By Jillian Urcelay
JU: Why did the TOMS brand decide to transition from making shoes and select apparel into the optical and sunwear market?
BM: After seeing the positive impact of TOMS footwear, we challenged ourselves to expand so we could help people in need of other vital resources. As we started looking around the different communities we served with our shoe gives, we recognized that there were many children and adults who were unable to see and the effect that it had on their lives. In 2011, we launched eyewear, which was the first new product category after footwear. We elected to launch as an independent eyewear brand to allow us to give to our Sight Giving Partners in a much more robust way than a licensing model would allow. We found it was a natural fit to partner with independent opticians as we felt there is no one better to understand and communicate how important ending curable blindness is.
Can you describe the “match-making” process for the One for One business model in relation to giving sight?
Each TOMS eyewear purchase helps to provide a sight-restoring service by trained medical professionals. When a customer buys a pair of TOMS eyewear, we work with our Giving Partners to understand where the need for sight restoration is greatest, and TOMS then sends support to an organization that provides sustainable eyecare. Patients receive an eye exam, followed by the treatment they need—prescription glasses, medical treatment or sight-saving surgery.
You currently have 13 Sight Giving Partners and you have helped restore sight to over 500,000 people. What is your overall goal for the program?
We are in regular contact with our Giving Partners who are the experts in the regions where we give. We receive feedback on how we can better serve their needs, and we understand that TOMS gives are a small part of their larger community development programs around health and education. We are constantly learning and challenging ourselves to make sure we are working in the smartest way to make the most positive change. My goal is to continue the work that TOMS has already accomplished by improving the way that we give and listening to the needs of our partners. ■