(Reuters) — After successfully raising $140,000 on the crowdfunding site Indiegogo, Bombas Socks shipped the first of their product to customers. Bombas, the Warby Parker or TOMS Shoes of socks, is based on a simple idea: one pair purchased equals one pair donated. In this case, Bombas donates to homeless shelters that are in massive need of socks.
We caught up with one of the co-founders, Randy Goldberg, over email. We asked him about starting the company with David Heath, running a successful crowdfunding campaign and bringing a product to market and conscious consumerism.
First off, tell us about how the Bombas idea – one pair purchased for one pair donated – came about? It seems so straightforward, I’m a little shocked no one else had tried it.
The idea for the company came from a quote we saw in 2010. The Salvation Army was doing a massive sock drive on Facebook with Hanes, and they were quoted saying “socks are oftentimes the most requested clothing item at homeless shelters.” That stuck with us. Socks went from an afterthought to something we thought about all the time. We had never thought about the fact that no one donates socks–they just wear through them and throw them out. It’s also rare that someone in need has a chance to change their socks. So we quickly realized the one-for-one model popularized by Tom’s Shoes really made sense for socks.
Do you have any tips or lessons you learned about running a crowdfunding campaign? Especially with Indiegogo? Did your plan (incentives, etc.) going into it change over time as donations came in?
I think we were able to raise over $140,000 because we treated the campaign like the beginning of a business, not just a one time campaign. Customer service is at the center of our company, and it was a big part of the campaign from the beginning. We responded to every comment and inquiry on Indiegogo, and we created new ways to keep our supporters and early evangelists involved on a week by week basis. We waited to launch the campaign until we felt we had our voice and story fine tuned. And then we kept things interesting by adding new goals, images, art, and mini campaigns along the way. For us, the key was keeping the energy up, attention to detail, and the support we got from our friends, Indiegogo, and our early supporters.
Did the campaign meet your expectations?
The campaign exceeded our expectations. Beyond raising money, we were able to connect to our customers directly, learn what they responded well to in our messaging, art, and overall vibe, and prepare for the launch of our ecommerce site. The Indiegogo audience was the perfect place to introduce Bombas to the world.
Tell us about the organization you partnered with to donate socks. Was it hard to find them?
Hannah’s Socks’ sole mission is to distribute socks to those in need throughout the U.S. We found Hannah’s and immediately liked their approach, attitude and that they were a U.S.-based charity. We wanted to really focus on solving a problem in our own country. For every pair of Bombas we sell, we’ll be donating a pair to someone in need. Hannah’s has a goal of handing out 225,000 pairs of socks this year, and we’ve already committed to donating over 30,000 pairs of socks based on our early support on Indiegogo and BombasSocks.com. We want to help solve this issue.
How long from idea to inception? Tell us about the design/prototype process?
Two years from idea to launch. Getting the product right was everything for us. We knew we couldn’t just make another bland tube sock. Our technical advisor is the former president of Gold Toe Socks. He helped us re-engineer the sock from the toe seam up, find an ethical factory partner with real fit-tech chops, and create what we’re calling athletic leisure socks. They’re built for athletes–made with pima cotton, soft but not thick, warm in the winter, cool in the summer, and they wick moisture naturally. And on the design side, we realized socks haven’t changed much in the last 30 years while athletic shoes have gone crazy in a good way. Bombas are bright, fun, and look good with your flyknits. We’re a bit obsessed with our own socks…
Any lessons for other entrepreneurs on, say, sourcing materials? Finding a factory? Fulfillment, etc?
I think the biggest lesson is that there’s not really room for compromise if you believe in your product. We wanted to make an athletic sock that felt like it cost upwards of twenty dollars, we wanted to give away a pair of socks for every pair we produced, and we wanted to keep the price under ten dollars. So we had to look at dozens of factories to find the right fit. We had to talk to multiple fulfillment partners. We had to test over and over again. It took a lot of R&D, a few left turns, and some tough decisions, but we’re proud of the end product.
Finally, what’s next for Bombas? Will we see Bombas in stores?
Total sock domination… Haha. Right now we’re focused on building the brand, selling our calf and ankle socks on BombasSocks.com, working with our charity partners, and concepting new designs. Bombas are in one store and one store only right now: BombasSocks.com. But that may change in the future…