In the last few years, there has been a lot of interest in entrepreneurial start-ups. Young men and women, fresh out of college (and some still while in college and universities) choose to venture into start-ups in various fields they are passionate about. Social media has allowed them access to people from all over the world. With local based start-ups such as Markhor, the shoe company that utilizes the services of local craftsmen in Okara to create world class shoes, more and more people are opting to start their own business at an early age rather than go for a 9 to 5 job in a corporate set up.
This is where Blake Mycoskie book, Start Something That Matters, becomes a very important book. He drives home a point that a lot of people, who are venturing into start-ups are people who also want to give back to society, hence the title Start Something That Matters. He encourages those who want to start a charity, should do so with a business model in mind, to allow for the charity to sustain itself for a long term basis.
The book opens up about the author’s trip to Argentina with his sister, where Mycoskie realised that a lot of children there didn’t have shoes. Since he had already fallen in love with the Argentina culture, he took great interest in alpargata, a soft, casual canvas show worn by almost everyone in the country. As he describes his tough yet rewarding journey, the concept of TOMS was born. TOMS is actually derived from Tomorrow Shoes, and not his name, as he recalls in the book. It was the story behind the shoe and the concept that people bought; for every shoe you buy, the company will donate a free pair of shoes to a poor child. This created the world famous One for One movement. So successful is the business model One for One, that even with the book I purchased, a book will be given to a child.
The book is split up into eight chapters, with each chapter allowing us to get into the whole successful business model. The key element according to the author is “find your story.” TOMS is successful because of the story behind the origin. The author suggests various ways to find your story, that will resonate with the audience, and encourages you to repeat your story over and over till you find people who are convinced of it. Secondly, he also suggests ways to overcome your fear, which he says is part of life, and thus we have a choice to overcome our fears.
So it is with remaining chapters where he shares with the readers about what to do with limited resources, keeping it simple, building trust, giving is good business and the final step of starting your own business.
The book is full of real life example of successful ventures that have used their “stories” to reach out to customers. For example, Subway was not making money when they started out. They had heard of a young man, who was overweight, and roped in him with the Subway Diet Plan. After he lost weight, thanks to Subway’s healthy sandwiches, Subways used his story to reach out to customers. They bought it, and Subways started making money. There are loads more examples of how young men and women have started their own business and are making a difference in the world.
According to Mycoskie, one needs “passion” to push their story ahead to create a business model that’s self-sustaining and most importantly giving back to society. His optimistic attitude shines throughout the book, and despite some hurdles and hardships that he shares about so candidly, it’s his sheer determination and passion that helps him get through. Which is why this book is so great, because he tells us how we all can do it without sounding “preachy” and throwing out technical jargon. It is full of inspirational words and helpful tips to bring out the passionate entrepreneur in you.
I have personally seen quite a lot of people wearing TOMS shoes here in Lahore, and have deliberately asked them about the shoes. They would share the story of TOMS with me, and that’s when I realise how successful the founder of TOMS is: his story is being shared by those who buy the shoes. I know as a nation, Pakistan is very generous. We love to help and give to others, especially in times of crises. It’s part of our culture to give openly. Start Something That Matters is that perfect inspirational book for those who want to love their work, start a business model of success, initiate an innovative charity and have a positive impact in the world by giving back.
Originally published in Royal Palm Golf and Country Club, February 2016