Think about the typical business look for men – what comes to mind immediately? You’ll only find a trendy, tailored triple-breasted suit in creative branches, if at all: The typical business look is a symphony in grey. A young Canadian start-up recently concluded a successful crowdfunding campaign in their quest to add a little colour to men’s feet at least. We spoke to Lauren Ng, one of the two founders of the firm.
When you started Sockzi, your aim was to found a business that would have a positive impact. Why did you end up producing socks?
I ended up with socks because socks are like ties: they give the individual a small outlet of expression. This is especially true for people working in the corporate workforce who are often restricted by dress codes. With the tie slowly disappearing, socks are the next closest source of expression.
Sockzi is not the first company to sell socks. Why should I buy Sockzi socks?
What makes Sockzi special is that from design to production to sales, we try to positively impact the community. Our socks are produced by a sweatshop-free supplier, and we donate to children’s charities for each pair we sell. The designs are inspired by the city Toronto. Toronto is a very special place for me because it is so multicultural, and there are many people that are willing to help others.
How does Sockzi fulfil your goal to have a positive impact?
I think the biggest part of creating a positive impact is sweatshop-free production and helping children’s charities. As a child, I didn't have the opportunity to join sports leagues, and I don’t want to see other kids to miss out and regret it. One of the charities that we want to donate to provides kids with equipment for playing sports. Apart from that, we guarantee that our socks are produced in a fair manner and that all employees on the production site are treated well.
"Toronto is a very special place for me because it is so multicultural, and many people are willing to help others."
How much of the returns will be donated to the charities?
We will be starting off by donating a small percentage of roughly 5% per sock. As we grow, we plan on increasing that.
You recently resigned from your job to pursue Sockzi full-time. Why did you take this step?
The main reason I took the plunge was that I wanted to create a product that would impact the community, and I wasn't able to do that in my corporate role. On top of that, I come from a family with a small-business background, so I’ve been around that environment since I was young. Nevertheless, taking the plunge was definitely hard because of all the uncertainty that I knew I was going to face.
Sweatshop-free production is very important to you. How did you achieve doing that?
We ended up producing the socks in Taiwan in a factory that is run by a family who treats their employees like family and have a good working culture. As it is located in a small town, most people who work there are related. We chose this over a factory in China that had a sweatshop like environment.
How did you get in touch with this factory?
We found it through help from a friend’s parents who were in business in Taiwan. We used online sites like global sources to locate our factory and then had our friend’s parents guide us with investigating that the factory was legitimate. Without help, the confirmation process would have taken much longer.
Tracing the entire production chain for textiles has proven very difficult even for huge international companies. How do you make sure your socks are produced according to your social and qualitative requirements?
We will have to continuously monitor that. It’s about visiting the factory and talking to not just the owners, but the people who work there to get a feel of how much they enjoy working there. I recently visited the factory to see it first-hand and test out the socks. Our goal is to visit the factory multiple times a year to create strong relationships with the factory and to monitor the quantity. Because the factory has been in business for over 35 years, their skills are top-notch. This has really made it easier. ?
What other challenges have you faced?
Other challenges include creating awareness for our product because there are many sock companies out there like you said. But we recently successfully finished our Kickstarter campaign. Once our socks have been sent out to our first supporters, our quality and fun designs will speak for themselves and really create a word-of-mouth effect.
You create all the designs yourselves in Toronto. Which design do you personally like most?
My favourite design is the clouds design right now because I loved to daydream when I worked in a corporate environment. It really gave me a way out of the stressful corporate work-life (especially during times with a lot of deadlines). ?
"My favourite design is the clouds design because I loved to daydream when I worked in a corporate environment."
What has the best day in Sockzi’s life been so far?
The best day in Sockzi’s life was when our Kickstarter was successfully funded. It confirmed that our hard work really paid off. The community really liked the product that we were bringing out, which means we will be able to help the local kids’ charities.