Socks with Holes

We’ll just come out and say it. The vast majority of socks suck. They’re poorly constructed, they don’t hold up in the washer or dryer, and they fall apart after just a few wears. Here’s the dirty little secret though- they’re designed to fall apart quickly. Yes, you read that right. Your socks are supposed to suck.

Big sock brands account for something called “planned obsolescence” in their production cycles. In other words, they want you to have to buy socks more frequently, so they cut corners during the manufacturing process. They use lower quality materials, and they pay their employees a lower wage, which of course leaves them less likely to care about the quality of the products they make. Worst of all, these lower quality products are totally avoidable. For these big brands, it’s truly a volume game; they’re solely focused on the QUANTITY of socks they can sell.

With Boldfoot, it’s just the opposite. QUALITY is our #1 priority. We would rather charge a little more upfront so that we can offer our customers products that last. We don’t just believe in the quality of our 100% American-made supply chain, we proudly promote it every chance we get. Our goal is for 1 pair of our socks to hold up LONGER than 2 pairs of the average socks purchased from <insert generic department store>, and quite frankly, we beat that goal by a long shot. We know you work hard for your paycheck and believe you deserve good value for the things you spend it on.

That’s why we produce our socks using a blend of Nylon for durability, Spandex for stretch, and super-soft American Supima cotton for great feel (quite literally, the best cotton you can buy). At Boldfoot, we’re so proud of our products that we offer a 100% SATISFACTION GUARANTEE. If for whatever reason you’re not happy with your purchase, we’ll do whatever we can to make it right. And if we can’t make it right, we’ll refund you immediately. 

Good socks are hard to find. Trust us, we know. It’s why we started this company in the first place. 


Think about this for a second. As Americans, we live in a world where we can walk down the street in a t-shirt that reads “Apathetic Voter" with no fear of being arrested for the message it sends. We can sit inside a coffee shop sipping lattes while we read news from any left or right wing publication we choose with no fear that our reading material will be taken away. We can launch an online T-Shirt (or sock) business working from that same coffee shop and craft our own version of the “American dream” with no fear that the government will shut us down. Within the guardrails of public decency, we can do and say what we want, when we want, and how we want.

It’s easy to forget, but not everyone is afforded these luxuries. People all over the world would kill to have the opportunity just to make those “Apathetic Voter” t-shirts, working for 12 cents an hour no less. 

Perhaps even easier to forget are the people that afford us these luxuries. In a world where the news cycle frequently consists of what happened on last night’s Game of Thrones episode or what Kim posted about Kanye on Instagram, our true heroes are overlooked on a daily basis - the U.S. Military and Veterans of America.

In my mind, one of the greatest tragedies in this world occurs when someone goes off to battle to fight valiantly for his/her country only to return home to a life that’s harder than when they left. So many of our U.S. Military and Veterans struggle with homelessness, joblessness, mental or physical health problems, family support issues, and more. Nearly 200,000 of them are homeless on the streets each night. 1 in 6 suffers from chronic PTSD. I won’t drone on but you can probably guess that the list of abhorrent stats is never ending.

At first glance, fun, colorful socks have little to do with the U.S. Military, but there’s more to this story. Our socks are 100% sourced and made in the U.S. At each step in the supply chain, free working American employees earn an honest wage. Simply put, I wouldn’t have my business without the sacrifice of our brave servicemen and women. That’s precisely why I’ve made the decision to donate 5% of Boldfoot profits to current Military and Veterans in need. It may only be a small gesture, but they deserve a "Thank You."
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You're tired of waiting. I'm tired of waiting. We’re all losing patience. But in the words of Will Ferrell in Old School, “We've gotta keep your composure! We've come too far!” I’ve been holding my breath for a while now, just hoping that no one asks any questions about Boldfoot given that I haven't had any good answers. It’s been like watching a movie with your parents when you arrive at an unexpected sex scene. Please don’t ask any questions, silence is golden!

Well, enough silence already! In the spirit of transparency, here's the deal. I've been waiting on a few specific yarn colors to be shipped to my manufacturer. The colors just arrived last week, so now we can finally complete the prototyping process. 80% of the work is complete; it’s the remaining 20% that’s taking the longest. Just about everyone knows the 80/20 principle, and I’m finding it to be exceptionally true when it comes to launching a new company. I have a website that’s workable, my Kickstarter video is nearly finished, and I’ve mapped out a plan for spreading the word when I officially launch. There’s just one problem-  I don’t have anything to sell.

