When did you start Sockwork and what was it that prompted such an innovative idea to create a sock subscription?
We started Sockwork in April 2014. Tina and I always wanted to start a business and we both love unique socks. We decided to pair our interest in socks with our interest in helping others. We’ve both volunteered for non-profits and we’ve seen how difficult it can be to fundraise. Sockwork was the opportunity for us to do what we love while giving to causes we care about…and we get to help people keep their feet fancy all year!
In starting Sockwork did you have to secure investment and if so how did you go about it?
Sockwork is self-funded, but we’ve talked with Angel groups about investment in our company. As a subscription business, we are able to use the cash flow from orders placed to fund the business and we do not have the inventory risk other companies may carry. Having an online-only presence also helps us reduce overhead costs that you’d see with brick and mortar retailers.
What was the initial response to Sockwork?
The initial response has been great! We’ve been growing at an average of 30% each month and our customers love the product. It’s not just about selling socks, but it’s the entire box opening experience our customers to enjoy.
How did you go about building support and generating interest?
We conceived the idea in February 2014 and spent the next 2 months getting the website up and perfecting the product. Rather than waste that two months by waiting for the site to be ready, we did a lot of things that helped raise awareness. We set up a landing page to collect email addresses and ran a $50 ad on Facebook. By launch, we had a list of 150 emails we could direct market to for our first sales. We used our personal social media networks to build interest in the company and help us promote through their networks. We took a slight guerrilla marketing technique and walked around the city of Austin handing out free socks and business cards. We emailed dozens of reporters and bloggers to get them to run stories on us or do reviews. All of it paid off. We needed to figure out how to generate interest on a limited budget and our strategy worked. Without spending a lot of money we were able to grow our subscriber base and validate our idea.
What has been your most successful platform for marketing?
Now that we are running ads, Facebook is the most successful and effective platform. Facebook allows us to pair ads with rich media and lets us hyper-focus on our target audience.
Why did you decide to link Sockwork to veteran charities
I’m a veteran and I know the struggles a lot of veterans face. Tina’s sister served in the Army and we have a lot of friends who are still serving. We see the amount of money donated to veteran charities declining over the next several years as our nation moves further away from its previous conflicts. As veteran support dwindles, we want to be a company that can be there to help pick up the slack. This isn’t just about us, though. We want to encourage other veteran owned companies to adopt a model like ours to help those in need.
I see that you change your charity monthly. How do you go about choosing your monthly charity?
We focus on charities that help veterans transitioning or help veterans with emotional and physical disabilities. As a veteran, I’ve known about and worked with several charities, so I had a pretty good idea about the mission of a lot of these organizations. This helped us find our initial crop to support and now we have charities reaching out to us!
Being based in Texas, are most of your orders US based or have you gathered an international base of customers?
Most of our orders are US based, but we do have international customers, mostly in Canada. All of our domestic customers get free shipping but there is an additional charge for international customers. We are working on getting the international shipping prices lower but it’s been a slow process.
Your website also features a tie subscription, have you got any plans to expand further into other apparel?
The tie subscription is for one of our partners, RootBizzle, as ties pair well with socks. We just introduced our Kid’s Sock Subscription and our Men’s Boxer Briefs subscriptions. If we see success with the underwear, we plan on expanding into undershirts as well.
Have you encountered any problems in setting up Sockwork and if so how did you overcome them?
I’d love to say everything has been smooth since the beginning, but as with any start-up, that’s not the case. Our first problem, one of the major problems, was perfecting our product. We spent a lot of money on different packaging solutions and different socks. It took us two months of sending boxes to finalize our final box (two months longer than we wanted it to take), and it took us the first two months to find our sock supplier, Richer Poorer. They make some of the best socks we’ve seen and have a lot of different styles that can fit any personality or taste.
What’s your vision for the future of Sockwork?
Our vision is to have Sockwork be a full-service leader in sock and underwear convenience. Nobody likes going to the store to buy undergarments, and most people probably don’t go often enough. We pride ourselves in customer service and we want to continue to focus on providing the best experience and service to our customers.
Would you ever consider establishing your own veteran charity funded by Sockwork rather than donating to different charities?
We briefly discussed it but I don’t think it would be in our best interest. A lot of the charities out there are extremely good at what they do. We’d rather be a source of continued funding for those charities than to compete with them for funds.
A lot of start-ups struggle to achieve their potential, what would you say has been the key to your start-up success?
Focus on the customer and give them the best possible experience. A lot of start-up founders spend too much time building great products and services in a bubble. They never get out and find out if the customer wants what they are building or if they even have a customer. You will learn more by spending a day speaking with potential customers and figuring out what they are interested in than you will in spending a year just building a product.