Talk about baptisms by fire. When the Two Ten Footwear Foundation named Shawn Osborne its new CEO in late February the Covid-19 epidemic was in its infancy stages in the U.S. While the 81-year-old industry charitable foundation was prepping for possible fallout, few, if any, imagined the all-encompassing, never-seen-before tragedy unfolding now. Osborne has hit the ground running to answer the call of shoepeople in desperate need of assistance.
“Two Ten is used to dealing with natural disasters that affect the workforce regionally, in addition to our daily work of addressing emergency financial needs of employees,” Osborne says, noting all other Two Ten programs are temporarily on hold except the awarding of scholarships. “But the Covid-19 pandemic is a national disaster that is affecting everyone in the footwear community—from coast to coast and at every level of every organization. This is absolutely unprecedented for us, but we are shifting gears. Our foundation was created to take care of each other during times of crisis, no matter the size or scale.”
Shawn Osborne, CEO, Two Ten Footwear Foundation
Along those lines, Osbourne says Two Ten has been doubling its resources in key areas, especially staffing for the social services team. “We are receiving applications for emergency financial assistance at 10 times the normal rate, which automatically increases the number of applications to process, follow up calls to schedule (each applicant receives a personal and confidential call from an intake specialist) and grants to distribute,” he explains. “As you can imagine, lead times are longer but we’re working hard to reduce it.”
Two Ten also recently held an emergency Executive Committee meeting to discuss the unprecedented need, and has allocated in excess of $3 million for crisis relief over the next six months. “Last week we launched our Two Ten Covid-19 Share Your Shoes Campaign to help us raise those funds, and will need to procure roughly 2 million pair of donated shoes, which will be converted to cash,” Osbourne says. “All proceeds from the campaign will go directly into the Two Ten Crisis Relief Fund, for distribution to footwear families impacted by the pandemic.”
Cash donations to the relief fund are also welcome. “Every dollar makes a difference; we have to keep food on the table for our industry colleagues,” Osborne says. “Our legacy as a foundation and as an industry has been to be there for one another in hard times, and in that spirit of community so many people are asking how they can help.”
In addition to employees who encounter reduced work hours due to store closings, footwear employees and their families who come in contact with the virus and have to remain quarantined and/or seek medical attention can reach out for assistance. In contrast to Two Ten’s standard application and approval process, its crisis response procedure enables it to help as many people as possible as quickly as it can. Two Ten is receiving a high volume of requests from employees who have been laid off or furloughed, which seems to be the greatest challenge for footwear families right now, especially single mothers.
Osborne appears prepared for the enormous challenges at hand. Most recently, he served as president, CEO and board member of Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE). Prior to that, he served as president, CEO and board member with TechAmerica, a global information and communication technology industry trade association for U.S. companies, where he orchestrated a successful merger that resulted in the largest trade association in the sector. During his previous tenure with Ulticom, Inc., a telecom technology and systems solutions provider, Osborne drove revenue from $4 million to $60 million and raised $200 million for initial public and secondary offerings and on the NASDAQ exchange.
“I have sat on both sides of the board room table—CEO of for- and non-profit organizations as well as board member—which gives me a unique ability to bring both sides together to achieve amazing results,” Osborne says. It doesn’t hurt that he feels a kindred spirit with Two Ten’s mission. “I grew up the oldest of three children with a single mother who passed away when we were young,” he says. “I understand and appreciate the power of a community coming together to help each other.” It’s one reason why, looking beyond this current crisis, Osborne is looking to diversify Two Ten’s revenue stream, which may include reimagining the annual gala. “We’ll continue to invest in our crisis fund and we’ll also continue to work towards making our operations as efficient effective and nimble as possible,” he says.
Anyone working in the footwear industry is eligible to apply for assistance from Two Ten. For fastest response time, visit twoten.org/get-help/disaster-relief/ to fill out an application or call 1.800.346.3210. To make a donation, please visit twoten.org/giving/donate/.