Toms Shoes' "buy one give one" model -- a pair of shoes is donated with each purchase -- was instrumental to the company's success. But the practice garnered fierce criticism from academics and activists, who charged that Toms approach is a gimmick that is ineffective, patronizing and hypocritical.
In a recent interview with HuffPost Live, Toms CEO Blake Mycoskie opened up about how the company responded to such criticism. His answers may surprise you.
"If you really are serious about poverty alleviation, our critics said, then you need to create jobs," said Mycoskie. "At first I took that personally, but then I realized that they were right... using our model to create jobs is the next level."
Mycoskie said that by the end of 2015, Toms plans to have one-third of all shoes produced in the countries to which the company donates. Toms built a factory and hired locals in Kenya, and will expand this model to Ethiopia and Haiti in the coming months. Mycoskie points out that Toms will be the only shoe manufacturer with a factory and employees in Haiti.
"There really is a lot you can learn from the critics... you can either try to debate them and fight them or you embrace them, and that's what we're trying to do."
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