How the Group of Dads Came Together to Form the Company
We kind of randomly came together. Kelly and I were in one friend group and I originally ran the idea by him before the other guys. He was in automatically, didn’t seem to think twice. I worked in the same building as Matt. He had a reputation as a top-level developer and we needed that. I also really thought his personality would be a great fit. As for Tom, we needed a ‘no’ guy. Someone who was hyper-focused on the operational side of the business. I knew he was our guy when I found out he didn’t own a single pair of jeans. We needed someone like him to balance the rest of us out. And yeah, our company culture is shaped by who we are outside of work. There are soon to be nine kids between the four of us. That’s our first priority, family. We want all our employees to feel like family comes first because it does for the co-founders. As a result of that philosophy, we’re really creating a family-like atmosphere at the office. I just said the word ‘family’ a lot.
The Company’s Birth in 2012
In early 2012, I had started developing an affinity for fun socks. It was still a new thing and there weren’t many stores where I could really go to find quirky designs. In March of that year, I, along with millions of other people, saw the ‘Dollar Shave Club’ video surface. It was brilliant, and I was immediately drawn to the subscription model. Within about a week, I had put two and two together that socks were a commodity I thought would work well within that model. We did some fairly rigorous testing to make sure there was a demand in the market. We had an overwhelming response, so less than three months after we saw the ‘Dollar Shave Club’ video, we were live on June 1, 2012.
Their 1st Risk- Obama & Romney Socks
That was really the first risk we took as a business. We weren’t at the point where we could afford the minimums in making custom socks, but we saw the opportunity. Kelly’s dad is a former congressman and he passed out the socks to a lot of his buddies in D.C. and we got some really nice press from it. And of course, when people came to our site to purchase the Obama/Romney socks, they were like ‘Wait, you guys do what?! What the heck is a sock subscription? I want one.’ So that’s really when things started to move the needle a bit.
How The Subscription Works
You come to our site, choose a month-to-month or prepaid option for men, women or kids and voila…you get a random pair of awesome socks delivered right to your mailbox every month. We select the design for you, but it’s never anything we wouldn’t wear ourselves. We design and manufacture all our own designs, so they’re going to be unique, you can’t find them anywhere else. Really, we hit on two things. First, we wanted to take something historically boring, like socks, and make them fun. You should have fun with the whole experience from ordering your socks on our site, to receiving them and then interacting with us socially. The second thing is that no one gets fun mail anymore. You know you’re going to get bills and whatever you ordered from Amazon. So, this adds a nice surprise for you every month.
Fun Designs, Including the Socktopus
Well, we love using the sock as a canvas, because almost anything is possible. One of our all-time favorites is the socktopus. It’s a guy riding on a unicycle in the middle of an ocean, and he’s about to get eaten by a kraken. WHAT? One of our original designs was a cartoon-ish version of a monkey pooping. But it wasn’t super obvious at first glance. After a while you were like ‘Wait, is this monkey actually pooping?!’ The bigger we’ve gotten, the more we’ve had to be careful about what we send out. We had an unfortunate and untimely mishap of creating and sending out socks with all kinds of guns on them a couple years back. We just thought they were cool looking, not taking any kind of political stance or anything. As you can imagine, the response was polarizing. People either hating us or loving us. That wasn’t the intent. So yeah, now we’re a little more selective with our designs.
Their Appearance on ‘Shark Tank’
We were in a place as a business where we wanted to start thinking about outside funding. We didn’t need the money to stay alive, we wanted it to really start scaling. We’ve seen tremendous growth and wanted to put the pedal to the metal. Kelly thought we should do it, so we filled out an application…that sat on my desk for six months. In January of this year, he was like ‘Dude, just turn it in’ so we did. Being a very consumer facing brand, we thought the Sharks would be good fits as investors. So we got our opportunity to pitch to these five, really public investors. It’s still so crazy to us that we got this opportunity. We’re super thankful.
Being Nervous in the ‘Tank’
It’s such a unique experience. Here you are, having to consciously balance the thought of both wanting to convince these five Sharks to invest money in your company but at the same time realize that this might get seen by millions of people. For us, it was more about the former, as we’ve never pitched a single investor until pitching to the Sharks. This company is our baby and if we got an investment, we wanted to make sure it would be in good hands. That was the most nerve-wracking part for me. Well, that and Mr. Wonderful’s shiny forehead staring blankly back at me.