6 cool examples of the one for one business model done right

6 cool examples of the one for one business model done right

‘Buy one, give one’ is a (social)business model on the rise. It was pioneered by footwear brand TOMS’ founder Blake Mycoskie in 2006 and has been copied (and criticized) by many since. Mycoskie showed the world that a private, for profit, company can create both commercial and social value at the same time. Check out these 6 cool examples  of the one for one business model done right that will make you greedy, euh, I mean eager to start giving!

Incorporating giving in a business model

If you were paying attention to people’s feet past summers, you can’t have missed it: TOMS is conquering the world with their canvas shoes.  Why is this popular shoe brand different from others? For every pair of shoes you buy, they give a pair of shoes to a child in need: ONE-FOR-ONE.  Multi-entrepreneur Blake Mycoskie pioneered this model in 2006 after visiting Argentina and learning about the impact the lack of shoes can have on poor children’s lives. He incorporated the giving into a business model, making it as integral to the business model as its revenue generating aspects. Mycoskie’s simple and tangible one for one proposition grew out to be extremely successful.

The Iris TOMS - Teal & Cream custom TOMS

Just a band aid, not a real solution

However, being the first also meant taking a lot of hits. Critics were saying TOMS was just offering a temporary band aid and not addressing the real problems, such as poverty or lack of healthcare. Furthermore, the giving of free shoes (or any other kind of consumer product) would distort the local economy instead of helping to build one.

All entrepreneurs know that  pioneering is never about being perfect instantly. It’s about starting and learning to do better along the way. Mycoskie learned how to listen better to those he wanted to help. He changed TOMS’ giving model along the way. The company is still handing out shoes but is also donating funds to local partners who are working to improve health care and education. In addition, they are busy moving part of their manufacturing to Haiti to create jobs. I admire Mycoskie for uniting social and commercial value in such a succesful way. I celebrate him for giving doing-good the stylish look it needs to generate interest from those that never even knew about barefooted kids in the first place.

How to become as succesful as TOMS?

How to become as successful as TOMS when launching the one for one business model? According to research by Harvard Business School, it comes down to three essential aspects;

Having an authentic story: people get inspired by a personal experience and a genuine cause, not by corporate promises.

Choosing the right market: visible products, such as footwear, seem to work best as they allow consumers to make a personal statement with it.

Creating effective messaging: keep your message simple, which makes it easy to share, and pay attention to how you deliver it. To truly engage people you need the right kind of storytelling.

Now check out these 6 cool examples  of the one for one business model done right that will inspire you and make you greedy, euh, I mean eager to start giving!

1. Ace&Tate

Ace&Tate eyewearOnly long after I purchased one of their cool and affordable glasses, I found out Ace&Tate operates the one-for-one model. For every pair of designer glasses you buy, they donate an amount to UK-based non-profit Sightsavers. The Amsterdam based eyewear company does not explicitly communicate their social mission. Wanting to be known firstly as a fashion brand is a strategy that also made their American counterpart Warby Parker super successful. Warby Parker’s focus on ‘offering designer eyewear at a revolutionary price’ by changing the traditional model and cutting out several middle men, is what made them popular in the first place.

Now that Ace&Tate has introduced a collection made of biodegradable material – which they will hopefully expand to all their collections – I love them even more. Everybody wins here.  Well, not everybody, not those poor middle men off course.

2. Out of Print

Out of Print - The very hungry caterpillarBuy a t shirt, give a ….book. Now how does that work? U.S. based company Out of Print loves “celebrating the world’s great stories through fashion”. Acknowledging that our world is changing and that print is slowly dying, they decided to print iconic and often out of print book covers on their products. Some are classics, some are ‘just curious enough to make cool t-shirts’.  For every product – t-shirt, socks, tote bag, necklace, notebook… – sold they donate a book to a community in need through their partner Books for Africa.

Out of Print - Library stampsMy personal favourite is not one with a book cover  but with the good old library stamps! Aaaah…remember those days?

 3. Sir Richard’s condoms

Sir Richard's condoms‘Have sex, save lives’ or ‘Doing good never felt better’ are this company’s slogans. Does it get any easier than this? At Sir Richard’s they decided not only to breathe life into a product category that hadn’t innovated in decades, but also to connect product sales and company growth to having positive social impact. For every condom you buy, they give a condom to a community in need (through their partner Partner in Health).

Another one of their slogans is ‘Chemicals aren’t sexy’. Sir Richard’s condoms are made of all-natural latex . They are free of all kinds of chemicals that are apparently used by regular condom brands such as glycerin, parabens, spermicide and petrochemicals. Wow, they are even Vegan-certified and PETA-approved. Durex, eat your heart out!

Apparently Sir Richard’s in for some competition. According to a recently published article by The Guardian the condom industry is experiencing a ‘sustainable rennaisance’. Read the article here.

4. Stone + Cloth

Stone + Cloth - Ipad cases“The sun was rising over Tanzania as I accomplished my goal to reaching the highest peak in Africa. A porter named Benson spent the week carrying my heavy rucksack enabling me to reach the summit. As we descended from the top, I learned he doesn’t earn enough to put a child through school.”

These are Stone +Cloth‘s founder Matthew Clough words describing the start of his story. Since that defining moment in Tanzania he decided to use design to make an impact.  The first backpack he made – still Stone +Cloth’s flagship piece –  was named ‘The Benson’. Before attempting to help, Clough asked the community what it needed. Their answer was knowledge – not handouts – so he decided to use the one-for one model to provide scholarships for children in Tanzania. When you buy a Stone + Cloth backpack (tote bag, Ipad case or t-shirt) you help to carry somebody else’s education.

5. Colette Sol

Colette Sol USAColette Sol is a Dutch handmade shoe brand for women, founded by Colette and her sister Miranda. The brand is sold all over Europe. Unlike their American counterpart Colette Sol USA – who’s slogan is ‘handmade shoes to fight human trafficking – they keep their social mission rather low profile except for spnsoring an event such as the Stiletto Run of Zurich,  organised by glowbalAct.

For every pair of shoes you buy they donate an amount to the  Colette Sol Foundation which supports woman projects all over the world. Especially to organisations leading the fight against human trafficking such as Free a Girl and glowbalAct.


FRANK Stationery - pensil case

After seeing intense poverty when travelling abroad, kiwi couple Jason and Jess decided to dedicate their lives to helping others. They founded stationery brand FRANK. A company who’s one-for-one model is slightly different from the others on this list. They believe in ‘looking after our own backyard before tending to others’ and give to children living in poverty in their home country New Zealand. FRANK has partnered with a school in Auckland where a large portion of students lack basic needs such as, notebooks and backpacks. Another difference is that they, unlike TOMS, hand out the exact same products to the kiwi kids as they sell.

Who did I miss?

As you might have noticed, only two out of six examples on this list are European. Where are all the good ‘local’ examples you ask? That’s what I wonder too. Maybe Europeans don’t believe as much in the one-for-one business model as the Americans do? Or maybe I haven’t been looking in the right places. If you know of any cool European or UK examples that should definitely be on this list, please share!!

Photo credits for customized TOMS shoes: etsy.me/1F86zW9


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