Example Canvas – Toms Shoes

Lots of people have been asking for example canvases to help them better understand how to use the SLC. Here is one I put together for Toms Shoes. It isn’t perfect but hopefully useful.

If any of you have other good examples of Social Enterprises that you have put into the SLC then please send them our way and we’ll post them up.

SLC for Toms Shoes v2Download Toms Shoes PDF

  • Ross Wyatt

    What changes for the beneficiary as a result of receiving new shoes? Are there any potential unintended outcomes?

    • rowanyeoman

      Thanks Ross, as mentioned in the example canvas, impact logic or a full theory of change can be really complex. To do the job well, Tom’s would have to be able to detail the logic that demonstrates that the positive impact they intend would actually occur (a child receiving shoes is metric they can measure, they need to show that this will deliver tangible impact).
      So the logic must appear sound and then be tested through validation in the real world (as with the rest of the business model) before they could be satisfied that impact will result.
      It also makes sense that they would rigorously explore for possible negative unintended consequences that might negate the positive impact they are creating.
      Tom’s is actually a pretty good example of this playing out (though without the use of the SLC as a framework). They started by having volunteers distribute shoes until they realised (and were criticised for) that they were delivering an aid model that wasn’t providing for longterm development and were also responsible for damaging existing local shoe businesses. As a result they shifted shoe production to the local communities and started operating more of a development model where they integrate with NGO’s working with those communities to integrate their shoe (and now eye surgery) interventions with longer term on-the-ground development work.

      As I mentioned, this is all really complex so I am certainly not criticising Tom’s for not figuring this all out at the start. My hope is that the SLC will help us all consider the impact piece (including unintended impact) more thoroughly and earlier on in the venture’s journey.

    • Rowan Yeoman

      Thanks Ross, as mentioned in the example canvas, impact logic or a full theory of change can be really complex. To do the job well, Tom’s would have to be able to detail the logic that demonstrates that the positive impact they intend would actually occur (a child receiving shoes is metric they can measure, they need to show that this will deliver tangible impact).
      So the logic must appear sound and then be tested through validation in the real world (as with the rest of the business model) before they could be satisfied that impact will result.
      It also makes sense that they would rigorously explore for possible negative unintended consequences that might negate the positive impact they are creating.
      Tom’s is actually a pretty good example of this playing out (though without the use of the SLC as a framework). They started by having volunteers distribute shoes until they realised (and were criticised for) that they were delivering an aid model that wasn’t providing for longterm development and were also responsible for damaging existing local shoe businesses. As a result they shifted shoe production to the local communities and started operating more of a development model where they integrate with NGO’s working with those communities to integrate their shoe (and now eye surgery) interventions with longer term on-the-ground development work.

      As I mentioned, this is all really complex so I am certainly not criticising Tom’s for not figuring this all out at the start. My hope is that the SLC will help us all consider the impact piece (including unintended impact) more thoroughly and earlier on in the venture’s journey.

  • Paulius Rymeikis

    I bought my first pair of TOMs shoes (I have 4 overall) because they were nice and different and because on top of that they make a difference for people in need. Problem “First world consumer guilt”? WTF? 😀 They’re just nice shoes with additional value, not additional value with ok shoes attached.

    • Rowan Yeoman

      Thanks Paulius, We didn’t mean to be flippant, but “first world consumer guilt”(which I admit does sound pretty flippant) is a shorthand for the underlying emotion that would cause someone to choose a product that supports people less fortunate than themselves over one that does not. You are right that they are nice shoes with additional value but, from a business model perspective, the ordinary shoe designing/manufacturing/marketing/distributing model is already well proven. It doesn’t need to be tested that people will buy nice shoes and therefore it isn’t necessary to test that against Tom’s the assumed customer segment. What does need to be tested is that people (specifically Toms’ assumed customers) will buy Toms ahead of another nice shoe that doesn’t have the added purpose/feel-good factor. That’s why it is included in the canvas as a crucial business model assumption.
      Also good to note that the Toms canvas is something that we threw together to demonstrate how the canvas works and isn’t meant to represent their actual business model in great detail. Just a learning tool. Thanks for your comment though, great to have your interest.

