TOMS Shoes, Where It All Began

On a lunch break about 4 years ago I walked through a Nordstroms and saw a pair of funny looking shoes that reminded me of espadrilles and decided to pick it up and assess it’s value. Low and behold, it said on the hangtag “One for one” for every shoe purchased a child in need receives a shoe. I thought to myself, now how cool is THAT! A product that does good!

So I proceeded to email the founder Blake Mycoskie and ask him for advice on how should one start a social enterprise. I had the early inklings of starting something, but just didn’t know quite where to begin. I was entirely floored to receive an email back from him. Here is a copy of his letter back to me.

Now fast forward 4 years later, I’m standing at TOMS Shoes headquarters ready to meet their head of giving supply chain manager, Mayura, whom I met at the SOCAP conference last month. Mayura so graciously invited us to visit the newly built headquarters just south of Venice Beach. They truly retained the cool “startup” feel by making the cubicles out of plywood , ping pong tables and having slides throughout the building for fast access. (hmm, I think we need one for our offices too).

What I found truly inspiring was just hearing her talk about a company that truly believes in the cause and her feeling like what she does actually does matter. She explained to me that each NGO that TOMS works with on ground for their shoe drops are heavily vetted to make sure that they are there to help the people in need. For some reason people have the impression that they just drop shoes off randomly and then take off feeling like they’re the heroes. TOMS has faced some heavy scrutiny on all accounts.

To be honest with you, some people might say, but they’re just shoes. Why aren’t you taking care of the orphans? Why aren’t you addressing the issue of AIDS? Why don’t you give water? etc. etc. Well, here’s one piece of information that might change your mind about “just” shoes. Children in Honduras need to wear shoes in order to go to school. No shoes = no education. I think that goes without saying, that’s worth it no?

As EllieFunDay continues to do our groundwork in India, I’ve learned a ton from TOMS. I had the chance to review Blake’s book “Start Something that Matters” and I’ve applied many of their principles to help us get started. Starting with this first piece of advice from Blake,

“I have started six businesses now and experienced naysayers for each and every one. Being an entrepreneur (or any type of creator) takes courage. You have to be willing to stand up for your own ideas and be willing to see them fail.”

Gosh, FAILURE? so many of us run from just the IDEA of failure. So many of us stop short of even trying because we’re afraid of failing. But here’s my question back, “What if you didn’t try? What if you decided to take the safe route? What if you lost money? What if you lost your job? Can’t we all earn money again somehow? Can’t we all find another job that will somehow support us?”

My two cents in all of this is, I NEED to do this because the POSSIBILITY of it working and making a difference far outweighs the loss. If EllieFunDay doesn’t work, I’ve lost some of my life-savings (so what?) but I’ve gained a world of knowledge, connections but more importantly a wealth of relationships that far outweigh the loss. In this year, I’ve already seen my own faith and skills grow in ways that I’ve never expected. If EllieFunDay DOES work, that means that LIVES are changed, cultural systems are overthrown, dignity is given, hope is achieved and a generation of Dalits will get to see what it means to be empowered. Now isn’t THAT worth the risk?

What’s would you risk that’s worth it for you?




Ellie Fun Day Summer Shindig Recap : Part 1

Everyone was greeted at basecamp with a slideshow of our India trips. 

Friends had an opportunity to send free mail on us at our EFD Post Office. 

Make your own japadogs!

Do S’more so graciously treated us to their goodies!

Everyone had a chance to vote for their favorite upcoming Ellie Fun Day blankie.

The minis had a chance to make some watercolor bubble art.


Big and little kids had the chance to take photos in our teepee. Check out more photos here! 

RECAP {Through the eyes of our intern Karissa, aka Special K}

Everything was set, pristine, and calm as the teepee sat quietly in the courtyard as we awaited to welcome the guests to celebrate Ellie Fun Day’s journey and future endeavors at our Summer Shindig.

And then the children came. It felt as if they all got the batman signal to begin and had run over all at once. Soon there were children with feathers on their heads, aviators on, and bubbles flying all over the place. But no one could deny the japadogs. A sign illustrated how to turn an all american classic into a ‘japadog’ by decorating it with wasabi or sriracha mayonaise, bonito, kimchi and seaweed.

Pure craziness. But underneath the contradicting hotdogs and yummy s’mores was the underlying fact that this was basecamp. Just as the ghost busters got together before attacking the marshmallow man, and the power rangers gathered with that face thing, we rallied our friends in celebration before our next grand venture. The shindig signified a moment in time to recognize our most faithful supporters as friends and co-conspirators. It allowed us to pause and prepare ourselves before we moved out to make a difference.

As I looked around the room I realized, “This is our support system. These are the people that have made this dream a reality.” I was honored to be a part of this dream – to have impact on the world, even if that meant just voting for my favorite blankie, or sending an “I <3 my blankie,” postcard to a friend. The beauty of this shindig was that it recognized the current support system while welcoming new supporters and feedback from others. We invited the shindig go-ers to take the pinky promise, to leave the shindig ready to blanket their world with love.

Will you take the PINKY PROMISE with us? If so, let us know and we will send you a special badge to be part of this movement! 

***** Stay tuned for PART 2 : Ellie Fun Day Dry Goods Shoppe *****




The Possibilities Continue : Indian Train travel and visit to a Lingerie Manufacturer

If you google “Indian Train”, you will see pictures of people jam packed like cattle or standing on top of the cars of the train. So far I have YET to see this in my experience, but our Indian counterparts have attested to this. Apparently some people even stand sleeping up in the bathrooms. Our last experience on an Indian train was on an 8 hour overnight AC 3 tier. That meant that there were 6 bunks, 3 on each side of a compartment; top, middle and bottom. I slept on the top and Elton in the middle. The poor guy is 6′ 2 and barely fit. The other bunks were filled with total strangers. One night I think a policeman slept across from me…I felt somewhat safe. Being the paranoid American, I strapped my bag across my body and prayed that I wouldn’t have to knock someone out in the middle of the night while protecting my goods. It was a good memory for the books.

This time around, I think that I knew what to expect for Indian train travel. It was only a 3 hour train ride to Kochin and we had the “luxury” of sitting in the 2nd class AC train. We got to see lush tropical scenery since we rode close to the coastline of the state of Kerala. Rice patties whizzed by, alongside of quick glimpses of fishing villages. It was truly idyllic.

Our purpose in Kochin was to visit Blossom, a lingerie manufacturer for the local market. We were picked up by Shaji, one of the partners of the company. We were immediately welcomed by his warmth. He and his partner Abey, acquired the company 15 years ago and was able to turn it around to a fully profitable company. They now have over 100 different styles and employ over 100 women in their 3 factories.

We were graciously given flowers and had an opportunity to give a few words of encouragement to his workers. His principles and ethics as a successful Indian business man were encouraging to see. Since bribes and corruption are the norm in this country, it’s hard to stay grounded and true. He has been able to operate a successful business based on integrity, love and trust in a world of greed and deceit.

As we connect and network with people, we often like to hear their life stories. Shaji shared with us a miraculous occurrence of how his 3 year old son was in a bad accident where his two fingers were severed. The doctors tried to reattach them but was not successful. He said that there was no blood supply flowing and the fingers were turning black. All he knew to do was to pray. Then miraculously before his eyes he saw the blood come back and turn from black, to white to pink. I met his son Smith, and saw the scars from the accident to prove it. His two fingers are fully functional and he’s a fine and happy boy.

We feel honored to meet Shaji and his Blossom family. Their willingness to share resources and learnings from their experience is invaluable to our next steps.