TOMS Animal Initiative

As the chief animal lover of TOMS Company, Heather Mycoskie was moved when visiting gorillas in the Virunga National Park.

TOMS was launched by Blake Mycoskie in 2006 when he met and befriended children in Argentina who did not have shoes. Blake decided to create TOMS to be a One for One company – for each pair of shoes bought, a pair is donated to an individual in need. Heather and Blake married in 2012 and over the last year Heather has worked to launch the new TOMS Animal Initiative.

Since 2006, the business has grown to feature apparel, sunglasses and various types of shoes. TOMS has partnered with Charlize Theron’s Africa Outreach Project, 31 Bits and many other organizations. The TOMS Animal Initiative is the company’s newest partnership launch. The program will have two partnerships a year, starting with the Virunga National Park. Heather and Blake had the opportunity to travel there and visit the gorillas. Now, for every exclusive pair of Virunga National Forest TOMS shoes bought, the brand will support the national forest while still donating a pair to a child in need.

Read through how TOMS continues to grow their product and look for a sneak peek of where the Animal Initiative will go next!

MoL: What is your name?
HM: Heather Mycoskie

MoL: Where is your hometown?
HM: Salt Lake City

MoL: What is your current location?
HM: Los Angeles

MoL: What is your current occupation?
HM: TOMS Chief Animal Lover

MoL: And what is your occupation description?
HM: Overseeing the new “TOMS Animal Initiative” program, which partners with animal-focused organizations to raise money and awareness for endangered species around the world.

MoL: Before your current occupation, you were…?
HM: A FORD model and graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology with a BS in Advertising and Marketing Communications.toms animal initiative

BRAND BACKGROUND INFO:

MoL: What is the company name?
HM: TOMS

MoL: Date TOMS was launched?
HM: 2006

MoL: What is TOMS’ mission statement?
HM: With every product you purchase, TOMS will help a person in need. One for One.

MoL: What makes TOMS unique?
HM: TOMS was the originator of the One for One business model, it is a company whose focus is on giving. TOMS first identifies a need and creates a product and giving program to address it.

MoL: What is the story behind the idea of TOMS?
HM: While traveling in Argentina in 2006, Blake Mycoskie witnessed the hardships faced by children growing up without shoes. His solution to the problem was simple, yet revolutionary: create a for-profit business that was sustainable and not reliant on donations. Blake’s vision soon turned into the simple business idea that provided the powerful foundation for TOMS.

MoL: In the past couple of years, TOMS has begun featuring products beyond shoes, such as apparel and sunglasses. How did the team decide to expand into other products and why?
HM: TOMS decides how to expand based upon need. Blake, having recognized other vital needs during his travels around the world, realized that. One for One could be applied to more than shoes. He developed the idea for TOMS Eyewear in which for every pair of eyewear purchased, TOMS would help give sight to a person in need. TOMS newest endeavor, TOMS Roasting Co. Coffee, gives one week of clean water to a person in need for each bag purchased.

MoL: Could you please describe a step-by-step description of how exactly the TOMS Animal Initiative is giving back?
HM: As always, TOMS will give a pair of new shoes to a child in need for every pair sold. In addition, TOMS will provide financial support for the Virunga National Park.

MoL: Where do you go for peace of mind?
HM: To the mountains, the wilderness. Anywhere in Utah, Colorado, Montana. Where there is fresh air, nature, wildflowers, and the sounds only of wildlife and flowing rivers.

“Finish each day & be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders & absurdities no doubt crept in. Forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely & with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.” – Emerson

MoL: What is your favorite hobby?
HM: Fly-Fishing + Crafts (Dream Catchers, crewel embroidery, coloring)

MoL: Who is an influential figure in your life and how does he or she inspire you?
HM: My husband Blake. He believes in me; encourages + inspires me to be my greatest self. Never is there an idea I come up with that he thinks is silly, or stupid. He pushes me to dive deeper into them and if they transpire he supports me in anyway he can.

