoke to in Ethiopia were critical of the company, saying that they felt it exploited the idea of Ethiopian poverty as a marketing tool. An Argentina-based shoemaker agreed, saying that the imagery used by the company was manipulative.[47]
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]
Toms' business model is known as the "one for all concept" model, which is referring to the company's promise to deliver a pair of free shoes to a child in need for every sale of their retail product. The countries involved have included Argentina, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Haiti, Mexico, Rwanda, South Africa and the United States.[26] The business has grown beyond producing shoes and has included eyewear and apparel in Toms product lines. The company uses word-of-mouth advocacy for much of its sales, centering its business focus on corporate social responsibility. Part of this model originally involved a non-profit arm called "Friends of Toms" that recruited volunteers to help in the shoe distributions in foreign countries.[27] Toms trademarked the phrase "One for One" to describe its own business model.[28] Toms has received criticism from the international development community [29][30] who have stated that Toms' model is designed to make consumers feel good rather than addressing the underlying causes of poverty.[31] Criticisms have also included whether or not the shoe donation is as effective as a monetary donation to other charities.[32] Toms responded to this criticism by moving 40% of its supply chain for shoe donation to countries they actively give in. Toms presently manufactures shoes in Kenya, India, Ethiopia and Haiti.[33]
A story by LA Weekly priced the manufacturing cost of a pair of Toms Shoes at $3.50-$5.00 in U.S. dollars, and noted that the children's shoes given out by the company were among the cheapest to make, which is not necessarily apparent to consumers. According to garment-industry author Kelsey Timmerman, many people he spoke to in Ethiopia were critical of the company, saying that they felt it exploited the idea of Ethiopian poverty as a marketing tool. An Argentina-based shoemaker agreed, saying that the imagery used by the company was manipulative.[47]
The company's shoe distribution partners have focused on distributing shoes in areas where health and social benefits of the shoes would be the highest. For example, in Ethiopia the shoes are intended to help prevent a soil-borne disease that attacks the lymphatic system and which largely affected women and children.[15] Toms sunglasses are sold with the One for One model, however it does not necessarily provide glasses only to those in developing countries. The One for One model includes putting money toward medical treatment, eye surgeries and prescription glasses. Toms works with the Seva Foundation among other partners to accomplish this.[41] The first countries that Toms implemented its program were Nepal, Cambodia and Tibet.[42] The original three designs, according to Leigh Grogan, were "The stripe on the temples represents the buyer; the stripe on the tips represents the person whose sight is being helped, and the middle stripe represents Toms, which brings the two together."[43][44]
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Mycoskie sold his online driver education company for $500,000 to finance Toms shoes.[14] The company name is derived from the word "tomorrow",[9] and evolved from the original concept, "Shoes for Tomorrow Project".[16] Mycoskie initially commissioned Argentine shoe manufacturers to make 250 pairs of shoes. Sales officially began in May 2006.[14] After an article ran in the Los Angeles Times, the company received order requests for nine times the available stock online,[14] and 10,000 pairs were sold in the first year. The first batch of 10,000 free shoes were distributed in October 2006 to Argentine children.[7][17][18][19]
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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