Blake Mycoskie on Becoming an Entrepreneur
Blake Mycoskie is the "Chief Shoe Giver" at TOMS Shoes, a company that he founded in 2006 to provide shoes to impoverished children around the world. He has been a professional entrepreneur since his sophomore year in college when he founded a campus laundry business.
Previously, he founded Driver's Ed Direct, launched the advertising firm Mycoskie Media, worked as spokesperson for the online company GreenTiePoker, was CEO of Closer Marketing Group, and served as President of Phil Hellmuth Productions.
He has also had experience on reality television. He was the contestant for Tennessee on Fox's "Sexiest Bachelor in America Pageant" in 2000 and finished third in the second season of CBS's The Amazing Race in 2002. As a result, he launched an all-reality television network called Reality Central in 2002. Mycoskie studied philosophy and finance as an undergraduate at Southern Methodist University.
Question: How did you get started?
Blake Mycoskie: I went to college, actually, on a tennis scholarship, and that was my passion and focus growing up as a child, and had no kind of entrepreneurial influences in my life. But when I went to college, unfortunately, I had a really bad injury my sophomore year at SMU [Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas]. And I hurt my Achilles tendon.
When I had that injury, I was on crutches. And so I couldn’t take my laundry, actually, downstairs. So I was sitting around frustrated that my laundry was piling up. And I thought, no one likes to do laundry, I never liked to do laundry before I hurt myself, but now I actually need someone to come pick it up and do it for me and bring it back. And that service didn’t exist at my university.
So I came up with the idea to start a business called Easy Laundry, where we’d pick up and deliver laundry. And I didn’t even know what an entrepreneur was at that point. But very shortly, the business started taking off. We started getting more trucks and employees. I started learning about all this stuff.
And I kept on being referred to as a young entrepreneur. And so then I realized that was something that I loved and I want to continue. And I really haven’t stopped since then.
Question: What other businesses have you started?
Blake Mycoskie: Really, I started my first company when I was 19, and that was the laundry business in college.
From then, I started an outdoor advertising company that focused on putting ads on the sides of buildings. So instead of building big billboard displays that are very expensive, we would take the side of a building and paint an ad on it. And that was called Mycoskie Media, and we really focused on the Nashville market for country music.
Then, from that, I went on and started a television network. It was called Reality Central. It was me and the founder of USA Networks and the CEO of the E! channel [i.e. Kay Koplovitz]. And it was an all-reality cable channel. We launched in 2002. Unfortunately, we went out of business in 2005, after a three-year battle with Rupert Murdock and his Fox Reality Channel.
So then, after that, I went on and started a technology company that provided driver’s education for teenagers. What we did is we realized teenagers are online all day long, whether it’s MySpace or Yahoo or wherever they are. And they hate sitting through an eight-hour class. Their attention span is a lot shorter than it used to be. So we took the eight-hour class that you would sit in and divided it up into digestible chunks that Flash interactive program. And it was called Driver’s Ed Direct, and you could take your driver’s ed directly online. We launched that in 2005. It really took off.
And that’s actually what I was doing, running that company, when I originally had the idea for TOMS [Shoes]. Really, I serve as an advisor still to the Driver’s Ed Direct. I sold my interest in January . And then with the other companies, I’ve since sold out. Or, like I said, the reality channel just went out of business. So I’m 100 percent focused on TOMS now.
Recorded on: April 28, 2008
From laundry to billboards to reality TV to shoes.
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