“When you incorporate giving into your business, your customers—or in your case, your clients—become your best marketers.” That was the advice that keynote speaker Blake Mycoskie, founder of Toms shoes, gave to the crowd at this morning’s kickoff session for the American Institute of Architects’ annual conference. The socially minded and affably scruffy entrepreneur recounted his winding and unusual career path for the audience seated in a theater at the Denver convention center.
He spoke about starting an online driver’s education business—while admitting the concept sounds absurd—and coming in a close second as a contestant on the reality television series The Amazing Race before founding Toms, his successful shoe brand. The company, which touts its “one-for-one” business model, donates a pair of shoes to an impoverished child for every purchase of its canvas footwear. That story caught the interest of the media when he founded the company in 2006, and it has helped it grow to the point, Mycoskie said, that Toms has given away 10 million pairs of shoes to children around the world as of last Thursday. The narrative has turned his customers into evangelists, he said, adding, architects can also give their clients a good story as they strive for social good in their work.