How do you get young people to listen to a conversation on conscious capitalism?
Invite a guy with a dynamite smile within their age range to tell them that you can can compete in the world of business without getting a lot of slime all over your sneakers.
The speaker was Blake Mycoskie, brought in by Wilkes University for their Sidhu School of Business Outstanding Leaders Forum. Mycoskie is the founder of TOMS Shoes, mounting his business venture while the recession howled outside the door.
I had the good fortune of attending the event with students from King’s, who received a dissertation in fancy dressing before the evening began, only to see the main speaker clad in a flannel shirt and jeans. No matter. This only added to the charm factor of Mycoskie, a former contestant on “The Great Race” and a self-described “business kid” who started out delivering laundry for fellow students at the University of Texas. While his classmates “studied” (ahem), Mycoskie made money, mainly out of necessity. While knocking around and delivering clean clothes, he began to take notice of the emerging technology revolution that is in evolution even as I type this sentence. He gained exposure on national television and it’s my understanding that he came off as the cad of the cast. After he finished the show, he returned to Argentina. That’s when he discovered people were getting sick because they didn’t have proper footwear. He carried a model of the simple shoes many did wear in Argentina, and began a career that marries manufacturing and philanthropy. He spends a lot of time traveling around the world. His idea is simple: For every pair of shoes purchased by a consumer, he donates a pair to a child in need. These children are everywhere, even in the good old U.S. of A.
What makes Mycoskie’s story even more remarkable is not his anti-establishment look, which resembles that of someone’s basement dwelling slacker son. It’s his business acumen and ability to do very well during a period of economic calamity around the globe. Mycoskie has discovered that people really do care and will respond to a simple message. He is a believer in young people, encouraging them to become part of the social networking/guerilla marketing revolution. He passionately believes in his company and spends a lot of time telling other people about his thoughts. He encourages young people to meet with older business leaders to share ideas. And, he says that it’s okay for businesses to make money and pass it on to their shareholders.
He also lives on a sailboat, an experience that he described as cold these days because of the winter weather, even in California. The youthful millionaire also talked about his living conditions as “liberating,” since he doesn’t have room for a lot of possessions in his cramped quarters.
The message that corporate America doesn’t have to be evil is appealing to his upper demographic. His philosophy of philanthropy without limits is inspiring to younger people. I would say his spirit of weaving the two together can feel as comfortable as the canvas shoes bearing the TOMS Shoe name that are worn from Austin to Argentina.