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A new generation of social entrepreneurs is finding that good deeds can mean good business, even in tough economic times. We talk with Blake Mycoskie, founder of TOMS, who found success using a ‘One for One’ model; for every pair of TOMS shoes that’s purchased, a second pair is given to a child in need somewhere in the world. We talk to Blake about the growth of the business, started just 5 years ago, and the lessons he’s learned along the road to success.
- Blake Mycoskie Chief Shoe Giver, TOMS
MR. KOJO NNAMDIAny bargain hunter will tell you, buy one get one is a good find. But what about buy one give one? For many, that's an even better deal, a new generation of entrepreneurs finding success selling goods that contribute to the greater good. Call them conscious captives, social entrepreneurs or maybe they're just savvy business people.
MS. KAREN NEWIRTHBlake Mycoskie joined the ranks when he started TOMS shoes five years ago with a simple but ambitious goal. For every pair of TOMS sold, a pair of shoes is given to a child in need somewhere in the world. Toms has given away 2 million pairs of shoes so far and shows no sign of slowing down. Blake Mycoskie joins us in studio. He is the chief shoe giver and founder of TOMS and author of "Start Something that Matters." Blake Mycoskie, thank you so much for joining us.
MR. BLAKE MYCOSKIEThank you for having me on the show.
NNAMDIFirst, the obvious, your name is not Tom, though I bet people call you that all the time. So why TOMS?
MYCOSKIEYeah, that's always a good place to start. So when -- originally the idea was if we sell a pair of shoes today we can give away a pair of shoes tomorrow. And we were going to call them Tomorrow's Shoes. But when I went to design the shoe, I couldn't find any way to fit the word Tomorrows on the back tag. So I shortened it from Tomorrows to TOMS and people have been calling me Tom ever since.
NNAMDI'Cause if you call them Tomorrow, they'd have to be big people shoes.
NNAMDIShoes for only very large feet. 800-433-8850 is our number. Are you wearing TOMS right now? Do you commute in them daily? What made you buy a pair? 800-433--8850. When you started TOMS, you did not have a lot of money or a familiar business model that investors would flock to. But you did have a great story. Tell us the TOMS origin story.
MYCOSKIEYes. So originally I was down in Argentina about five years ago on vacation. At the time, I was running a software company, something very different. And when I was on that trip, I met some people who were doing volunteer work. They were -- specifically were doing a shoe drive. And what that meant was they were collecting slightly used shoes from wealthy families in and around Buenos Aires taking them to children who did not have a pair of shoes, and specifically needed a pair of shoes because it was part of the required uniform. And so they needed them to go to school.
MYCOSKIEAnd I wanted to help these kids and these volunteers I met, and they were very nice people. But I didn't want to just write a check because I felt if I wrote a check or created a charity, it would be dependent on more and more donations and that would be out of my control.
MYCOSKIESo instead I said, okay, instead of charity, what about entrepreneurship? What if we started a for-profit shoe company where every time we sold a pair, we'd give a pair away? And that way we could sustain the giving because kids' feet grow fast. And often times they'll grow out of a pair of shoes and they need that next pair. And if they're completely dependent on donations and handouts, they might or might not get it. By having a business and more predictability, we could keep them in the shoes and help them with their education.
MYCOSKIEAnd that's what we started with a simple idea. Two-hundred-and-fifty kids was our goal originally. And, as you said, we just gave away our 2 millionth pair of shoes.
NNAMDINot only did those kids need those shoes for school, but it's my understanding that the leading cause of disease in developing countries is soil-contaminated diseases and they can penetrate the skin through the bare feet.
MYCOSKIEYes. Hookworm is one that we hear a lot about in Central America specifically, that's completely preventable with shoes and proper hygiene. Another one that we focus on a lot at TOMS is called podoconiosis. It's a foot disease in Ethiopia and in other parts of the world. But we've seen a large number of cases in Ethiopia that a silica gets into the pores of the skin and destroys the lymphatic system which causes incredible swelling. And when that happens, people are completely ostracized from their communities and not able to live a normal life. So by giving them shoes, we're preventing these horrible diseases from happening.
