Today, the company that first inspired me to become a social entrepreneur, celebrates a holiday worth honoring. For every photo of bare feet tagged with #withoutshoes on Instagram, TOMS will give a new pair of shoes to a child in need, no purchase necessary. Yes, there are going to be an incredible amount of shoes given on this one certain day, due to One Day Without Shoes, but it is even more incredible that TOMS places giving at the core of everything it does and believes in, every single day. That is why I first fell in love with TOMS, why I became a student of their model, and why I strove to become an intern there some day. That day has come and gone.
If I am being completely honest, interning at TOMS was a very distant dream of mine. I am pretty sure at one point, they received over 10,000 applications for one summer term. However, that did not stop my determined 20 year old self to apply and try to e-mail anyone that might have known someone's aunt's friend who had a neighbor that worked at TOMS. Looking back on those e-mails, I laugh because I knew no one (stalking LinkedIn accounts doesn't count) and I thought that everyone was interested in my laundry list of high school achievements and sudden interest in social entrepreneurship. I had not even been to LA. Let's just say I never heard back from any of those application pleas.
I don't take rejection or people ignoring me very well, so I decided to work my ass off and hustle. I was determined to work for a for purpose company, especially after reading Start Something That Matters. So, fast forward two years, and there I was, finally in LA, on my fall-break as a senior in college, with my best friend. Instead of boozing on some beach with the other college grad hopefuls, we decided to go to LA to make our faces known and bust into our favorite company's and non-profit's doors. IT WORKED. I met so many key people. I don't know how many times I heard "you're from Kansas? why are you here?", but for some reason people liked me. We successfully hustled TOMS, Krochet Kids International, Homeboy Industries and some how ended up on the game show Let's Make a Deal (I lost). I ended up landing my 6 month internship with KKi in Peru that spring and I credit it to that trip.
I officially started my internship with TOMS on June 16, 2014. That previous spring I was in between jobs after spending 3 months working for charity: water in Uganda, and I had no clue what I was going to do. At that point, the thought of taking another internship was not incredibly appealing as a college grad, but I decided to shoot one last ditch attempt email to the TOMS recruiter even though the deadline to apply had past. My subject line was catchy, I mentioned KKi and charity: water in the first sentence, and lo and behold, it caught the recruiters eye. I went through a few interviews, made myself incredibly adaptable and headed out to LA for the summer.
The summer was a beautiful whirlwind. My time at TOMS was exactly what I had hoped for and everything I did not expect. It was equivalent to a 10-week crash course on all things TOMS, with meaningful projects, meetings with execs, new product roll outs, field trips, community service, hard deadlines and lots of TOMS Roasting Co. coffee. I was even asked to model for the Holiday Catalog. The project that excited me the most entailed working with the TOMS Retail Store roll-out team. I witnessed the most dynamic team dream up, envision and execute opening the three new TOMS stores in Portland, Chicago and New York City. One of my tasks was to help redefine what the retail experience would look like for the TOMS customer, with an emphasis on giving. This project challenged me beyond my wildest expectations, but at the end of the day, I had a hand in executing a successful event for over thirty TOMS supporters at the Abbot Kinney store, I presented my findings to the retail executives and I ended the summer feeling like a made a small impact on a company of over 300 employees and millions of supporters. Watching the One for One movement and TOMS brand come to life has been amazing - I have now visited all of the stores except the international locations and Portland.
When the summer ended, I knew something bigger was calling my name and I was not sure if that was with TOMS or not. Luckily, I was fortunate enough to land my dream job with buildOn, which took me back to the East Coast. Trust me, had I not taken a chance on the TOMS internship, I would have never been considered for my current position that takes me all over the globe. I now utilize skills every single day that I acquired in those 10 weeks in LA. I will forever be grateful to TOMS for taking a chance on me and I will always be a supporter of the One for One movement no matter where I go in life. I am proud to be a part of the #tomstribe for life.
If you find yourself wanting to do something, it is never to late. Go for it, make yourself relevant and known, and get ready for one hell of a ride. As the TOMS Founder and Chief Shoe Giver, Blake Mycoskie, always says - Carpe Diem!