How to grow a US$625 million business by giving half your product away – everyday. They did it…

I need a new pair of shoes. Well, let me rephrase that – I would like a new pair of shoes.

Do I need a new pair? No. I’m fortunate enough to already have shoes, a few pairs actually.

But if I bought a particular brand of shoes, someone not as fortune as I could also receive a new pair of shoes. 

Hmmm, maybe I do need new shoes.

Do you know the story of Tom’s? I mean, do you KNOW the story of Tom’s?

Tom’s began as a one-for-one shoe company.

Their philosophy was simple: for every pair of shoes they sold, they would donate a pair to a person in need.

Nice, right?

4466403152_c9a53d6a47I first read that a few years back on a sign posted on a shoe rack in a youth-oriented clothing store while waiting for my daughter to try on her umpteenth outfit. I thought, “Hmm, perhaps I should buy a pair”. They seemed a bit pricey though. “I guess it’s because I’m actually buying two pairs of shoes,” I thought skeptically. “I’ll think about it.”

I wonder what I would have initially thought if I’d known their whole story.

Tom’s story is big, and it continues to grow. 

For starters:

  • they source their materials responsibly
  • they help develop manufacturing facilities in the countries where they give, providing jobs and reducing red-tape associated with matching products with recipients
  • they support companies to develop fair-labour for their employees

These are just a few things they do.

In short, they give back, Big Time.

Tom’s began in 2006 with a simple one-for-one shoe concept.

Did they see themselves as a shoe company? No.

Their philosophy of one-for-one is what drives the company. Not the shoes.

As they expanded their product line they also expanded their scope of giving.  Do people in need only need shoes? Shoes were not Tom’s mandate. Giving back was and continues to be. As they’ve done since day one, they continue to give one-for-one through every purchase.

We buy shoes. They give the gift of shoes.
We buy fashion sunglasses. They give the gift of sight.
We buy a bag. They give a safe birth for a mother & baby.
We buy a backpack. They give bullying prevention training.
We buy coffee (yes, not just clothing).  They give clean water.

Tom’s built their company on their philosophy, not their product.

I now KNOW Tom’s bigger story:

their philosophy
their ethics
their manufacturing practices
their social responsibility
their giving partnerships
their successes

Still, come to think of it, I don’t need shoes. I need shoes, a tote bag, a backpack, sunglasses and some coffee.  …And who’s birthday is coming up?

The price? …I didn’t really notice.

I’ve already bought into their story. 

I want to help them help others. I want to be a part of their story.

And I’m seeking them out. They’re not advertising to me.

What’s your philosophy? How could you expand based on that?

Read more about Tom’s here.

Ready to tell your stories? Contact me here.

This post is meant to illustrate an example, not endorse a particular company’s products. I am not affiliated with Tom’s in any way (other than as a future and loyal customer).

Thanks to emma.kate for the Tom’s shoes photo.

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