NNAMDIAllow me to go to Keith in Potomac, Md. Keith, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
KEITHHi. I know that Blake and TOMS has done shoes and sunglasses. I'm wondering whether he's considered other products that might lend themselves to marketing here in the United States and to productive use overseas. I have a personal interest in bicycles, but I think that might be a challenge. But a lot of used bicycles go overseas, but I'm wondering whether in terms of new products whether he, you know, was looking at a third or fourth initiative.
NNAMDIGot to tell you I grew up in a country where the bicycle was the primary means of transportation. And from the time I was in elementary school, not to have one was a significant disadvantage. But here's Blake.
MYCOSKIEYes. So thanks, Keith. Well, yeah, we've launched our eyewear initiative about 90 days ago. And I will say that definitely for the next year to two years that's going to be a real focus for us. I mean, the fact that we can sell a pair of sunglasses and give someone sight is really exciting. And we've been doing cataract surgeries on people that are blind from a cataract, giving out prescription glasses and also doing medical eye treatments mainly in Nepal and Cambodia right now through the sale of our sunglasses.
MYCOSKIEBut we are also looking into expanding that program in the United States. There are many school children here in the United States that when they have their eye exam they cannot afford the prescription glasses that are necessary for them to continue on with their education. And there are many organizations that we are talking to currently about expanding our prescription glasses giving in the U.S.
MYCOSKIEIn terms of the next third and fourth and fifth product, I hope, and is my dream, to continue using the One for One model to help other needs. Bicycles, believe it or not, you know, is a possibility. You know there is, you know, a great opportunity for people who need bicycles to either, A, earn a living in transporting goods in different developing countries, or even get to jobs and schooling that they would not be able to get to. So I definitely would not rule out bicycles.
MYCOSKIEBut currently rather than continuing introducing new products, we're going to really be focusing on our sunglasses and the eye care that we launched about 90 days ago.
NNAMDIKeith, thank you very much for your call. Why a for-profit company rather than a nonprofit?
MYCOSKIESuch a great question. You know, when I started TOMS, I was running a software company at the time. And in order to continue the growth of TOMS, I needed capital so I sold my interest in my software company. And with that amount of money, I was able to invest in TOMS and start the business.
MYCOSKIENow, if I would've taken that amount of money, I could've bought 40,000 pairs of shoes and given them away in the typical nonprofit measure. So 40,000 shoes day one through a nonprofit means in charity would've helped a lot of kids 'cause it took us a whole year to help 10,000. But what the interesting thing is is that amount of money that could've gone the charity nonprofit way was the exact amount of money that I invested into TOMS. And to this day, not a single dollar has been invested into TOMS besides that original investment.
MYCOSKIESo instead of helping 40,000 people day one through charity, we've now helped 2 million people through investing in a simple business. And that's really what I'm excited about and I talk a lot about in the book is sometimes the most charitable thing you can do is invest it in a social enterprise that can have a larger return investment over time. It's not instant gratification, but it can have a big impact.
NNAMDIThe book is called "Start Something that Matters." Its author and our guest is Blake Mycoskie, chief shoe giver and founder of TOMS. We're inviting your calls at 800-433-8850. When you shop, do you seek out products from companies that you feel good about supporting? Tell us what you feel best about buying. 800-433-8850 or go to our website, kojoshow.org, join the conversation there.
NNAMDITOMS are a take on a quintessentially Argentinean shoe. Why did you think they would work here in the U.S.?
MYCOSKIEWell, I mean, to be honest, Kojo, I didn't know for sure if they would work, but I liked them and -- when I was traveling in South America, and I felt that they were different enough from what we had in the U.S. market. At that point in time, you know, the Chuck Taylor Converse or the Vans, you know, these are your classic canvas shoes. And I felt the Argentinean alpargata, which is very popular, you know, throughout South and Central America, could be something that people would like.
