Blake Mycoskie is best known today as the founder of Toms, the shoe company that donates a pair for every pair sold, a model that’s been emulated by other companies. He’s now one of the guest sharks on Shark Tank season 12.
Toms wasn’t his first business, which is mentioned in his bio. But Shark Tank isn’t his first reality show, which is not mentioned:
Blake Mycoskie is a serial entrepreneur, philanthropist and bestselling author most known for founding TOMS Shoes and is the person behind the idea of One for One®, a business model that helps a person in need with every product purchased.
A simple idea grew into a global movement: While traveling in Argentina in 2006, Mycoskie witnessed the hardships faced by children growing up without shoes. His solution to the problem was simple yet revolutionary: create a for-profit business that was sustainable and not reliant on donations. Mycoskie’s vision soon turned into the simple business idea that provided the powerful foundation for TOMS. Since its inception, TOMS Shoes has provided almost 96 million pairs of shoes to children around the globe.
In 2014, after selling half of the company to Bain Capital, Mycoskie stepped down as CEO of TOMS. Utilizing half of his proceeds, he started the Social Entrepreneurship Fund to help early startups with core social missions get off the ground with much-needed funding. Since then, he has invested in over 25 social enterprises.
Mycoskie went on to realize for the first time in 18 years, he wasn’t actively starting or growing a company. During this transition period, a new mission was born. In spring 2020, Mycoskie co-founded his newest company, Madefor. A 10-month program that applies the principles of modern neuroscience, psychology and physiology to make the brain and body better. Created alongside scientists from Stanford, Harvard and other top universities, Madefor helps people learn and sustain positive habits and practices that have the greatest impact on their lives.
As a New York Times bestselling author of the 2011 book “Start Something That Matters”—which offered his own story of inspiration and the power of incorporating giving in business—this summer, Mycoskie is releasing a series of interactive lessons called “Next Steps: The 8 Greatest Lessons I Learned at TOMS.” Mycoskie is offering these lessons, which will also include exclusive access to weekly private video discussions with himself.
Mycoskie has achieved numerous accolades for his unique approach to business including the Secretary of State’s 2009 Award of Corporate Excellence, 2015 Next Generation Award from Harvard’s School of Public Health, 2016 Cannes Lion Heart Award and 2018 amfAR Award of Courage. He has also been featured in People Magazine in the “Heroes Among Us” section and in Fortune Magazine’s “40 Under 40,” among others. Mycoskie also recently expanded his philanthropic efforts to include the funding of the Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research at Johns Hopkins, making it the first such research center in the U.S. and the largest of its kind in the world.
Born and raised in Texas, Mycoskie now resides in Jackson, Wyoming, with his family, dogs and horses. In his free time, he can be found outside enjoying nature whether it is rock climbing, surfing or snowboarding.
Blake Mycoskie was Mr. Tennessee
What that bio does not mention is that, in the fall of 2000, shortly after Survivor season one concluded, Blake competed on the Sexiest Bachelor in America Pageant.
It aired on Fox on Oct. 2, 2000, and was hosted by Caroline Rhea. A summary of the show says it was a:
Beauty pageant in which 51 bachelors, one from each U.S. state and the District of Columbia, compete for cash and prizes worth $100,000 and the title of sexiest bachelor in America. The male contestants compete in swimwear and formal attire, and go through a talent competition and a question-and-answer session.
Among those 51 bachelors were some participants who went on to other kinds of success and/or noterity:
- Ben Mezrich, Mr. Massachusetts, is a journalist and writer whose book about Facebook’s founding was adapted into the David Fincher film The Social Network.
- Teddy Sears, Mr. Maryland, is an actor whose Fandango bio says, “A friend handed Sears an application for a contest on the Fox network christened The Sexiest Bachelor in America. Intrigued, Sears entered. He failed to win the competition when it aired in October 2000, but did appear on the program and through the experience gained the connections that propelled him into life as an actor.”
- Brian Lee Randone, Mr. Nebraska, was accused and then acquitted of murder.
Blake competed as Mr. Tennessee. I couldn’t find out how he placed, but he didn’t make it into the top 10, according to Wikipedia’s chart.
However, Blake did discuss his participation in an article from SMU’s Daily Campus. “What gets me going in the morning is creating something new, doing something new, getting out of my comfort zone,” he said, and the newspaper added:
The pageant is out of his comfort zone.
Nominated by a female friend, Mycoskie entered into the “competition” after submitting an application, two photographs and a two minute video.
He said that he was one of the 51 bachelors chosen out of over 20,000 videos because of his laid back style and confidence. In his clip he spoke about his double major in philosophy and finance, the places that he has traveled and his passion for fly fishing.
Mycoskie closed with, “All of this is why you may find me sexy.”
How Amazing Race lead to Toms
In his 2011 book, Blake wrote that “experiencing firsthand the phenomenon of reality television’s amazing popularity” led him “to create a 24/7 reality-television cable channel.” That network was called Reality Central, but it shut down after just two years because, he told CNN, the Fox Reality Channel was too much competition: “You can’t compete with the biggest guy.”
I couldn’t find a reference to Sexiest Bachelor in his book, but he does mention The Amazing Race, saying that “after thirty-one days of racing around the world, we lost the million-dollar prize by just four minutes; it’s still one of the greatest disappointments of my life.”
Blake competed on CBS’s Amazing Race in 2002, racing around the world with his sister, Paige Mycoskie, who “is the founder & creative visionary behind the 1970’s inspired California lifestyle brand, Aviator Nation,” according to its website.
Last year, Blake posted a throwback Thursday image that no longer seems to be on Instagram. The caption said:
#TBT to 2002 when my sister, @paigemycoskie and I spent 31 days racing around the world competing on season two of @theamazingrace_cbs. I still get asked a lot about this crazy experience I had 18 years ago, and I would say my favorite part of the experience was getting to see so many countries and cultures in such a short period of time. It really convinced me we are all ONE and that we must take care of each other. That experience also definitely planted the seeds that led to the idea for TOMS 5 years later 🙂
And now Toms and its success has led Blake to The Amazing Race.