No More Boring Socks! BOLDsocks Leads the WayBy Jane Whitttington on December 20th, 2015 /
The holidays are here, and it’s time to purchase stocking stuffers—those small, fun gifts that greet friends and family on Christmas morning. What more appropriate stocking stuffer than…stockings! And what better place to buy them than at BOLDsocks, either online or in their newly opened store in downtown Grand Rapids?
BOLDsocks proclaims, “No more boring socks!” and makes it easy to heed their call at their one-stop sock shop. On display (or online) are socks of every description: argyles in colors that pop; socks with stripes, polka dots; socks in geometric patterns or free-form designs; socks with animals, zombies, birds, skulls; socks flaunting MSU or U of M pride. There are even solid-color socks, but what colors: hot pink, exuberant red, cheerful blue or mellow yellow. All are reasonably priced, well-made and ready to grace fashionable feet.
Four young men (with eight feet clad in BOLDsocks) are behind this ambitious start-up. Ryan Roff, Ryan Preisner and Adam Whitmore (Dan Manshaem joined them down the road) were working together for a company with a conservative bent. Whitmore supplemented his usual business wear with the wildest socks he could find, and it soon became a competition to sport the craziest footwear. They found, however, that the supply of socks out there in the marketplace made besting one another difficult. So, of course, they decided to become purveyors themselves. Starting out simply buying socks that caught their fancy and selling them online, the first year they brought in $3,000. By the second year, they were up to $180,000. The third year, that number zoomed to $590,000. The two Ryans eventually left their permanent employment and went into the socks business full-time.
Roff says, “After the first year, we started using AdWords on Google to drive traffic to our site. The idea was to grow the business beyond this little sideline. This led to a big jump in our sales, and we knew we were onto something. For the first four years, we were still shipping out of a basement and concentrating on expanding our line and developing strategies to increase our viability.”
He continues, “By the second year, we knew we needed to create our own brand, and that’s when things really took off. We revamped our website, improved navigation, re-branded the business and added interactive features to the website.”
The company now offers two of its own brands: BOLDsocks and Statement. BOLDsocks offers solid-color socks in 30 colors, and Statement’s options are many, all designed in house by Roff. They continue to offer other brands as well, both for men and women. Roff said that offering their own brands took the business to a whole different level. Both brands are made in Turkey. While they considered other options, they found that Turkey had the best technology and the best conditions for their workers.
The storefront opened only a month or so ago and is already going strong. Most of their business is still online, but they expect that the brick and mortar store will contribute a significant percentage to their bottom line.
They are now getting involved in corporate purchases. For instance, Sale Force and Exact Target (two large tech companies) are merging and have recently ordered 700 pair of blue and orange argyles, signifying their merger by bringing together their individual company’s colors. Laugh Fest in Grand Rapids has a large order in as well for specially designed socks for their annual event (a fundraiser for Gilda’s Club). And Toyota’s tag line of Bold New Camry has a natural tie in with BOLDsocks and is giving away a pair to customers who request a test drive. Customers can also purchase their socks in over 5,000 tux shops throughout the country.
Lest you think selling socks is all they do, think again. The four owners are firm believers in giving back—and giving back in a big way. Part of their profits is invested in providing clean water in Africa through seeing to it that filtration systems are exported to places where water is scarce, difficult to access and often tainted. The filtration systems which they have a hand in sending to Rwanda offer those without clean water to bring it closer, cleaner and cheaper.
Roff says, “We know that one in nine people in our world doesn’t have clean water. This is our way of turning that around. These efforts are an essential part of our business. And we want to make sure that our customers understand that they are serving people on the other side of the world when they shop with us. Both on our website and on our packaging, we talk about these efforts.”
Socks and clean water. The two may not appear to have a natural connection, but the founders and owners of BOLDsocks are deeply committed to their mission to improve conditions in Rwanda. When you buy a pair of their socks, either online or in the store, you are helping fund that mission.
Visit them website at www.boldsocks.com and get those orders in today!