The buy-one, give-one model that TOMS shoes first popularized has fomented a revolution of the best kind — not just because it seems like everyone and their mother (and their kids) are wearing the cute slip-on shoes, but because other companies have copied this business model. TOMS, in case you've been living waaaay off-grid for the last three years, is the shoe company that provides a pair of shoes to kids who need them to go to school but can't afford them. When providing with pair of kicks, kids get to school in places where education may be the only way out of poverty (most schools in developing countries require footwear). The shoes also prevent disease transmission by protecting the feet. So far, well over 1 million pairs of shoes have been given away.
These days, TOMS isn't the only one; there are all kinds of companies that are giving back to communities in need by utilizing profits for growing their businesses and helping those that need it most — providing shoes, water, glasses and more. I call it conscious capitalism, and I'd like to see this model move into more types of businesses (and I'm betting it will). Herein, two successful companies who followed TOMS' lead:
Freewaters make stylish, wearable flip-flops at a variety of prices, for men and women. Get your basic flops for $16 (less expensive than many brands out there now, including the popular Havianas) or studier, walking quality versions for $40 for the women's style (about $70 for the top-end men's style). Footbeds are solvent-free (so no nasty toxins soaking into your feet!) and most models are vegan. They have some of the cutest flops for guys I've ever seen — seriously, the Cruz Control is stylish and badass at the same time — and only $26.
And best of all, for every pair bought, Project Freewaters ensures that one person gets fresh water for one year. So far they've built five wells in Africa, and the pictures will make your heart melt: since kids tend to be assigned water-carrying duties, there are shots all over the website of mostly kids now collecting water safely (not from dangerous, soft-sided "wells") and much faster, too. Project Freewaters concentrates its efforts in areas where water quality is so poor that people are regularly dying from water-borne diseases (what they call high-risk communities, and I call sob-worthy).
Sobering stat from the site: "Every year, more people die from the consequences of unsafe water than from all forms of violence, including war. Dirty water and a lack of proper hygiene kill 3,300,000 people annually, most of them children under the age of 5. At Freewaters we believe access to clean water is a basic human right."
How can you not want to buy your next pair of flip-flops from a company like that?
Roma Boots are the brainchild of Samuel Bistrian, who actually approached TOMS shoes CEO Blake Mycoskie with the idea of making boots (for kids who live in cold places and need more foot protection) and was given Blake's blessing to go out and do it himself. With a background in fashion, and a passion to help Eastern European kids get to school, Samuel took the idea to fruition. Roma boots come in five colors (two shiny, three matte) and are made from natural latex rubber, a renewable resource, and lined with cotton.
Rain boots are incredibly popular right now (more so as the weather cools and winter beckons) and are often priced well over $100, but Roma's are only $84. And while you're rocking your cute boots (currently for women only), you can keep in mind that there's a kid out there whose feet are dry and warm, thanks to you. Samuel has made the first few boot drops and looks forward to making more this fall and winter season.
According to Roma's website: "In Central and Eastern Europe, thousands of children die every winter from hypothermia and pneumonia, and many other children lose their toes or feet due to frostbite. Over 300 million children around the world don’t own a pair of shoes. These are primarily street children and orphans, the majority of which are of Roma or "gypsy" ethnicity. Providing proper footwear is the first step to helping this underserved population of children."