MoL: What is the best advice you’ve ever received and from whom?
HM: “Talk to yourself like you would to someone you love.” Brené Brown when I saw her speak at the TED conference, also from her book “Gifts of Imperfection”

MoL: If you could have one conversation with any living person, who would it be and why?
HM: Brené Brown, she is such an inspirational woman through her talks, and her books. I am very inspired by her spiritually and from reading her books. They have assisted me in my constant work on my self-growth. I would be so grateful to have a one-on-one conversation with her and share with her my experiences and how she has contributed to my self-awareness + growth.

MoL: Can you tell me about the TOMS Animal Initiative and your vision behind this new program?
HM: The TOMS Animal Initiative is a series of partnerships that focuses on conserving, protecting + raising awareness for animals. The program will have 2 partnerships a year, and each will focus on a specific species + organization. The first in the series is with the Virunga National Park, which is in the Democratic Republic of Congo, to support the Mountain/Silver-back Gorillas. A portion of each pair of shoes sold will go directly to the organization, while still giving a pair to a child in need. My vision for the first couple of years is to focus on wild-animals that are threatened + endangered, then I would love to move to domestic animals such as cats, dogs + live-stock.

MoL: What inspired you to launch the TOMS Animal Initiative?
HM: I knew that TOMS does collaborations with all different types of organizations such as Charlize Theron’s Africa Outreach Project, Charity:Water, and Ben Affleck’s Eastern Congo Initiative to name a few. I also knew that there had only been one collaboration to help a different species other than humans, and that was for sharks with Oceana. I wanted to expand on the concept of partnering with organizations that focus on animals, and do it within a program so it was constant. I figured combining my passion for TOMS + my passion for animals would be a perfect fit. So after bugging Blake about how he needs to make this happen, he suggested that I should create the program. So that is what I did, I even had to pitch it to the leadership-team to get the go-ahead. Everyone thought it was a great idea, and a year later we launched the TOMS Animal Initiative.

MoL: Can you tell me about your experience in the Virunga National Park?
HM: Unfortunately we were not able to go into the Virunga National Park, due to it being highly unsafe from the wars with the rebels. So we were able to access the Gorillas from the Rwanda side within the Volcanoes National Park. Our experience with the gorillas was so special. Being able to be so close to these majestic creatures in their habitat was a dream come true. The similarities they have with us humans was so wild to see, their eyes, feet, the way they interacted with each other. At times it was like they were humans in Gorilla costumes.

We stayed at the Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge, which was extremely lovely.

The reason I chose gorillas, first, is because I knew how endangered they were. There are less than 900 left in the world, due to poaching and habitat destruction.

mycoskie interview

MoL: We find that people who make beautiful things are more likely to lead an artistic lifestyle.
a. Do you spend much time creating a beautiful home?
HM: This question made Blake + I laugh; it is so relevant to what is currently going on in our life. We are in the process of renovating a home in Topanga, California. I have been in charge of the project working with designers and contractors over the last 10 months. So we are spending a lot of time, energy + thought into making our home beautiful. We have been bouncing around living from house to sailboat to house; it will be our 9th time moving in 4 years. So we are making sure this home is perfect so when we settle in, we won’t want to leave.

b. Do you entertain?
HM: I plan to do a lot of entertaining when we get settled in September. The first entertaining I plan to do when we move in will be my baby shower. We are having a boy in December.

c. Do you cook? If so, do you have a favorite recipe you would like to share?
HM: When we are at whatever home we are occupying, and not traveling so much, I do like to cook. My new favorite dish to make currently is Green-Chili Chicken Cheese (dairy-free) enchiladas. I try to stay away from dairy as much as possible and substitute anything that requires cheese with Daiya brand vegan shredded cheese. It melts + tastes so much like real cheese, that sometimes Blake + friends can’t tell the difference. But our all time favorite dish is what we call Buddha Bowls; layered from bottom to top: Quinoa, black beans, steamed sweet potato, Carrots, + Kale topped off with olive oil + Braggs Amino Acids.

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heather mycoskie interview