This is the stuff you can’t anticipate when you set out to be an entrepreneur. No one tells you you’ll spend endless hours searching for free stock images for your website or that the prototyping process takes 2-3 times longer than you could anticipate. 20% of the items on your to-do list take 80% of your time. But it’s that 20% that makes all the difference in the world. It’s what separates the winners from the losers. Those who go the extra mile are the most successful. Most people will do a job that’s ‘good enough.’ The thing is, no consumer wants to buy from a company whose products/services are ‘good enough.’ They want the best. There’s a reason the elite brands don’t have to spend a dime on marketing- they have products that sell themselves. A customer experiences the product, then they tell their friends, who then tell their friends, and the viral loop continues. That’s the holy grail of commerce, a product that sells itself.

So that’s where Boldfoot stands. I don’t want to make just another sock company. I want to build an elite sock brand, a brand that everyone comes to know. It might sound like an audacious goal, but settling for ‘good enough’ is not an option. Go big or go home.

With any luck, the Kickstarter campaign will officially launch on June 10th. Timing is everything in life, and I’m strategically timing this launch with the beginning of the World Cup. These socks are American-made and there’s no better time to tap into American pride than during an international sporting event.

I'll close with a plea for help. If any of you have friends, family, or even loose associations with writers in the press, bloggers or anyone influential for that matter, I would be eternally indebted to you if you could help put me in touch with them. I can use all the help I can get when it comes to spreading the word once I launch.

11 days away!
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I am a one man wolfpack. I travel the world in solitude. I do not have co-founders. I do not have investors. I am the art director, the accountant, the brand manager, the logistics coordinator, the customer service rep and any other hat a person might wear at a more established company. I am... alone.

And I freaking love it.

It might be difficult at times, but there are many positives to ridin' solo as the poet Jason DeRulo so aptly puts it. Here are a few:

I own all decisions.

At worst, I'm a first-timer in the e-commerce arena. At best, I'm a 98 lb. high school freshman on the first day of school, praying not to be hung on a locker hook from my underwear. Sure, I've read articles and books, watched videos, etc. that paint a picture of what it will be like, but in reality, I don't have a bleeping clue what I'm doing. I do have one thing, though - 100% control. If I want my new sock brand to appeal to hipster-skater types living in Venice Beach, I can do that. If I want to change course entirely and develop compression socks for octagenarians with poor circulation, I can do that, too. It's pretty empowering knowing that there's no higher authority to which I have to answer. Bringing another founder into the mix would likely cut my control by ~50%. And splitting up equity amongst investors could have an even worse outcome. No sir, I’d prefer to have my cake and eat it, too. I’ve got a fever, and the only prescription is more control.

Jack of all trades

The best thing about having no team to rely on is that you don't have to do any trust falls or equally awful team-building exercises. But a close second is that I'm constantly learning new skills and how to be resourceful. As a first-time entrepreneur, this is incredibly valuable. When you’re on your own, you don’t have anyone else to rely on (duh), and this results in a lot of self-teaching. I may not have the luxury of a big marketing budget or a team at my beck and call, but a funny thing happens when you're on your own with limited resources- you find a way to adapt and do more with less. 12 months ago, I had no idea how to set-up a website or get press for my business. Fast forward to today and I've probably forgotten more than I've learned. Though I certainly can’t claim to know everything about running my own business yet (adopting the 'fake it till you make it' philosophy), I have become a jack of all trades, a far more well-rounded  entrepreneur with a diverse array of skills. Popular life coach Marie Forleo states that, “Everything is ‘figure-out-able,’” and she couldn’t be more right. With the world's greatest classroom right at your fingertips, there’s no excuse for not being able to tackle any and all tasks on your own. The Google can be overwhelming, for sure, but it only takes is a little extra effort to separate the crap from the hidden nuggets of gold available free of charge.

