TOMS founder Blake Mycoskie would like to see his shoe brand grow into something like Richard Branson’s Virgin empire.
“That’s the way we’re thinking about our future,” Mycoskie told Business Insider. “I think you would see five different products, all under the TOMS name, but probably with the infrastructure built out from people who are best in class in that field.”
Mycoskie was still running a tech company in 2006 when he started TOMS, whose canvas slip-on shoes are now popular with everyone from hipsters to celebrities.
He conceived the idea on a trip to Argentina, which also inspired his One for One philosophy — he would donate a pair of shoes for each one sold — and set out to give away 250 pairs in the South American country. After realising the One for One business model could actually be profitable, Mycoskie dedicated himself to TOMS.
Seven years and 20 million pairs of shoes (both sold and donated) later, TOMS is expanding its retail line and sharing its philosophy of giving with other companies.
The company’s eyewear line his shelves about a year ago.
Eyewear was a natural fit, because most retail stores that sell TOMS shoes also sell sunglasses, and the supply chain and infrastructure were already in place, Mycoskie said. The company hired designers, including Jonathan Adler, and expanded its One for One program to eyeglasses.
“We’re not giving sunglasses away, we’re not even just giving away glasses,” Mycoskie said. “It’s actual surgeries happening. Blind people are able to see again because someone bought a $120 pair of sunglasses.”
But shoes and sunglasses are just the beginning. Mycoskie eventually hopes to sell as many as five different products, all with a One for One tie-in.
He wants to use the philosophy “to give people the opportunity to make their purchases count, to incorporate giving into life through their purchases and in all different industries, not just in the fashion-lifestyle category,” he said, adding that he has already connected with companies in other industries about how they can apply One on One to their businesses.
The company is also building its retail presence. Its shoes are available everywhere from high-end department stores like Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman to Whole Foods, but it is experimenting with standalone locations.
TOMS opened its flagship store in Venice, California in December of 2012 and Mycoskie said its success has “blown us away so far.” The store sells TOMS shoes and eyewear, and also has a café where patrons can hang out. He described it has something closer to a community meeting place than just a retail location.
TOMS is going to test two or three more retail locations within the next year, Mycoskie said.
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