Memorial Day for the Disappeared

Memorial Day weekend offers an opportunity to honor fallen soldiers, those who fought on our behalf.   But what about those who’ve been caught in undeclared wars, who were never officially in battle, but perished nonetheless?  How might we properly remember civilians caught in political crossfire?

I was in Buenos Aires this week for Pepperdine University's new faculty conference.   The most moving moment in my Argentine experience occurred on a Thursday afternoon.     The Mothers of the Disappeared have been gathering at the Plaza de Mayo for over thirty years.   Each Thursday at 3:30pm, they march behind a banner to demand justice, to seek answers, still longing to know what happened to their children.    Closure remains elusive.

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Q&A with Blake Mycoskie (founder of TOMS Shoes)

Blake Mycoskie is the founder of TOMS Shoes, an organization founded on a simple premise: For every pair you purchase, TOMS will give a pair of new shoes to a child in need. One for One. Using the purchasing power of individuals to benefit the greater good is what we're all about. TOMS is exactly the kind of organization we feel stoked to bring awareness to on ConversantLife.com. I invited Blake to share some of his story with us. Check out our interview below.

CJ: Where did the idea of TOMS originate from?

Blake: I was traveling in Argentina in 2006, just on vacation, and came across so many children who didn't have shoes. Their feet had cuts and infections, and it was there I had the idea to start a shoe company that would serve as a sustainable way of giving. With every pair purchased, TOMS gives a pair of new shoes to children in need. One for One. If I had created a non-profit, we would have had to rely and donations and perhaps been able to give shoes once, or maybe twice, but by developing this One for One model, we have been able to return to these communities across the world and maintain our commitment.
 
CJ: What were some of the initial struggles in starting this venture?


Blake: The biggest challenge for me was the fact that I had no initial experience making shoes, so learning production, quality control and inventory aspects of being a shoe and fashion company was tough. Some of us didn't have a wealth of experience, but we are constantly learning. And in the past 3 years, TOMS brought on some really amazing individuals who really have the knowledge and experience to help guide this brand.

CJ: Many people are aware of injustice but feel helpless. At what point did you move from awareness to action?

Blake: I had an emotional connection to the children I met in Argentina in 2006. I felt a responsibility to act on it. I realized I could incorporate giving into a business and knew that it could succeed.

CJ: What would you attribute to the recent surge of globally aware organizations, products, and movements? Is it just a trend we're seeing among the millennial generation or is something bigger going on here?

Blake: It’s much more than a trend. The steps the new administration is taking to encourage service, community and positivity is a telltale sign that together we are making effective strides towards more responsible businesses and organizations.

CJ: There are so many young entrepreneurs out there who want to use their ideas and business models to aid and empower the less fortunate. As someone who's seen success in this field, what advice would you give to them?
 
Blake: Absorb information. Read the books, follow the movements that inspire you, listen and be passionate about every choice you make. Its not easy- everyone would do it if it was- but when you have something that others can believe in, a simple idea can flourish into an amazing movement.
 

CJ: I'm on the AT&T family plan right now. How do I get on the TOMS plan...you know the one where they give you your own commercial?

 
Blake: Haha. Start something worthwhile and they will come calling. Literally, in our case.


CJ: How have you seen TOMS grow since that ad came out? Any cool stories?

Blake: Absolutely. The national exposure has been great for the brand, and we all still get chills when we see it run on TV. I recently mentioned on Twitter, while traveling in Germany, that this lady walked up to me on street and asked if I was the guy in her "favorite TV commercial". I just smiled real big…
 

CJ: What's next for TOMS? Is there anything in the near future you're excited about launching?
 

Blake: TOMS has really great new styles coming out this fall. They stay true to the alpargata silhouette, but with some cool twists. Can't wait to see our fans' reaction!

CJ: What is the one thing on your heart and mind right now that you would like to communicate to our readers?

Blake: I'm blown away by what TOMS has achieved in the past 3 years and excited to learn what the future holds.  I'm humbled to have so many amazing customers, employees, interns, sales reps, friends and family who believe in our One for One movement and have made this brand what it is today.

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Bloggers in Argentina


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