  • Prof. Sara

    This is a perfect illustration of why TOMS Shoes is not a social enterprise, by any standard (US or European or LDC). Since when is “consumer guilt” a serious social problem. If TOMS were a soclal enterprise, one would be able to fill out this canvas with PROBLEM: Children in India without shoes prohibiting them from attending school. This is not what TOMS is in business to solve. But this could potentially be a REAL problem. However if you look closer (which we have after consulting for TOMS in Hyderabad), the shoes issue is less about not having any shoes than a distribution problem of government shoes getting to every household; shoes by the way that the kids prefer because they are more sturdy. The TOMS shoes the kids are wearing are made in China, and in India wear out completely in weeks. Often the kids never get a second pair because, after all, it is a charity, NOT a social enterprise. If they were a social enterprise, they would be working to identify the real cause – effect relationship in the shoes department, maybe even employing local Indians to make their shoes and selling them at a price people can afford, or work with the government to subsidize them, as is happening there albeit inefficiently.

    • Rowan Yeoman

      Hi Prof. Sara,

      Thanks for your comment.

      In response to your points… I’m sure you have much more experience about the impact of Tom’s shoes on the ground, and I certainly make no claims that Tom’s is good model (in impact terms). The reason we chose to use it as an example for the canvas is because it is a very simple model and easy to understand.

      I know there has been significant criticism of Tom’s’ impact model and I also know that they have done a lot of work to try and remedy this through things like; moving manufacturing of the shoes to the areas they are operating in and also partnering with on the ground NGOs so they can deliver more comprehensive solution. But again I’d do not propose to have in-depth knowledge of this, just using them as an example.

      To your first point, about Tom’s not being a social enterprise based on “first world consumer guilt” as a problem… I agree that no one would seriously suggest that consumer guilt is a social problem. However, to practice lean startup (which the SLC is intended to facilitate) the business model needs to map a clear path from CUSTOMER problem, to value proposition, solution and revenue. These are fundamental to all business models social enterprise or not. Social enterprises, of course need to have a Purpose and a corresponding Impact model that are integrated into the business model so that social impact and financial sustainability are delivered by the one model. So to use the canvas correctly the social problem that needs to be addressed (and the complexity that relates to it including the real causes – effect relationship) all need to be detailed in the Impact box of the canvas.

      The problems box of the canvas is for customer problems. This is the problem that a customer experiences that the business model can solve in a way that they will pay for. So for Tom’s, I rather flippantly used “first world consumer guilt” to describe the need that Tom’s might be meeting for that customer. So consumer guilt is something that a customer will pay to avoid and this then creates the revenue stream that allows Tom’s to deliver on their impact model.

      I hope this makes sense. You raise a really good question and one that comes up a lot when working with lean startup to develop social enterprise business models. Thanks for contributing.

  • Ingo Puhl

    I think that whoever filled out the canvas for Toms did not think through the “problem” definition (and the answers for some other boxes are also not spot-on). The problem is not first world guilt but that poor kids can not afford good shoes and therefore mess up their feet for life. Toms addresses the problem by making it easy for its customers to contributing towards a solution. Considering that this is a case-study for learners, it might be helpful to point out the importance of really thinking through the different issues and using the canvas to get feedback and stimulate discussion.

    • Rowan Yeoman

      Hi Ingo, we answer this “customer problem vs social problem” question in the comment below. This really is the crux of the issue and the whole point of the canvas. If we are going to use lean startup to develop social enterprises, we need to be able to consider a Customer Problem that we can solve in a way that delivers financial sustainability, as well as delivering on the social problem that we are trying to solve. There are many many methodologies for modelling social problems (and these need to be considered in developing the impact model of any social enterprise) but there are precious few useful frameworks for defining and testing customer problems that could lead to developing a sustainable business model. The problem box of the SLC is for doing this and that is why the social problem we are is not included in the box.