UW-Green Bay prepares for Feb. 2 visit by TOMS entrepreneur/philanthropist

University of Wisconsin-Green Bay sophomores Chris Baldwin and Cory Witek have embraced Blake Mycoskie’s vision of social entrepreneurship and are looking forward to meeting the man who started TOMS Shoes, when he visits campus next Tuesday.

A former contestant on CBS network’s The Amazing Race, Mycoskie has also been featured in a nationwide AT&T commercial as the “Chief Shoegiver” for TOMS Shoes. He’ll bring his message of social entrepreneurship when he speaks at 8 p.m. Tuesday (Feb. 2) in the Phoenix Room of the University Union. The program is free and open to the public.

The Office of Student Life and the Good Times Programming student organization are sponsoring Mycoskie’s visit to UW-Green Bay. Student Life Program Coordinator Grant Winslow said Josh Braun and Kyra Karenke from Good Times, and Mike Crum with the Red Cross Club and Katie Barrientos with the Social Work Club have been instrumental in planning the visit.

Mycoskie has quite a story to tell. In 2006 the Austin, Texas entrepreneur had gone to Buenos Aires, Argentina, and enrolled in a four-week polo camp. During that visit he encountered children who not only suffered health problems, but also could not attend school because they had no shoes. From that experience Mycoskie came up with the idea that he could create a sustainable business while doing something worthwhile — providing shoes to needy children.

It’s a simple business plan with a simple philosophy — for every pair of shoes sold by TOMS Shoes, another pair is given to a child in need. Supporters call it “doing good deeds while doing good business.” The name TOMS is said to derive from a commitment to making a better tomorrow.

Since it was created, TOMS Shoes has donated more than 400,000 pairs of shoes, with the goal of reaching the one-million mark by 2012. Following the earthquake in Haiti, TOMS Shoes has arranged with the charitable organization Partners in Health to bring 30,000 pairs to Haiti in February.

“I really like the idea of the one-for-one movement,” said Baldwin, who is from Wonewoc, and majoring in Business Administration with an emphasis on marketing. It didn’t take much to convince Witek, a Racine native who is majoring in theatre performance, that this is a worthwhile cause, and together they are spreading the message on campus and in the community. “A few of our friends have started wearing TOMS Shoes.”

Baldwin and Witek have formed a TOMS club chapter and are planning some special activities in conjunction with Mycoskie’s Feb. 2 visit. They’ll encourage classmates to purchase TOMS Shoes and then have a “Style Your Sole” party in late February or March. They’ll also have a booth at the OrgSmorg activity fair on campus on Feb. 10.

Ahead of Mycoskie’s visit, UW-Green Bay students and faculty have donated already more than 300 pairs of shoes.

For more information about the visit contact Student Life Program Coordinator Grant Winslow at (920) 465-5676, or winslowg@uwgb.edu.
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R. Terry Anderson

I teach English Composition and handle media and marketing for the Institute for Learning Partnership.

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