Describe the competitive logic behind Tom’s. Is it more like a charity that finances its charitable giving through shoe sales? Is it more like a for-profit company that’s willing to sacrifice profits in order to do good? Is a hybrid of those two models? Or is it something else altogether?
I think that TOMS is a hybrid of both. TOMS proves that business and philanthropy are no longer mutually exclusive, and can coexist for the greater good. If I had created a non-profit organization dependent on fundraising we would have been able to give shoes once, or maybe twice, but by developing the TOMS business model, we have been able to return to these communities and other areas across the world with shoes for children in need. This past September, TOMS gave away its millionth pair of shoes in Argentina.
Is this business model something that could work in other industries? How about industries that aren’t selling tangible goods like shoes?
Absolutely. We have heard of other companies incorporating the One for One in their business model like Warby Parker (mentioned in the column), who gives a pair of eyeglasses for every pair they sell. We know that other industries can’t always exactly do One for One, but we encourage businesses to think about doing good and somehow build giving into their model. There is no greater feeling that knowing you’ve helped someone.
Are there limits to the profit motive alone as a route to business success? Are we entering an era in which organizations must also be animated by the purpose motive?
As an entrepreneur, I see no limits and will continue to look for creative ways to keep TOMS going. The only way we can give sustainably and responsibly, is to constantly create great product that consumers want to buy.