MYCOSKIEI remember at first, though, people did not necessarily gravitate to the style. But over time, I think it's grown on people.
NNAMDIWell, the TOMS story has turned out to be so compelling that you've sold 2 million pairs of shoes without launching a traditional ad campaign. How has the word about TOMS spread?
MYCOSKIEReally, you know, I don't -- really through social media. And I talk about that this company could not have existed ten years ago. And this business model could not have existed ten years ago because we are completely dependent because of our giving model on our community and on our customers to spread the word.
MYCOSKIESo you see, you know, that we have over a million Facebook fans and hundreds of thousands of people Tweeting about TOMS every day when they buy a pair, because they experience that personal satisfaction that they're helping someone somewhere in the world get a pair of shoes or get the eye care that they need. And that is what has spread the message of TOMS and has given us the opportunity to grow the business into something that looks more like a movement.
NNAMDIHere is Fucundo (sp?) in Reston, Va. Fucundo, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
FUCUNDOHi, Kojo. Hi, Blake. Good afternoon.
FUCUNDOHey, I'm originally from Argentina. Maybe the name might give it away. I guess, if you've been there for a while, Fucundo's a typical Argentine name. But, you know, when I used to travel a lot to Argentina I would always try to buy three, four, five, six pairs of alpargatas 'cause, as you said, they just didn't exist here. So I think -- I just want to commend you on, first of all, making a fantastic product. And second of all for -- you know, for the good cause that, you know, buy one and it goes to a great cause. So thank you very much for that...
MYCOSKIEThank you very much.
FUCUNDO...and making such a -- I wear them for all that I can wear them for. And there's such a variety and it's just such a good -- you know, I even go as far as saying it's even better than the original.
MYCOSKIEWell, that's a nice compliment.
NNAMDIWell, Fucundo, let Blake tell you the story about traveling in an airport, a story that you can find in the book "Start Something that Matters," and running into a woman who was, in fact, wearing TOMS and kind of innocently asked her about the shoes.
MYCOSKIEYeah, this is one of the funniest things that’s happened. And also one of the greatest business lessons I learned was when I was in this airport, it was about five months after starting TOMS, and at this point, believe it or not, I had not seen a single stranger wearing our shoes. So I'd seen my parents, of course, my brother and sister, my family, you know, interns, friends. But to be 5,000 miles away at the JFK Airport and running into a stranger was surprising.
MYCOSKIESo I wanted to ask her about her shoes without giving away, you know, what I obviously -- my connection to them. So I said, look, I love your red shoes. You know, what are you wearing? And she told me, these are TOMS, TOMS shoes. And I was trying to play it cool so I was touching the Kiosk trying to check in for my ticket.
MYCOSKIEAnd she literally grabbed my shoulder and this was a small lady. It wasn't, you know -- and I -- you know, I'm not a tiny guy. So she grabs me and pulls me away from the machine and proceeds to say, you do not understand. This is the most amazing company in the world. When I bought this pair of shoes, they gave a pair to a child in Argentina. And then she continued, and there's this guy. He lives in Los Angeles. I think he lives on a sailboat, and she honestly started telling me, like, my life story word for word. And...
NNAMDIAt this point you were going, oh-oh.
MYCOSKIEExactly. And I had to tell her who I was. When I did, it was really funny, you know, because she had not recognized me because I had cut my hair that summer. And -- but what was interesting about that was as I got on the plane, I thought, you know, this is a stranger at the airport. I mean, you know, it's not exactly the place you start up a lot of conversations. And she had the desire and the passion to tell me the TOMS story in such detail. You know, surely she has told all her family and her friends and posted it on Facebook and Twitter.
MYCOSKIEAnd so, Kojo, that kind of answers the -- you know, kinda the last thing we were talking about is how is it spread? It's people like that woman in the airport. And that taught me that the more you can incorporate something larger than just the bottom line into the mission of your business, the more likely your customers are going to do the marketing for you. And I really talk through not only how TOMS has done that, but other organizations like Charity Water and the feed projects, you know, method in my book of showing how other entrepreneurs have incorporated this giving in the story so their customers do the marketing for them.
