A Sprinkling of Star Dust: More Stories of Maybes and Might-Have-Beens

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Being a giver of fish rather than a teacher of fishing "is not the way to deal with poverty," says Widmer. A concern related to sustainability is dependency. In , Bruce Wydick, an economics professor at the University of San Francisco, and two colleagues conducted randomized trials at Toms' behest on the effect of the shoe giveaways in El Salvador. Their research showed, among other things, that children receiving shoes were 10 percent more likely than nonrecipients to say that others should provide for their families. That increased reliance was "probably the most negative effect we found," says Wydick.

The paper ignited a backlash, led by a particularly scathing Vox article. But that article "rather dramatically misses the larger story about Toms--and that is that poverty work is very difficult," says Wydick. We have to test those things to find out. Among those adjustments is Toms' pivot toward gives that promote things, like health, that enable self-sufficiency.

For example, Toms sells sunglasses and glasses frames, but in poor regions, instead of distributing those products, the company provides eye exams and medical care. Mycoskie "saw the importance of a program's being able to offer a much more full spectrum of the eye care people need. Such gives make up less than 10 percent of Toms' business. The rest is still shoes. Toms says both independent and its own research demonstrate that shoe distribution prevents diseases, like hookworm.

But the company also works with its partners to apply the shoes to broader goals. To cite one example, giving partners are testing the shoes as an incentive for women to bring children to clinics for vaccinations, and to participate in microfinance programs aimed at encouraging entrepreneurship. Job creation is another way to tackle the cause, rather than the symptoms, of poverty, and in Toms began manufacturing shoes in markets where it donates, starting with Haiti.

It has since added facilities in Kenya, India, and Ethiopia, which together employ more than locals. Toms now produces 40 percent of its giving shoes in these countries; it has made child care, meals, and transportation to and from its facilities available so that more women can work. Local manufacture is itself an experiment, particularly in markets, like Haiti, that have no experience in the shoe industry. Mycoskie says it's possible "some companies in the United States could be making shoes in Haiti.

Mycoskie still loves the one-for-one model. But when it comes to his many speaking gigs, he compares himself to a musician who has had a huge hit. One-for-one, says Mycoskie, "was our greatest hit. It's about using business to improve lives. Back in the office, Mycoskie fell into his "prove myself" mode. Searching for more sustainable approaches, the company started to work on three one-for-ones--clean water paired with sales of coffee; support for safe births paired with handbags; and, finally, antibullying initiatives paired with backpacks.

The coffee launched in ; the other two in Mycoskie announced plans for a new give every year.

Eager to quickly roll out categories that would, in turn, help more people, the company skipped some steps. With the handbags, for example, Toms launched with too many options--and failed to stuff them with paper, so that they lacked shape and looked unappealing in retailers' displays. The sales team was short on handbag expertise, leaving retail customers with little support.

Meanwhile, Mycoskie, as the percent owner of the business, had been dealing with major issues, like whether to roll out company stores. He felt the stress acutely. That skin, Mycoskie realized, would have to come from a suit. He began meeting with private equity firms.


Sprinkling stardust on industry’s skills problem | The Engineer The Engineer

And then they meet the love of their life. Ryan Cotton, the Bain managing director who led the investment, identifies three strengths that he believes will make Toms, one day, a multibillion-dollar public company: its reputation as a philanthropic pioneer, its enthusiastic customers who may want to become shareholders , and its potential to expand beyond footwear into a broad lifestyle brand.

For 11 years, he was an executive at Starbucks working with Howard Schultz, an icon of conscious capitalism. Starbucks famously took its eye off what had made it successful. At Toms, Alling is making sure that won't happen. That fits his role as the benevolent realist wrangling passionate idealists just enough to keep things on track. Eventually, Alling wants nonfootwear products to account for one-third of sales.

But for now, he is doubling down on shoes, improving quality and adding new styles, like the popular women's wedge and the men's lace-up. Renewed focus is paying off: In , sales grew--by what Alling characterized as "high single digits"--for the first time in several years. The CEO is moving forward on the other existing lines and their associated gives, but more cautiously.

For the time being, Mycoskie's one-new-give-a-year plan has been skunked. Mycoskie no longer has the freedom to chase every new idea.

Sprinkling stardust on industry’s skills problem

As Alling puts it, "There are a lot of shiny objects that can catch light around Toms. Toms has always had a multiplier effect on social entrepreneurship. In , Mycoskie published the book Start Something That Matters , which shows up on the syllabuses of college entrepreneurship classes. Members of campus Toms Clubs encourage students to launch their own startups. And of course, one-for-one companies have proliferated in Toms' wake. After meeting Mycoskie while working at Neiman Marcus, Samuel Bistrian launched Roma Boots in , matching each sale of rain boots with the donation of a pair--along with school supplies--to poor children in 25 countries, including his native Romania.

Being an inspiration is gratifying. Being a catalyst is satisfying. Toms Social Entrepreneurship Fund lets Mycoskie keep trying out new ways to improve lives.

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Sadly for United, the same also applies to Rooney. Moyes's analysis of Modric is that he has wonderful gifts but can drift to the edges of the important games. If the player's impact as a substitute for Madrid at Old Trafford last season contradicts that theory , it is not lost on Moyes that United were down to 10 men at the time.

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This would be his first major signing and, plainly, he doesn't want to get it wrong. But the bottom line is that United have done less business than any other Premier League club bar Arsenal and there is a serious risk of it undermining Moyes's first season in charge. This is not to say that chucking money around is the answer to everything but Roberto Mancini was on to something when he complained about City's transfer business last summer and pointed out the benefits of adding category A players.

High-calibre signings want to show they are good enough to get into the team. The players who are already there want to show they can keep them out. It is not an exact science but put the two together and it usually means a better team. But it works both ways. Do nothing, or sign players of no better quality, and a team can quickly regress. For City then, see United now. Even before they consider the fact Rooney has started to think of Carrington and Old Trafford as five-star prisons.

Except the problem in football is that it increasingly seems difficult to take anyone at their word these days. Henry made similar noises about Fernando Torres a few years back and, apologies for the cynical tone, it probably won't be until 2 September before we can be certain he means it this time, or if it is just a clever ploy to put the thumbscrews on Arsenal.

As Gary Neville says of this part of the transfer window: "It's basically a game of poker. This summer has certainly seen a lot of bluff and counter-bluff. Plus some fairly extraordinary double standards. Then there is David Moyes, outraged at Everton a few years ago when Manchester City made public their bids for Joleon Lescott, but not so bothered by this tactic now he works for a club that have started doing the same.

Rodgers also appears to have conveniently forgotten how Liverpool triggered Joe Allen's release clause at Swansea City last summer , two months after taking over at Anfield. His old club haven't. They released a statement at the time confirming Liverpool's interest "despite a written agreement not to approach any players within the month period of Brendan Rodgers leaving for Anfield". Swansea were "extremely disappointed" details of Allen's contract had appeared in the media.

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