Blake Mycoskie on Becoming an Entrepreneur

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 [2008]. 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.

Meet the Bajau sea nomads — they can reportedly hold their breath for 13 minutes

The Bajau people's nomadic lifestyle has given them remarkable adaptions, enabling them to stay underwater for unbelievable periods of time. Their lifestyle, however, is quickly disappearing.

Wikimedia Commons
Culture & Religion
  • The Bajau people travel in small flotillas throughout the Phillipines, Malaysia, and Indonesia, hunting fish underwater for food.
  • Over the years, practicing this lifestyle has given the Bajau unique adaptations to swimming underwater. Many find it straightforward to dive up to 13 minutes 200 feet below the surface of the ocean.
  • Unfortunately, many disparate factors are erasing the traditional Bajau way of life.
Keep reading Show less

Life is hard: Jordan Peterson and the nature of suffering

The Canadian professor's old-school message is why many started listening to him.

Jordan Peterson addresses students at The Cambridge Union on November 02, 2018 in Cambridge, Cambridgeshire. (Photo by Chris Williamson/Getty Images)
Personal Growth
  • The simplicity of Peterson's message on suffering echoes Buddha and Rabbi Hillel.
  • By bearing your suffering, you learn how to become a better person.
  • Our suffering is often the result of our own actions, so learn to pinpoint the reasons behind it.
Keep reading Show less

Scientists create a "lifelike" material that has metabolism and can self-reproduce

An innovation may lead to lifelike evolving machines.

Shogo Hamada/Cornell University
Surprising Science
  • Scientists at Cornell University devise a material with 3 key traits of life.
  • The goal for the researchers is not to create life but lifelike machines.
  • The researchers were able to program metabolism into the material's DNA.
Keep reading Show less