Giving at the Center

Travis Murphy on how TOMS’ charitable mission is at the core of the company’s office space—and everything they do.

Travis Murphy, TOMS

All-staff meetings at TOMS are full of stories, but they’re not just stories about quarterly earnings or revenue goals; they’re stories about the ways that TOMS’ products and employees directly change peoples’ lives. The company has provided more than 75 million shoes to children in need and helped restore sight to more than 500,000 people since its founding in 2006.

Employees at TOMS are all given the opportunity to participate in giving trips: opportunities to go into the field and directly participate in TOMS’ mission of giving alongside their Giving Partners, nonprofit community development organizations, humanitarian institutions, or social enterprises that have deep experience in the regions they serve and expertise in poverty alleviation and international development.

People always come back from these trips with stories, but some of these stories will stay with Travis Murphy, TOMS’ facilities manager, forever. “Our employees have seen individuals go in and get cataracts removed who haven’t been able to see for 15 or 20 years. You hear about grandparents who have never seen their grandkids’ faces,” he says. “They come in the next day and can see clear as day.”

Life-changing stories like these are exactly what attracted Murphy to TOMS. After graduating with a degree in marketing from Arizona State, he spent a year working in advertising in Los Angeles. Although many people would have been thrilled with this path, Murphy felt unfulfilled. A friend introduced him to TOMS, and when Murphy learned about the company’s charitable work, he felt determined to work there. “I was following TOMS for a while, and as jobs came up, I kept applying,” he says. His determination paid off, and he landed a role as office manager, HR, and purchasing.

With elements such as two slides that connect the first and second floors, TOMS’ headquarters is designed to foster a culture of creativity and maintain the entrepreneurial spirit of the company’s beginnings.

Murphy’s initial position continued to evolve just as TOMS did. The company began to grow rapidly in 2009, which led to it outgrowing its first office space in Santa Monica, California. As the sole person in charge of facilities at that time, Murphy became instrumental in the company’s move to a larger facility in Playa Vista. “I found myself thrown into the ring as project manager for a full-on HQ buildout and relocation. I was the main point person from TOMS, working alongside an award-winning architecture firm, as well our general contractor,” he explains. “In some ways it was a trial by fire, but TOMS had a need, I did my best, and it worked out.” He’s now been with the company for almost a decade.

Providing free shoes to people in communities all over the world is an integral part of TOMS’ giving trips.

At 70,000 square feet, TOMS’ current headquarters might be a lot bigger than their initial space, but the atmosphere in the building is just as fresh and creative as it was when the company started. “We incorporated reclaimed wood and exposed studs into our space. It’s not a very polished look, but it reflects our grassroots start-up days,” Murphy says. “It captures that scrappy, entrepreneurial spirit.” Warm, playful touches are also a hallmark of the office, and employees can enjoy everything from a dog run to an in-house coffee bar to two slides that connect the first and second floor. “I think we’ve done a great job crafting a space that feels creative and inspiring,” he says. “It’s an open environment where people feel comfortable approaching their colleagues to have a conversation.”

There are also physical representations of TOMS’ mission of giving throughout its headquarters. “At the core of what we do is our giving, so our space should reflect that, whether it’s in a quote, images of the countries where we give, or images of the giving itself,” Murphy says. “We have an area in our giving department where anyone can go and see the different types of shoes we manufacture, specifically for the different areas of the world where we give.” Murphy believes that these physical reminders help TOMS’ employees keep the company’s mission in mind throughout the workday. “There are a lot of reminders for our visitors and for our staff that this is not just a normal company. Giving is at the center of how we do business, and it’s also at the center of our space.”

Keeping the company’s mission at the center is the motivating force behind TOMS’ giving trips. The trips take place all over the world and allow employees to participate in the giving programming of NGOs that TOMS partners with. “Our shoe giving isn’t just a standalone give,” Murphy explains. “Our partners will often use shoes as an incentive for other health and education programs. If an organization is doing vision screenings or health checks, they can say, ‘Hey, come get your health checked out, and you’ll get a free pair of shoes.’”

Murphy, who has participated in four giving trips so far, has seen the effects the trips have on his colleagues firsthand. “It changes people. We see employees come back from those trips with a light turned on,” he says. “They say, ‘How can I keep giving? How can I continue to make a difference, not only when I’m on a giving trip, but when I’m back here at home?’”

The drive to make a difference that brought Murphy to TOMS in the first place is what connects everyone at the company, he explains. “At TOMS, we get people from the workforce who’ve been working for other corporations that aren’t mission-drive,” he says. “They come here because they want to use their experience and skills to contribute to something bigger. That really does set the tone for how we approach our work and support each other.”

The Tomorrows Project

To broaden the company’s impact even further, TOMS started The Tomorrows Project. Each month, employees can submit a forward-thinking idea that supports organizations they are inspired by; the only requirements are that it has to benefit others and be able to get off the ground within ninety days. “Each peer-chosen project is given financial and administrative support from TOMS to help make the biggest impact,” Murphy explains. “It’s inspiring to work for a company that encourages us to give beyond what TOMS foundation is
built on.”

Photos: Courtesy of TOMS