Blake Mycoskie won by losing. He lost the $1 million prize on the second season of the Amazing Race by four minutes, and yet if had won, he may not have founded his hugely successful and philanthropic TOMS Shoe company. He and his sister had entered the CBS reality race program and high-tailed it through 13 countries in 31 days, but another team beat them to the final treasure on the global scavenger hunt. "The experience opened my eyes to looking at the world in a new way," explains Mycoskie, who is now best-known as the Chief Shoe Giver who appears on the popular AT&T television commercial.
In fact, while I was meeting with Mycoskie in New York recently to hear about how his shoe company is bringing loyal customers to South America and Africa on community shoe drops, the ad appeared on a TV over the bar. Waiters and waitresses looked from the screen to our table and back. "Is that you?" one of them mouthed at him across the room. He nodded. Big grins broke out all around. After all, as the ad emphasizes, this is a guy whose business is built on doing good. For every pair of shoes TOMS sells, they give a pair away to a child in need. "I believe that you can do good by doing well," he says on the ad, as smiling children try out their new shoes, "and this year we will give away over 300,000 pairs of shoes." With the company's growth, Mycoskie is investing more of his time in research and development, but true to his beliefs, part of that research involves community outreach and promoting philanthropic travel by bringing his customers along with him on company missions.