2016 Distinguished Alumni Award: Blake Mycoskie, Founder and Chief Shoe Giver of TOMS

Blake Mycoskie was first introduced to Young Life as a high school student in Arlington, Texas. According to Blake, “[Young Life] was a very important part of my spiritual development and mebecoming a Christian.” Upon high school graduation, Blake headed to Dallas, where he attended SMU and eventually became a Young Life leader. During this season, Blake accompanied students to Young Life camp and also served on summer staff at Windy Gap one summer as a horse wrangler.

Today, Blake Mycoskie is Founder and Chief Shoe Giver of TOMS, and the person behind the idea of One for One®, a business model that helps a person in need with every product purchased.

Since 2006, TOMS Shoes has provided over 70 million pairs of shoes to children, and TOMS Eyewear has restored sight to over 445,000 since 2011. “In 2015, TOMS Bag Collection was founded with the mission to help provide training for skilled birth attendants and distribute birth kits containing items that help a woman safely deliver her baby. As of 2016, TOMS has supported safe b
irth services for over 70,000 mothers.” (TOMS website)

Blake is also the author of Start Something That Matters, and has received accolades including the Secretary of State’s 2009 Award of Corporate Excellence (ACE), and being named on Fortune Magazine’s 2011 “40 under 40” list, recognizing him as one of the top young businessmen in the world.

When asked if there were any lessons learned during his involvement with Young Life that influenced him and the formation of TOMS, he cited two: 

One of my main take-aways from being a Young Life leader was the concept of “meeting kidswhere they are.” I remember we’d have club and there would be kids out front beforehand smoking. I thought it was cool that they felt just as welcome as anyone else. As I’ve built the TOMS brand and company, I’ve done the same thing; I’ve met people where they are as I lead them. “Earning the right to be heard” was another key lesson I picked up. When you first sign on to be a leader as a college kid, you’re full of enthusiasm and light on wisdom. You just have to jump in — it is a little like sink or swim — and learn as you go. Honestly, teenagers are the hardest audience — they can be intimidating! But by showing up I saw real change take place.

The link between Young Life and TOMS is really a philosophical one. We share the ideal of service to others. In Young Life, that’s through building relationships that meet spiritual needs. In TOMS, we’ve taken on meeting different needs, like shoes and eyesight. Both come out of the common Christian ideal of serving others; being a good steward. You hope that your values come across in your service and seeds are planted.

lake, thank you for your ongoing partnership and for the excellence with which you represent the Young Life mission. We are proud to honor you as our 2016 “Distinguished Alumnus Award” recipient.