NNAMDIFucundo, thank you very much for your call. Here is Daniel in Fairfax, Va. Daniel, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
DANIELHi, Kojo. I'm an economic student and I just wanted to actually chime in and talk about how TOMS shoes is kind of -- it comes up in some of my graduate discussions. Basically it's one of those instances where we look at charitable giving and, you know, he's giving away the shoes and we ask questions on how that's incentivizing domestic production in these places of shoes.
DANIELIt's the ultimate competition. You're kind of giving away a product for free and I -- that they can make there. It's not the same thing as a mosquito net where they don't normally have a building to produce, you know, the fine mesh that keeps out mosquitoes. So I just wonder, have you seen anything about how this has affected, you know, jobs in other places for, you know, domestic production? Or are we kind of being overly good capitalists and maybe not helping people in a way where, you know, we can incentivize the massive production?
MYCOSKIEYeah, Daniel, it's a great question and it's actually something that we take very seriously at TOMS. We never want to give in a community where we could undermine the local market. First and foremost, I am an entrepreneur. This is my fifth company. I love starting businesses and I love supporting and inspiring entrepreneurs. And so the worst thing that we could ever do would be -- is to compete unfairly. And obviously, giving away free is better than selling in the market.
MYCOSKIESo we make sure that if we're going to give in say a new area, so let's just say it's Nicaragua or Honduras where I was recently, we're giving in extremely rural areas where there is not a local shoe market readily available. Or we're giving to people at the absolute greatest need that just do not have enough money -- they don't have enough money perhaps for -- you know, for the necessary nutrients and food that they need, much less a pair of shoes. But yet they're getting these foot diseases.
MYCOSKIESo it's something we take very seriously and something that we always will. And if there is a situation where, you know, a giving partner says, hey, we would love to get your shoes here, but we do research and we find out that, you know, it's going to hurt the local market, we do not go to those areas.
NNAMDIDaniel, thank you very much for your call. We've got to take a short break. When we come back, we'll return to this conversation with Blake Mycoskie. He is the chief shoe giver and founder of TOMS and author of "Start Something that Matters." The number is 800-433-8850. Are you wearing TOMS right now? Do you commute in them daily? What made you buy a pair? You can also go to our website kojoshow.org, send us a Tweet at kojoshow or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. Our guest is Blake Mycoskie, chief shoe giver and founder of TOMS. His book is called "Start Something that Matters." We're inviting your calls at 800-433-8850. Where have your TOMS taken you or your kids? To prom, down the aisle? You can call and let us know. Do you work for a non-profit that would like to adopt some ideas from TOMS for-profit model? You can call with your questions on how to make it happen. 800-433-8850.
NNAMDIBlake, you are the public face of TOMS and the lion's share of attention that you get is positive. But a few months ago you stepped into some controversy by speaking at an event hosted by Focus on the Family, a global Christian ministry that has been vocal in its opposition to same-sex marriage. Now that there's some distance between you and that event, what's your take away from the outcry that followed?
MYCOSKIEWell, I think the thing is, is TOMS started as a very small organization with me and a few interns in my apartment. And while we have grown...
NNAMDIYou sold the first 10,000 out of your apartment.
MYCOSKIEWe did. We did. And while the organization has grown, you know, as any company there are certain processes that have not necessarily been put in place as they should have. And we didn't do enough research before this event, and I speak probably 70 times a year, every place from, you know, say, you know, schools, to companies, to churches, to synagogues, and in this particular case, we found ourselves speaking at an organization that was more political than anything else.
