You can never have too many shoes, especially if you’re Blake Mycoskie, founder of Toms. The footwear brand specializes in Argentine alpargata shoes (think flat espadrilles), but there’s a twist: For every pair sold (locally, at Nordstrom and South Moon Under), the company gives another pair to a needy child. Since Toms began in 2006, Mycoskie has sold 2 million pairs. His book, “Start Something That Matters” ($22, Spiegel & Grau), reveals his social entrepreneurship ideas. He’ll discuss it at Sixth and I Historic Synagogue Sept. 14 at 7 p.m.
You say that things like overcoming fear and giving to the community are crucial to success. Why?
People are realizing that making money or climbing the corporate ladder really isn’t leading to any more security, and it’s definitely not leading to more happiness. People yearn to do something where they earn a living but do something of significance.
What was your biggest challenge?
We didn’t have a lot of resources, because this model had never been done. It wasn’t like we could go to the venture capital world or to the private equity world and say, “Hey, we’re going to start a shoe company where we give away shoes.”
What experience did you have in shoe design?
Zero. I had never taken one class or spent one hour in that industry. I’m learning stuff every day — everything from comfort to how you make sure your shoes don’t smell when people wear them barefoot to how you distribute your shoes to places that are extremely remote, like the foothills of Mongolia.
With so much success so fast, do you worry that they will be a fad?
The challenge in any company, especially in the fashion industry, is, “How do you build longevity?” To insulate us from being a trend, we’re making sure that our shoes are comfortable, that we continue to have a unique design perspective and that we continue to share the good work happening because of customers’ purchases.
You started an eyewear line this year. Head-to-toe helping?
We felt our one-for-one model could help a lot more people with more than just shoes. If we use it to save and restore a human being’s sight, that’s something powerful and exciting.
What style of Toms complements D.C.’s signature look: the business suit?
Cordones. They’re a lace-up that’s a bit more formal than our slip-ons. We do them in some leathers and a waxed canvas that gives them kind of a shine. When I have to wear a suit, which isn’t often, I wear cordones and get lots of comments.
What’s on your feet right now?
I’m barefoot, because I’m standing on the deck of my boat.