Social Entrepreneurs

Social Entrepreneurship Book | Start Something That Matters

Start Something That Matters - Blake Mycoskie

From the chief shoe giver at TOMS

Blake Mycoskie follows his TOMS mantra of Buy One Get One with this book, because with every book you purchase a new book will be provided to a child in need.

We all are born with the ability to improve another person’s life. Everyone reading this book has the potential to make a difference. Read this book and think about whatever plans have been running through your mind. Take time to write them down in your journal or call a friend to discuss them. Tell yourself you’re not going to let this thought go unnoticed. Then take the next step. Start something that matters.

Why is this book for you?

You’re ready to make a difference in the world through your own start-up business, a nonprofit organization, or any new project that you create in line with your current job.

You want to love your work, work for what you love, and have a positive impact on the world all at the same time.

You’re curious about how someone who never made a pair of shoes or attended fashion school managed to create one of the fastest-growing footwear companies in the world by giving shoes away.

You’re looking for a new model of success to share with your children, students, co-workers and members of your community.

You’re ready to start something that matters

The Joy of Giving

Once in Argentina, Blake and his team rented a large sleeper bus and drove eighteen hours to the northeastern part of the country, sleeping on the bus and other nights renting rooms in small motels. They did this during 10 days driving to clinics, schools, soup kitchens and community centers to give 10 000 pair of shoes. The kids anticipated their arrival and they would start clapping with joy. Blake broke down in tears many times: “oh my god”, he thought, “this is actually working”. Toms started with a sketch and now they were providing 10 000 pair of new shoes to children in need. This is why simple ideas can have real impact, and a new pair of shoes can create so much joy.

The Power of Story

The Story helped them understand another important point. People who tell the TOMS story are more than just customers, they’re supporters. People who buy TOMS like to talk about their support of the mission rather than simply tell people they bought a nice shoe from some random shoe company. They support the product and the story in a way that a casual buyer will never do. Supporters beat customers every time. But gaining supporters starts with having a story worth supporting.

Conscious capitalism is about more than simply making money --- although it’s about that too. It’s about creating a successful business that also connects supporters to something that matters to them and that has a great impact in the world. As consumers, customers will want your product for the typical reasons --- because it works better, because it’s fashionable, because the price is competitive, because it offers an innovation --- but as supporters they also believe in what you’re doing: they’ve bought into your story because it taps into something real, and they want to be a part of it.

The lesson here is that the power of your story isn’t just a way to connect with your consumer, it is also a means of making you attractive to potential partners who want to attach themselves to something deeper than the simple act of buying and selling.

Share Your Story With Everyone

Make a list of every group to which you have a connection and that could help get it out there. This list might include your social network online (e.g., Facebook friends, Twitter followers), an alumni organization, a weekend sports team, members of a yoga class, a church congregation, and so on. These are your communities and they already have a vested interest in what you are doing with your life.

But don’t stop there. Talk up your story anywhere someone is likely to ask you, “so what do you do?” Some of Blake’s favorite places to engage in this kind of story-sharing are ski lifts, subways, planes, holiday parties, business networking events and trade shows. Take opportunity to let your passion run wild. Again, you’ll quickly see if your story is resonating or falling flat --- not are you spreading your story, but are you also finding new ways to refine it.

Face Your Fears

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” - Mark Twain

Focus On What You Can Control

Everyone who succeeds battles through adversity. The more you read biographies, talk to successful people, and listen to business leaders speak, the more you’ll hear about mistakes, screwups, fears and failures. But you’ll also see that those downers often turn out to be the biggest blessings these people have ever received. This is a lesson you need to keep learning.

Blake had plenty of these days during the first few years of TOMS. He was doing something totally different and it was scary. Setbacks and fear are inevitable. The thing that distinguishes the ultimate successes from the ultimate failures is this: What do you do with them? Fear is one of our most powerful emotions, and the more we focus on it, the more it grows and distorts our behavior. Focus on what you can control: your actions. How well you react to negative feelings will be the key to your success.

Don’t Fear The Unknown

People tend to think that they should start something only when they are totally and completely knowledgeable about the field they want to enter. That will probably never happen. If you spend all your time learning and studying, you’ll never start your venture.

Thinking big always sounds good, but it’s a common mistake shared by lots of people starting a business. Blake and his team started TOMS with 250 pairs of shoes in three duffle bags. That’s it. He didn’t quit his job immediately. He didn’t invest tens of thousands of dollars. He just made 250 pairs of shoes and tried to sell them. By starting small, you can work through your story, try out ideas, and test your strength of character. There’s a Japanese concept known as Kaizen, which says that small improvements made every day will lead to massive improvement overall. When you keep that concept in mind, reaching big goals seems much less scary. Learn what you can without making a full commitment.

Blake would also write down his fears and look at them. When fears stay stuck inside your head, your imagination can go wild, torturing you with all the various negative possibilities and outcomes. But when you write them down, you clarify exactly what you are afraid of, and soon the power they hold on you will fade. Seek as much advice as you can --- from everyone. You can often get great advice from all kinds of people if you just ask. You’d be surprised how many are more than happy to help.

Be Resourceful Without Resources;

When TOMS started, they had what could only be called very limited resources. Actually, it might be more accurate to say they had just about none. Because of the concept of giving a product away to match a product sold was unique, they had no proven model to convince others to back them. The truth is, they didn’t even know if it would work; therefore, it was difficult for them to raise money the way someone starting a traditional business would do.

Own As Little As You Can

People tend to buy lots of luxury goods, thinking it will give them a better lifestyle, but what they really create is a drain for their time and energy as well as their savings. The best way to get around is not owning much and to rent whenever possible.

Build Trust

You must create a culture in which people know there is zero tolerance for breaking trust. Making mistakes, yes. Breaking trust, no.

Open Philanthropy

Being open and forthright is even more important when your business has a philanthropic component. Being clear about where your donor’s money goes is the best way to build their trust

The Feed Projects

A non-gender-specific, eco-friendly bag that would guarantee a child in a developing country a free year of lunch for every bag sold. Feed Project also have the Feed 2 which feeds two children for a year and the Feed 100 which provides one hundred school meal for childs in need. They also have many more projects to help people in developing countries. To date, the company has sold more than 500 000 bags and donated enough money to provide more than 60 million school lunches around the world.

A New Business Model

Companies realize that a profit-only focus risks alienating customers and partners. They also know that if they want to attract the best talent, they have to pay attention in having a positive social impact.

At the end of the book you’ll find some discussion questions that will help you start something that matters. Go read them and enjoy!

by James Forbes

Copyright 2011 by Blake Mycoskie

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