Comfort Zone Expansion

Tim Ferriss (author of 4-Hour Work Week) essentially calls it getting comfortable with getting uncomfortable.  Put more bluntly, it’s called sucking it up and growing a... well, you know. Having no one else to rely on means you’ll be forced to stretch outside your comfort zone. Personally, I'm not accustomed to being the center of attention; I’ve never liked the spotlight. Too bad, so sad. If I want my company to succeed, I’m going to have to self-promote. And equally against my nature, I’m going to need to ask for help from time to time. Calling in favors will likely be a huge determinant of my success or failure. After all, it's not as if Derek Jeter is going to contact me out of the blue to say he wants to be a sponsor for my brand (Don’t worry, I’d turn him down. I’m an Orioles fan.). Quite the opposite actually. I’ll need to repeatedly ask for help and be prepared for a lot of rejection. I mean A LOT. Like when you ask 100 girls in a bar for their number and only get one (which is likely fake). Repeated rejection can go one of two ways- either you’ll quit out of frustration or you’ll somehow manage to stay eternally optimistic. The latter approach means you’re becoming fearless, and that’s a dangerous weapon for an entrepreneur.

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James Altucher (well-known entrepreneur and author) argues that taking responsibility for the success or failure of your startup is a huge step for an entrepreneur. I tend to agree. If not you, then who? If you believe that your success (or lack thereof) can be chalked up to luck, you're dead wrong. You create your own luck by working hard to put yourself in optimal situations. 100% ownership means you and only you are in charge of your success, so take control of your destiny. Even if things don't work out, it's a hell of a lot easier to accept the consequences of your own decisions than those that were forced upon you by someone else.

They say it's lonely at the top, but it's equally lonely at the bottom when you’re just getting started. The key difference is that no one wants to be your friend at the beginning... well, I see that as a challenge, and challenge accepted. 

The cheese stands alone.
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Socks? Seriously?

February 01, 2014

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People often ask me why socks? It's such an odd choice for a product. "Is there a lot of money in socks that I'm not aware of?," they'll ask. "Footwear is clearly not the biggest or most important problem in this world that you can attack," they'll say. Well I agree that it's a bit bizarre, but trust me- it's a far more strategic choice than you realize. Here's why.

Not quite out of left field

Believe it or not, I've always had an infatuation with socks. I didn't just blindly throw a dart in a department store. In fact, I had the idea to develop reversible socks as a child about 20 years ago. Unfortunately for the world, my 9 year old brain was limited at best and my weekly allowance would only take me so far in 1993, so I abandoned the idea. But lucky for you, my passion for socks was reignited last year when my brother reminded me of my childhood genius, and the last 12 months of research and development have brought me to this moment. The timing couldn't be better as men and women alike are looking to socks to add a pop of color or interest point to their wardrobe. The socks may not be reversible (yet), but I'm excited to share this new brand with the world.

Low Cost, Physical Product means Limited Risk

New tech startups fascinate me, but they also scare the crap out of me. The thought of creating a new category with no existing demand seems more risky than swimming in open water with starving sharks. Also, I'm no techie, so building anything tech-related would be a challenge to say the least. It might sound backwards, but I would much rather be in the physical product market, especially one that potentially appeals to a large consumer base and one in which the cost to the consumer is less than $10. People are willing to take a chance on a $10 item, and if it sucks, they've only lost their lunch money. If they love it, hopefully they'll buy more. The best thing about the sock biz is that if my designs don't sell, I can slash the price point dramatically and likely get most of my money back. With any luck, my downside is limited to the time and energy I put into the company, not the capital I invest. I can maintain 100% ownership of the company and grow it thoughtfully, and since I'll be doing the majority of my business online, brick and mortar costs aren't going to destroy my bottom line. 

Room for creativity

I may not be the most roundest spoon in the drawer, but I've always considered myself to be mildly creative at worst. And the ease of Photoshop more than makes up for the skills I lack as a graphic artist (plus, geometric patterns and stripes don't exactly require a design degree). Socks are perpetually flexible and fun to develop. Colors and patterns offer an endless well of versatility, and I get to put my stamp on the world of fashion (there's a sentence I never thought I'd utter). Lastly, socks are unexpected. When I tell people I'm developing a sock brand, there's a consistent pattern of double-takes. And once they regain their composure, they LOVE to share their thoughts on the business. Everyone wants to work on a product that people like to talk about, and I'm excited to fuel that discussion.

The Ultimate Marketing Test

For the most part, launching a startup, whether it's a physical product or a new tech service, boils down to a branding and marketing exercise. If you can't market your startup effectively, there's really no point in building the thing in the first place. Take a commoditized product like socks and that test starts to look less like a 1st grade spelling bee and more like the SATs. Believe it or not, this excites me. I talk a big game as a strategist and I'll put my marketing chops up against just about anyone, but building this brand from the ground up will finally prove if I'm just full of hot air. I stated earlier that my downside in starting a company is limited ot the time and energy I put in, but I was lying. Even if I fail miserably, given all that I can expect to learn as I go through this process, there really is no downside.

