Fresh Ideas and a Savvy Network Take Young Entrepreneur Around the World and Back to Cox
As a sophomore at SMU, Blake Mycoskie was not just your typical undergrad. Born with the entrepreneurial spirit, he constantly deliberated about starting a new business. After much research and personal frustration, it became clear that SMU needed an on-campus laundry service, and he would be the one to provide it.
EZ Laundry started in the fall of 1997 and grew quickly thanks to a marketing campaign in which sorority members wore company-branded t-shirts and actively recruited other student clients in exchange for free dry cleaning. The company soon expanded across seven universities and Mycoskie found himself managing 40 employees and eight trucks. Through his classes at the Cox School of Business, Mycoskie learned the skills needed to see his dreams materialize.
But Mycoskie did not stop at the laundry business, which would have kept him busy for years to come. While on vacation in Los Angeles, he noticed an enormous dinosaur painted on the side of a building on Sunset Boulevard. The dinosaur, an advertisement for Jurassic Park, was unlike anything Mycoskie had ever seen. After doing research, he realized that Disney paid $1.2 million a year for some of the biggest billboard space in the city. With the wheels in his head spinning, the young businessman moved to Nashville, Tennessee to translate that recipe for success to the music industry in the nation’s country music capital. Only nine months after launching Mycoskie Media, mega ads adorned buildings in Nashville and Dallas. Clear Channel wanted this type of presence in downtown Dallas, but with limited space available, their only choice was to make the entrepreneur an unbelievable offer. They did, and the company was sold.
At 25 years of age, Mycoskie needed a change of pace. He headed back to Southern California after being selected to compete in multiple television reality shows, including Fox’s America’s Sexiest Bachelors and the second season of CBS’ The Amazing Race, where he came within four minutes of winning the $1 million grand prize.
Going this far in business isn’t easy, and Mycoskie is glad he had the Cox network behind him.
“The Cox family is a strong and diverse one. Furthermore, everyone is very supportive and more willing to open up their network to those who ask,” says Mycoskie.
That family helped tremendously with his latest endeavor of TOMS Shoes. After touring South America, Mycoskie found himself completely immersed in the culture of his final stop, Argentina. Quickly, the established young businessman became aware of the horrid conditions in which the impoverished lived. Some villages found themselves without fresh, potable water and basic necessities like shoes. Lacking these basic needs resulted in major health issues and even death for some of the villagers.
TOMS, inspired by a traditional Argentinean shoe and made out of natural fibers by native villagers in sweatshop free conditions, are the “most ethical shoe” on the market today. But the benevolence has only begun, because for each shoe bought from TOMS, the company donates a pair to a child.
“We have launched TOMS successfully and have sold 5,000 pairs in the first month,” says Mycoskie. “And we have enlisted the help of several top celebrities in Hollywood to further our cause.”
Those top celebrities include the likes of Sienna Miller, Desperate Housewives star Eva Longoria and long-time movie star Robert Downey, Jr. Mycoskie has already set very high goals for his latest company with a cause.
“[We hope] to give out 1 million shoes to children in need over the next three years,” he said.
It is clear that Mycoskie’s accomplishments at such a young age rival those most achieve in a lifetime, and it all began at the Cox School of Business.
“There are a lot of things that need to be planned out before starting a business, but at the end of the day, if you have a product [or] service that people want, you can be successful and should just go for it.” says Mycoskie.
This aggressive attitude towards the business world began at SMU Cox. Mycoskie credits Jerry White’s entrepreneurship course at Cox that helped him get where he is today. The relationships he built with his business professors did not end after his time at SMU. Now at the age of 30, Mycoskie continues to find himself coming back to the Hilltop to speak in the class that helped him find his vision.
“I have benefited from regularly speaking to Jerry White’s entrepreneurship class. I find that telling my story inspires current students and in return, I learn a lot from their questions and ideas, which they are considering for their own business,” Mycoskie says.