What I Learnt About Social Entrepreneurship from Selling TOMS

social entrepreneurship lessons

I used to work in a shoe store where we sold a lot of TOMS shoes. If not familiar with TOMS, they're a modern take on a traditional Argentinian fisherman's shoe that skyrocketed to notoriety a few years back. 

The company was built on a principle: donate a pair of shoes for a child in need for every pair sold. Though the one-for-one model is now commonplace, it was a rather novel concept back then. 

I, for one, loved the concept of the company when I first heard of it. It helped to inspire the giving, socially-conscious mentality that is KOOSHOO today

What I found particularly interesting though - especially as Rachel and I were working hard at the time on developing the foundations of KOOSHOO - was that the majority of customers that bought TOMS shoes from me did so purely because of the trend and fashion of them. Likely 80% of the purchasers had NEVER heard of the backstory - the story on which the company rode to fame. 

It was a very pertinent case study in social ventures for me, with the key takeaway being that above any green accolade, organic certificate or charitable contribution, a great product must always come first. 

As I look back on this today, almost 3 years into selling our own products, I can see that the same has held true for KOOSHOO. For all the work we do in ensuring we use only organic materials, only ethical (and local) manufacturing and always give back to our communities, I'd say 80% of the people that buy from us do so simply because they've heard we make great products. 

For any social entrepreneurs-in-waiting out there: for all the good you want to do in the world, to really make a difference in the world your product must first and foremost be great!