MYCOSKIEAnd some -- and so TOMS does not endorse, nor do I endorse any one political agenda. Our agenda it to help children and help people through our one-for-one model. And so since then we've had to really look at, okay, it's very important that we message to our community and all these people who support us that, you know, when I go to speak somewhere, I'm going to speak on what TOMS is about, not to endorse anyone's political agendas, and so that's the commitment we've made to our community, and if anything, it brought me, and I think TOMS closer to our community to have something like happen, and we've learned a lot from it, and we'll continue speaking and promoting the TOMS message, but just making sure that people know that it is by no means an endorsement of someone's political agendas.
NNAMDIHere is Erin in northwest Washington. Erin, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
ERINHi. I'm just calling, I was in my car listening to the show, and ironically, I have on my TOMS. I have a bunch of pairs, and my two-and-half year son also has on a bright pair of red TOMS. We're huge fans and we just -- we love the shoes and we love what they stand for.
NNAMDIThank you so much for your call. Blake?
MYCOSKIEThat's awesome. Well, you know, one of my favorite things that has happened, you know, since starting TOMS is seeing young kids wear them, especially once they get old enough to where they can really internalize the fact that there's a kid their age maybe somewhere that they'll never meet, that does not have the ability to buy a pair of shoes. And so I get a lot of letters, really heartfelt letters from mothers and fathers saying, you know, my -- this gave me a chance to talk to my nine year old about what's going on with say the drought in Ethiopia right now, and how that's happening, and those create a lot of difficult discussions for parents to explain, you know, kind of what's fair in life and things like that, and how we can help.
MYCOSKIEAnd so they use the shows as a tangible opportunity to do that. So I appreciate you sharing that you and your son are wearing them and I appreciate your support.
NNAMDIErin, thank you very much for your call. TOMS has been in business for five years now, and those years have not been the greatest years for the economy overall. Do you think that businesses like yours have an added appeal in tough times?
MYCOSKIEI think that there's a real opportunity in tough times for kind of start-up organizations. I mean, not just organizations with a giving component, but anyone kind of trying to enter into the market, because a lot of times what happens is the larger companies cut back on the market and they have these gigantic budgets that are greatly impacted by the economy, and so, therefore, it leaves opportunity for the small guy to get maybe some shelf space in a store that they wouldn't have got it before, and I think that that's been really important for us as a small organization.
MYCOSKIEThe second thing I think is that, you know, people innately, I believe largely want to give back, want to help others if they can. But sometimes it's difficult, you know. They write a check, they don't know what percentage is going where. It's very confusing for them to get overwhelmed. The nice that we have tried to do is make it very clear that, you know, it's one for one. There's no percentage, no formula. You buy a pair, we give a pair.
MYCOSKIEAnd then to share that through, you know, videos posted on YouTube and pictures on Flickr on a daily basis of all the work that's going on. So I do think that in the existing economy, it has maybe given us more opportunity that we would have had if it was a really strong economy than not.
NNAMDIOn to David in southeast Washington. David, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
DAVIDKojo, thank you so much for taking my call, and Blake, I just to express some real gratitude for the mission that you have taken on. You've done a lot to bring to the plight of many in third-world countries just into the light of day, and so hopefully that will be a motivator, you know, for others to give generously. But what I wanted to ask you was, has your company done any research as to the spending habits of Americans, particularly when it comes to shoes, and how many of the shoes that they purchase are really just sitting in their closet. And really where I'm headed with that question is, is that not also a very untapped resource to get shoes onto the feet of those who need them?
MYCOSKIEWell, David, thank you very much for your kind words, and you are exactly right. This is something that I speak about a lot is, you know, buying a pair of TOMS is helping a pair get to a child in need, and that is great, and we build and make brand new shoes in the exact sizes that the kids need them. But the truth is, is that I would -- we have not done the research, but my guess is that there is, you know, five, ten, you know, in some women's cases that I know, 20 pairs of extra shoes sitting in closets that could be donated and used both here and...
NNAMDII'm tempted to name names, but go ahead, please. (laugh)
MYCOSKIE...domestically and internationally. And there is an amazing organization called Soles for Souls, and they are a non-profit organization that will take your extra shoes that you're no longer using, they will package them, and they will distribute them around the world where people need them the most. And so when anyone calls us or writes in saying, hey, I love what you do, and I have some extra shoes, will you take them?
