TOMS campus reps, Poet’s host night of awareness, music, freebies

Two tech students, serving as TOMS Shoes campus reps are hosting an event to raise awareness for children in need all over the world. Matt Pack, senior ESL major, and Amanda Mercer, sophomore housing and design major, will be at local coffee shop Poet’s on the Square tonight from 6 to 10 p.m., discussing the TOMS Shoes mission, viewing a film about Toms, giving away prizes, and enjoying some of Cookeville’s live music scene.TOMS Shoes is a fairly new company founded on the thought that a charitable business model could be just as profitable as any other. Blake Mycoskie, founder and chief shoe giver opened TOMS Shoes in 2006. For every pair purchased, TOMS donates a pair to a child in need.

People doubted Mycoskie’s business plan, Mercer said. “They told him ‘You’re never going to make money that way.'”

But Mycoskie proved any doubters wrong, with TOMS becoming a very successful venture coinciding with its non-profit donation organization, Friends of TOMS, and staying true to the one-for-one promise. By April 2009, TOMS had donated about 140,000 pairs of shoes to children in Argentina, Ethiopia, South Africa, and more recently, in the United States.

In design, TOMS are based on the Argentinean alpargata, a lightweight canvas shoe worn by most Argentineans. While vacationing therein 2006, Mycoskie decided to borrow the simple yet functional design and apply it to his business gamble, a gamble that has made TOMS an internationally recognized shoe brand. Mycoskie is currently looking to expand operations outside of TOMS’ home in Santa Monica, California, by opening a factory in Ethiopia.

Stopping debilitating diseases like Podoconiosis, is one of TOMS’ chief points of focus. “Some children walk up to three miles to get water,” Pack said. Walking barefoot on toxic soils like those found in some areas can lead to diseases which can lead to full loss of walking ability. Alike, many schools require shoes to be worn when attending school. “If they can’t afford shoes,” Pack said, “they can’t afford an education.”

The youthful company still has word to spread, having only recently become a major hit. Mercer recalled coming in contact with the TOMS Shoes movement at a Hanson concert. “Each concert they had, they would walk one mile barefoot to raise awareness. It really touched my heart.”

“I thought it was amazing, what they were doing,” Pack said. “When I got my first pair in the mail, I thought ‘Wow. I just bought someone a pair of shoes.'”

“It’s really the easiest way to help out,” Mercer said. “Even though it’s a huge part of our lives, there are many people who know nothing about the company.

With this event, “We are just trying to inform people about what we found out about,” Pack concluded.

With the help of local business manager Kelsey Taylor, a donation of 10% of Poet’s profits made between 6 and 10 p.m. will be donated to Friends of TOMS. Also supporting Pack and Mercers effort, The Market, a local boutique shop neighboring Poet’s will be present and selling TOMS to those interested. Pack and Mercer will have a discount code available for online purchases as well.

“We are going to be giving away two pairs of TOMS and a pair of TOMS wrap boots,” Pack said.

A line up of local musicians will fill the evening with free tunes to enjoy. West Fifth (formerly The Runaways), Kaleb Buckner, Amelia Tritico, Blakely Estes, and Matt Mercer comprise the performers lending their skill to the Pack, Mercer and TOMS’ cause.

“We have music from folk to country to poppy goodness,” Pack said. “In between sets, we are going to talk about what the company is doing right now and the impact that one pair of shoes can have. We’re hoping to have the video (a film about TOMS shoes mission) playing in the back room. If nothing else, we just want someone to come to Poet’s and buy a drink. We’re not expecting everyone to buy some TOMS.”

“Just to come, buy a drink and listen, that’s helping,” Mercer said.

The raffle for prizes goes beyond TOMS products, including gift certificates from Char, Maddux Station Bar and Grille, Sweet Sallies Bakery and Café, and Crawdaddy’s.