Entrepreneur Bryan DeLuca never envisioned selling funky socks online. The music and apparel industries were more his speed. Eventually he discovered that he had a knack for business development but it was a trip with his wife to Europe that led him to the idea behind his successful startup, Foot Cardigan.
Two weeks into a three-month trip, DeLuca ran out of socks. After ducking into a store and purchasing some wildly patterned new ones to last him through his journey, they remained a part of his wardrobe. Curious looks, plenty of compliments and no shortage of questions followed, and a new small business ecommerce site was born. He started a sock subscription service.
Putting a Sock in Small Business Ecommerce
Online home delivery subscription services are all the rage now. Consumers can subscribe to razors at the Dollar Shave Club, eco-friendly diapers at The Honest Company and flower arrangements at H.Bloom. Chances are that if there's a product that you need (or want) on a regular basis, there's an online subscription service that provides it.
Each month, Foot Cardigan's customers get a new pair of socks delivered to their doorsteps, but with a twist. As the company boasts on its website, it "delivers one random pair of crazy socks to your mailbox every month." (An eye-catching ninja pattern currently adorns the homepage.)
How is this strategy working out? DeLuca told Small Business Computing that his company is "doing really well, on pace for a really good year." Founded just last year and completely bootstrapped, appropriately enough, the company is already approaching 2,000 subscribers. Consisting of five partners and one full-time employee, the outfit is already profitable and "everything we make is put back into the company," he added.
Dallas, Texas-based Foot Cardigan is a study in taking chances on a fresh new idea but also testing it thoroughly. "I subscribe to this philosophy that we don't want to put time and money behind something that people don't really want," said DeLuca.
His team carefully weighed the novelty of a surprise set of socks each month and the value consumers would place on a monthly dose of mystery. They settled on an affordable $11 per month for premium socks with attention grabbing designs.
Another secret to the company's success: originality. Foot Cardigan's designs are exclusive to the company. "Our stuff is unique, our designs are our own," said DeLuca.
Even the site's name took months of testing to settle on. Three fully-functional and largely identical sites (except for the URL and brand) were spun up. Customers were overwhelmingly attracted to Foot Cardigan.
And they're just as likely to buy gift subscriptions as they are to purchase socks for themselves. Currently, there's a roughly 50/50 split between gift and conventional subscriptions. DeLuca and his team initially expected 75 percent of its customers to subscribe for themselves.
In the quirky spirit of the company and its founders, customers lavish some cheeky and chuckle-worthy praise on social media. Among the "testimonials" featured on the homepage are gems like the following from @VesicasSplendor, "I love socks AND cardigans. I'm also pretty partial to randomness. This is kinda perfect."
Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Small Business Computing. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.
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