MYCOSKIEYou know, we don't have the infrastructure to do that, because that's a gigantic operation to inspect them and to package them and send them, but an organization like Soles for Souls is a great group and I highly respect what they're doing. So that's a great opportunity for anyone listening who has some extra shoes in their closest, you know, put those shoes to good use.
NNAMDISpeaking of similar organizations, and David thank you for your call, I think Dave in Washington D.C. wants to suggest one such. Dave, go ahead, please.
DAVEHi, Kojo. Yeah. I wanted to mention the Kona Bicycle Corporation makes a bike they call the Africa bike, which is a really sturdy steel frame that's designed to survive in very harsh conditions, and consequently, it also makes a great city bike in places like D.C. And for every two bikes your purchase, the donate one in Africa. So I wanted to respond earlier to the caller who said, you know, we're looking for similar programs with bicycles. There is one right now, so I just wanted to let -- make you aware of that one.
NNAMDIAnd the other caller talked about World Bicycle Reliefs that sends bikes to Africa. So thank you very much for your call. Getting a lot of that kind of information out here today. Where are TOMS manufactured.
MYCOSKIEWe manufacture our shoes in three places. We manufacture them in Asia, we manufacture in Argentina, and we recently are doing a project in Ethiopia, and the long-term kind of goal for me going back to my entrepreneurial roots is to create as much sustainable production and development in these developing countries as possible. It is a challenge. You know, we originally, you know, started in Argentina, but had to expand to Asia because that's where a lot of the shows are made in the world, and that's where we could scale.
MYCOSKIEBut now that we have, you know, kind of hit a point where we have some more infrastructure in place, we are doing some experiments, kind of like what we're doing in Ethiopia now where we work with local shoemakers and see is there an opportunity to create more jobs in some of these countries where we're also giving shoes away.
NNAMDIOur guest in Blake Mycoskie. He is the chief shoe giver and founder of TOMS. His book is called "Start Something that Matters." TOMS shoes can be a blank canvas, both for artists you collaborate with, and people who buys shoes. How have people been customizing their TOMS?
MYCOSKIEYeah. One of the most fun things that we have seen that the community has kind of taken on, and they've actually -- we've even named it, and it's called Style Your Sole parties. And what is happening is people are buying the white, you know, canvas TOMS, or just a plain color, and they are having kids' birthday parties, graduation events, they're happening on college campuses, some even companies are using them as a great kind of icebreaker networking events for company retreats.
MYCOSKIEAnd what they're doing is they're taking these shoes and then they're getting Sharpie markers and paints and stencils and letting people customize their own shoes. And what's fun about that is, is all these people participating get the experience of as a group, okay, we just helped 20 kids gets shoes, or in some cases we've had, you know, parties of up to 500 or 1,000 people, so they can say, you know, a whole school a pair of shoes because these event we hosted.
MYCOSKIEBut then when people leave wearing a shoe that they've customized and designed themselves, there's even more conversation around it, which helps, once again, spread the message of what we're doing. So the Style your Sole parties are really fun. On our website at toms.com, if you want to host one, or do one, you can learn all that information there.
NNAMDIHere's Ali in Richmond, Va. Ali, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
ALIHello, Kojo, and thank you for taking my call. I was in Darfur last year and I saw a lot children without shoes. My question to your guest, if he have anybody or any agent in Darfur area to help those kids to get the shoes. Thank you.
MYCOSKIEI'm sorry, which area were you...
NNAMDIIn the Darfur region of Sudan.
MYCOSKIEOh, in Darfur. Yeah. We are currently not giving in Darfur. We are giving in a lot of areas around there. You know, the key for TOMS to give and give responsibly is to have an NGO partner, a non-government organization, that is existing in the area already doing aid, because, you know, whether it's, you know, as we talked about earlier, there's someone said malaria nets, or vaccinations, or food supply, and so it's really important for us to find a great NGO partner already working in distribution so that the shoes can be given not just one, but in a sustainable manner as we talked about.
