Toms (stylized as TOMS) is a for-profit company based in Playa Del Rey, California. The company was founded in 2006 by Blake Mycoskie, an entrepreneur from Arlington, Texas. The company designs and sells shoes based on the Argentine alpargata design as well as eyewear. When Toms sells a pair of shoes, a new pair of shoes is given to an impoverished child, and when Toms sells a pair of eyewear, part of the profit is used to save or restore the eyesight for people in developing countries. Similarly, the company launched TOMS Roasting Co. in 2014. With each purchase of TOMS Roasting Co. coffee, the company works with other organizations that they refer to as “giving partners” to provide 140 liters of safe water (a one-week supply) to a person in need. In 2015, TOMS Bag Collection was launched to help address the need for advancements in maternal health. Purchases of TOMS Bags help provide training for skilled birth attendants and distribute birth kits containing items that help a woman safely deliver her baby.
Blake Mycoskie first visited Argentina while competing in the second season of The Amazing Race with his sister in 2002. He returned there on vacation in January 2006, and noticed that the local polo players were wearing a form of shoes called alpargatas, a simple canvas slip-on shoe that he himself began to wear. Alpargatas were the model for the original line of Toms Shoes. They are made from canvas or cotton fabric with rubber soles, and are manufactured in several styles. According to Mycoskie, when he was doing some volunteer work in the outskirts of Buenos Aires, he noticed that many of the children were running through the streets barefooted, and he decided that he wanted to develop a kind of alpargata for the North American market, with the goal that for every pair sold he would provide a new pair of shoes free of charge to youth of Argentina and other developing nations. According to Mycoskie, Bill Gates encouraged him, saying that the lack of shoes was a major contributor to diseases in children.
Mycoskie sold his online driver education company for $500,000 to fund the shoe company. The company name (TOMS) is derived from the word "tomorrow and evolved from the original concept, "Shoes for Tomorrow Project". Mycoskie initially commissioned Argentine shoe manufacturers to make 250 pairs of shoes. Sales officially began in May 2006. After an article ran in the Los Angeles Times, the company received order requests for nine times the available stock online, and 10,000 pairs were sold in the first six months. The first batch of 10,000 free shoes were distributed in October 2006 to Argentine children.
In 2007 the company launched an annual "One Day Without Shoes" event where people are encouraged not to wear shoes throughout the day in order to raise awareness for clothing impoverished children. The event has had corporate sponsors such as AOL, Flickr, and the Discovery Channel.
By 2011 over 500 retailers were carrying the brand globally; that year it also launched its eyewear line. By 2012 over two million pairs of new shoes had been given to children in developing countries around the world. The Daniels Fund Ethics Initiative at the University of New Mexicodescribes the company as an example of social entrepreneurship.
In June 2014, the company announced that Mycoskie was looking to sell part of his stake in the company to help it grow faster and meet its long-term goals. On August 20, 2014 Bain Capital acquired 50% of Toms. Reuters reported that the transaction valued the company at $625 million; Mycoskie's personal wealth following the deal was reported at $300 million. Mycoskie retained 50% ownership of Toms, as well as his role as "Chief Shoe Giver". Mycoskie said he would use half of the proceeds from the sale to start a new fund to support socially minded entrepreneurship, and Bain would match his investment and continue the company’s one-for-one policy.