Blake Mycoskie built TOMS into a darling of the retail industry in large part by selling simple canvas espadrilles and a unique charitable donation plan. Mycoskie, who announced on Wednesday that he was selling half of TOMS to Bain Capital, is now betting that he can continue balancing the charitable and commercial parts of the company he founded eight years ago. The deal, which is said to value TOMS at about $625 million, including debt, shows the continued rise of one of the more unusual stories of the fashion world.
When Blake Mycoskie founded TOMS shoes six years ago, his pitch to consumers -- buy a pair and a second one will be donated to the needy -- helped start a phenomenon retail consultants call compassionate consumerism. Since then it has been imitated widely by established brands. Inspired by TOMS, Skechers USA Inc. (SKX) (SKX) introduced a brand called BOBS, as in Benefiting Others By Shoes. Urban Outfitters Inc. (URBN) (URBN) stores feature apparel by Threads for Thought, which gives part of its sales proceeds to humanitarian groups.
Blake Mycoskie, the founder of Toms Shoes, has hit on the perfect fund-raising pitch for his shoe-giving charity. The idea has soulful simplicity: For every pair of rubber-soled "alpargatas" shoes Mr. Mycoskie sells to the affluent, he gives away a pair to someone who needs it. When it comes to "cause marketing," — the pairing of a product or brand with a social mission — Mr. Mycoskie is a pace-setter.