Success in life is not always measured by the almighty dollar.

“The lady was crying, tears running down her face, and speaking in Spanish.”

Blake Mycoskie, founder of TOMS shoes, is speaking about the moment his life changed forever.

TOMS is Mycoskie’s company based around the one-for-one model he invented — donating a pair of shoes to children for each and every pair sold.

For Mycoskie, this moment happened in a small village in Argentina. A woman, with three small children in tow, is standing in front of him weeping. Mycoskie and his friend, a local, are packing up their small van filled with shoes they’d just shared with local children and preparing to drive to the next small rural community.

“So, I turned to my friend and asked him to help me out. At first I thought she was upset — and then I began to see tears develop in his eyes and I knew something else was going on.”

Not everyone has a closet filled with shoes. As a matter of fact, for too many in the world, a pair of shoes is a necessity many people covet like clean water and a roof over their heads. This woman and her children are just these people.

“So, my friend turns to me and begins telling me about how this woman’s three children share a single pair of shoes — a black pair of men’s lace up oxfords — to walk to school.”

The shoes are ill fitting — and because of this, are extremely uncomfortable. The shoes cut into the boy’s ankles and make them bleed, leaving scabs and scars. But in this rural area, the boys need a pair of shoes to walk to school. And in this woman’s home, each of the boys take turns wearing the shoes so they can attend school.

As Mycoskie’s friend relays the story, a wave of emotion and clarity washes over him. Beyond food, water and roof over their heads, an education is key to helping anyone move from one stage in life to another. And it is just what this woman dreams for her children — to live a life better than hers. To be able to live in a world where these daily worries of what most of us take for granted are not a daily challenge to overcome.

“It was right then I realized I’d found my calling,” Mycoskie said, emotion leaking into his voice.

Although Mycoskie is young, he’s already found one of the most rewarding keys to life: There is a level of reward not measured by dollars and cents. A level beyond the monthly financial reports, a level beyond pouring over marketing materials and lining up shipments of product to vendors. A level, honestly, very few people in this world will ever find.

Through the tears of one woman, this young entrepreneur discovered his calling — to use his talents to help people in need through a sustaining business model. His one-for-one model is literally changing lives around the world — one footstep at a time.

Leonard Woolsey is the publisher of The Galveston County Daily News. You can reach him at

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