Seeing packages in the mail is probably one of the most underrated and exciting things that happen to us in our digital world. You may know them as the guys on Shark Tank that ripped off their pants. Foot Cardigan is a sock subscription that sends you random socks once a month. From holiday themed to socks covered in sushi, be sure to be surprised every time. Their fun, colorful Instagram feed is a small taste of what you will receive. We interviewed the founder of Foot Cardigan, Bryan Deluca, about how the company got to where they are today.
How did Foot Cardigan get started?
We fell in love with the subscription model after seeing that viral Dollar Shave Club video in 2012. Socks are a commodity so we knew we had a shot at having some success within the space if we came at it from a different angle, you know, like a subscription. Et voila!
The ‘fun, crazy, fashion’ sock trend was just getting going, so we kind of were at the right place at the right time. I had a little experience in sourcing so I was able to find our first factories and get that going. But I really loved the idea of taking this historically boring product, like a sock, and making buying/receiving it fun.
What makes your socks different from competitors?
Over the last four years, I think we’ve created our niche within the larger sock industry. Of course I think our product is as good or better than other brands out there, so when you’re competing, you have to make sure there’s just a quality standard there, or people won’t buy your stuff. But beyond that, we’ve really separated ourselves with our design aesthetic. The words ‘whimsical’ and ‘fun’ are probably the most circulated within our design team. But really, it goes beyond the socks. It’s the brand. The tone. It’s unique to our industry.
Describe your subscription service.
Most people don’t think about buying socks until they have to. They’ve got holes in their current ones, so now they’ve got to go to the store to buy new ones. It can be a hassle. But with Foot Cardigan, we give you something you need (socks), and we give you an experience you wouldn’t expect for such an historically mundane product. You get a random pair of fun socks in your mailbox every month. You don’t know what you’re getting until you open the package. That’s one of our customers’ favorite things about us. We make the decision for them, and they get the surprise in their mailbox. No one gets fun mail anymore. And we’re proof that people still crave it.
Tell me about your team.
It’s really a privilege to work with them every day. They work really hard and are really smart. About half our team is operations and customer service and the other half is marketing/web. It’s a good blend of creative people. When I say creative, I don’t mean just the designers. We need every position to be creative, with how we respond to customers and how we ship out socks.
Describe your company culture.
It’s pretty much exactly what you’d expect from us. Meaning, if you’ve been to our site or received our socks and you walked into our office, it would make complete sense to you. A lot of laughing. A lot of energy. Whimsical decor. Every person on our team is empowered to do their jobs. And they’re encouraged if they make mistakes, because when we make mistakes, we learn and get better. We love taking risks. Sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t. We give our team the freedom to think about how to do things better, without the fear of judgement. That matters.
How has being on Shark Tank and HSN affected your business?
The’ve both been really great. Both are experiences that you never expect to happen, but when they do, you’re kind of like ‘WHAT?!?! Did that just happen?’ But yeah, our business greatly benefited from both experiences.
Do you plan on expanding your product line?
I’m so excited about this. Over the last four years, we’ve launched four products. In the next 12 months, we have plans to launch almost double that.
What inspires you?
My family. They are my rock. My three-year old doesn’t care that I was on Shark Tank and she doesn’t care if I had a challenging day at work. She just wants daddy to cuddle her and play Candy Land. That’s really refreshing for me. I thrive off seeing my friends succeed. I have a lot of friends in different industries that are so damn good at what they do. When they have victories, we celebrate, and when they fail, we cry. Being around people who challenge themselves to be the best they can at what they do. That gets me every time.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned so far?
To soak in every single moment of this ride. I find moments every single day to be thankful. I often find myself saying ‘I can’t believe I GET to do this every day.’ Because I’m not guaranteed this will last forever. So I’m going to enjoy it while I can. Tomorrow, the world could decide that socks are terrible inventions and we’re going barefoot, and we’d be done. Unless we made socks that looked like people were barefoot….I’ll be right back….
What are some obstacles you’ve come across?
Growth. While it’s really exciting to be growing, it’s also really challenging. 2/3 of our team have been here less than a year. We’ve had to create things like an organizational structure, training, etc. Navigating inventory management with our model can be tough, but we’re getting there. Oh, and things like at the beginning when we had to figure out how to tell people to buy something that they didn’t know was a thing. That was strange.
What was the proudest moment for Foot Cardigan?
It had to be the first customer who bought a subscription that none of the co-founders knew. We went ballistic over the fact that someone who wasn’t obligated as a friend or family member bought a subscription because they just loved the product. I’ll never forget that.
What is some advice you can give to someone building their own startup?
Get over that fear of failure. I see that the most from people. They work on their thing for a couple years and it never sees the light of day. No one will ever care about your thing as much as you do. We had the idea and launched in 2.5 months. It wasn’t the best first site, but it sold sock subscriptions. We tweaked it from there. So yeah, just get your thing out into the world. Don’t waste time and money building something people don’t want. The sooner you push it out there, the sooner you’ll know if it’s going to work or not. That’s invaluable.