This experiment is bigger than just me, though. I'm out to prove that anyone can be an entrepreneur, that anyone can launch a successful business, even with only a few hundred dollars in their pocket. With SO many free or cheap tools and resources available online, it's never been a better time to be a new entrepreneur. I'll be documenting my story every step of the way so that like-minded entrepreneurs can learn from it. I'm not sure how things will turn out, but I'm excited to put my 'wantrepreneur' saga to bed, once and for all.

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This is one of my favorite quotes, told to me by Sean Lilly Wilson, an entrepreneur in Durham, NC who started the wildy successful Fullsteam Brewery (check it out at www.Fullsteam.ag). When Sean initially made that statement, my rational brain said he was crazy. If that was his philosophy, he was in for a world of pain. But my emotional brain loved the guy and couldn't get enough of his brilliance. I've toiled with the idea of joining the startup world for some time now. The prospect of working for myself is enticing, to say the least- no more project status reports, no more corporate bureaucracy and no more… steady paycheck and benefits. Oh right, damn. I was so close to putting in my 2 weeks notice. So how exactly do you decide to take the leap? There are so many factors to consider and so many potential risks. 

I think many people are looking for a sign from above. They want a Steve Jobs look-alike in a black mock turtleneck to approach them in a mall and say, “What are you waiting for?” Others take the leap because they're fed up with their current situation and the startup route is clearly a better option. They hate their boss, they hate their job, and they’re generally unhappy with the path their life is headed. Others have hit a dead end and are out of options. There are 2 seconds on the clock and they're forced to throw a hail mary. But what if your situation is none of the above? What if you have options, and good ones at that? Do you create a list of pros and cons? Do you calculate a weighted average of factors to determine the probability of success and failure? Or do you plan out the worst-case scenario and determine how you’d bounce back from it? This is the situation I fall into. I have a steady paycheck at a job that I enjoy. I like my boss and my career path theoretically has a decent amount of runway ahead of it. But I'm constantly wondering if this is what I'm meant to do; perhaps I'm not fulfilling my potential or maybe there's a more ideal situation out there that I'm meant to explore. For me, the startup world has been faintly calling my name ever since I took my first entrepreneurship class in grad school.

Fast forward just a bit... so you've settled on a great idea, you clearly have the drive and the stars are aligning to make this as good a time as any to jump off the ledge. What's stopping you? Do you still have that small voice in the back of your head saying, "Don't do something stupid, you idiot!!?" I certainly do. Here's where the intangibles come into play, the things that are more difficult to quantify. For me, it boils down to 3 things:

1. Self Validation - I alluded to this before. I need to know if I can do it. I need to know if there's something more for me in this world. The faint whisper of entrepreneurship isn't going away unless I enter the arena.

2. Overcoming laziness - Paul Graham has an awesome quote that reads, "If you're trying to choose between two [things] and one gives you an excuse for being lazy, the other one is probably right." He offers the example of choosing between watching TV or going for a run. Go running every time- no hesitation. "The only reason you're considering the other [option] is laziness." Think about that for a second, it's so obvious yet so profound. We're presented with dozens of decisions every day. If you make even one decision not to be lazy each day, just think how much more productive you'd be in your life.

3. The Thrill - When you get together with friends, do they want to talk about their boring desk jobs? What if you were launching your new business, would they focus the conversation on you? Startups are inherently interesting, and when people ask you about your startup, it's energizing. It's energizing to the point that you can't help but work harder so that the next time someone asks you about your business, you have news for them. If that's not the most inspiring, self-sustaining cycle of energy out there, I'm not sure what is.

The reality is that startups are risky. As Michael Arrington puts it, "A tiny minority of entrepreneurs ever get rich. And the majority of them would probably make far more money, and have more stable personal relationships, if they just worked for someone else." So here's my advice to you. If you have a passion for something, follow it. Whether you choose to follow your passion at an established organization or build something yourself is entirely up to you. Just don't be lazy; find the answer to those burning questions in your life and fulfill your potential. We only have a finite amount of time on this earth to explore our passions, and that window has a giant clock attached to it counting down to zero. 

Turn the clock off.