MYCOSKIEAnd at that this point we have not found that partner there. If there's a listener listening in that has someone that they know what works in that area and could recommend an organization, we're always open to new partners, because that's really what allows us to do the work that we do are these great partners in different parts of the world.
NNAMDIGotta go over this, if somewhat briefly. You name may ring a bell with fans of "The Amazing Race." What made you want to compete and what was that experience like?
MYCOSKIE"The Amazing Race" was, I mean, you know, really incredible. My sister Paige and I did "The Amazing Race" back in 2002 in the second season, and it was a scavenger hunt around the world, right? And you're -- and the winners get a million dollars, and it was incredibly exciting. The only negative part about "The Amazing Race" for me, was the fact that I sister and I lost the million dollars by four minutes.
MYCOSKIEAnd after racing around the world for 31 days, it is pretty heartbreaking to lose by four minutes.
NNAMDIThe upside of that? During the season you passed through Argentina.
MYCOSKIEThat is correct. And that's ultimately what brought me back to Argentina, and introduced me to this opportunity which has become a great life change for me, and something that has given me a lot of significance and joy. So, you know, everything happens for a reason.
NNAMDIYour dad is a doctor, your grandparent's a doctor, your aunt, uncle, all doctors. Why aren't you in scrubs or a lab coat right now?
MYCOSKIEYou know, I just -- school wasn't really for me, you know? I think, you know, I think education is very important, and for some people, you know, more important than others. But I just -- I love tinkering with things. I mean, even when I was, you know, 12 years old, I was the kid that had the lemonade stand from the beginning of daybreak to the end of night. I was always out there hustling, and memorizing the periodic table just wasn't high on my list of things I wanted to do in high school.
MYCOSKIESo I was the first -- I'm the oldest grandchild in my family, and so I think there was a little bit of concern when I decided to not go the into the medical field after everyone else in my family had. But, you know, the interesting thing is none of my other cousins have gone into the medical field. So that's -- maybe that'll happen in the next generation.
NNAMDIWe have time for one more call. Here is Ingrid in Silver Spring, Md. Ingrid, your turn.
INGRIDHi. I'm also a shoe entrepreneur, but I work with special needs children, and I actually specialize in proving orthopedic shoes for children. What has been your experience -- or have you ever encountered any group who will be interested in donating, I guess, some money for a lot of children that need orthopedic shoes and there's just not enough money that the companies -- I mean, the insurances will not pay.
NNAMDIAll right. Allow me to have Blake respond, because we only have about 20 seconds left.
MYCOSKIEOkay. So yes. I -- I -- we don't, unfortunately, have a lot of experience in orthopedic shoes. I do know that that is a need here, especially in the United States, and sometimes health insurance doesn't cover it all. So if I think of anyone, I'll post it on my blog.
NNAMDIAnd thank you so much for your call, Ingrid. Blake Mycoskie is the chief shoe giver and founder of TOMS. His book is called "Start Something that Matters." Blake Mycoskie, thank you so much for joining us.
MYCOSKIEKojo, thank you for having me on.
NNAMDI"The Kojo Nnamdi Show" is produced by Brendan Sweeney, Michael Martinez, Ingalisa Schrobsdorff and Tayla Burney with assistance from Kathy Goldgeier and Elizabeth Weinstein. The managing producer is Diane Vogel. Our engineers today, Tobey Schreiner and Jonathan Charry. A.C. Valdez has been on the phones. Thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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Phoenix School in Montgomery County, Md. opened in 1979 to support students recovering from addiction. The school shut down in 2013, but advocates say it should reopen in response to the local opioid crisis.
Roosevelt Island, which lies between D.C. and Arlington in the Potomac River, recently reopened after the removal of about 200 diseased trees that were under attack by an invasive bug species -- the Emerald Ash Borer.