Socks? Seriously?

January 31, 2014

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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