On May 21st TOMS Shoes’ worldwide campaign “One Day Without Shoes” was brought to a grand finale in China’s capital city. Founder Blake Mycoskie led a barefoot walk throughout the city, culminating in Wudaokou, Beijing’s university district. Across the city, hundreds of TOMS supporters, American and Chinese alike, walked barefoot in solidarity to Lush and Sugar Shack.
Project Pengyou collaborated with TOMS Shoes to bring together university students to launch their annual One Day Without Shoes campaign in China. Online, hundreds of thousands of people posted photos on Instagram, Weibo and Wechat of their bare feet and tagged #withoutshoes (Pengyous also tagged #pengyouswithoutshoes). For each post, TOMS donated a pair of shoes to a child in need.
Team Pengyou brought together a diverse range of Chinese and international students from universities such as Peking University and Minzu University to kick-start the event. Although for many students it was the middle of midterm week, hundreds of students came to mingle, listen to music, and dance together, a testament to the pull of having fun in the name of a good cause.
Many who came were interested in social entrepreneurship and the unique role young people in China have to develop the sector and to create social impact. Li Zixin (Tony), a participant from Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and AIESEC member says:
“…more and more youth [in China] are participating in events which can broaden their perspective and promote increased communication between different cultures…[social entrepreneurship] will start from the younger generations who hear about these ideas from events such as TOMS One Day Without Shoes.”
Grassroots campaigns like One Day Without Shoes and Project Pengyou’s own Pengyou Day are successful because they bring people together and distill a powerful idea into simple actions that start meaningful conversations.
“No matter how big or small your idea is, I challenge you to run with it.”
At the event, Blake explained to an excited crowd how the inspiration for TOMS began on a trip to Argentina, where he saw kids in a village that were unable to attend school because they were not allowed to attend barefoot.
Although there was uncertainty in the beginning, (TOMS made zero profit in the first three years of operations because they had the one-for-one business model from the start) Blake was willing to take risks and utilize his background in entrepreneurship to make a philanthropic idea into a sustainable business model. The One Day Without Shoes campaign started on a single college campus eight years ago, and through the power of passion and social media, it has grown into a movement spreading all the way across the planet. Blake’s parting word of advice to the students: “No matter how small your idea is, I challenge you to run with it.”
Simple Ideas, Big Impacts
Organizations like Project Pengyou and TOMS are built around a special kind of community, where the members are all part of something bigger than themselves. Even after the speech ended, there was still a warm fuzzy feeling that lingered as people chatted with Blake and the TOMS team and took bare feet selfies with new Pengyous. TOMS first One Day Without Shoes in China proved to be an energetic and informative part of the worldwide effort. We were happy to help spread such an inspiring message, and help provide opportunities for American and Chinese students to connect through shared values. Together they will take steps towards a better U.S.-China relationship, barefoot.
Thank you to the TOMS team and all the Pengyous who came to Lush to show support or posted a photo online. We had a great time meeting new Pengyous and contributing to a great cause! Shout-out to NSLI-Y and UCEAP who came out barefoot in strong numbers.
For more photo highlights, check out our One Day Without Shoes photo gallery!