In our brand spotlight, we feature Abound brands who are ready for retail. This week we sat down with Seth Mason, owner of Seth’s Socks. Seth’s Socks sells customized socks, is based in Cresson, Pennsylvania, and has been in business for six years.
Robin: Why did you decide to start this business? Why this business and not a different one?
Seth: I was always into socks and my mom would always get me crazy colored ones. When I was 15, customized Nike Elite socks were starting to become a trend and I wanted a pair for Christmas. Back then, a pair of socks were going for $40! My mom ended up caving in and getting them for me.
Unfortunately, the quality of print on the socks wasn’t very good at all. So I convinced my parents that we could make these socks even better. I sold my first pair for $53 on eBay. After that, the socks just made sense for me to continue to pursue!
R: How did you make your first prototype? What changes have you made since then?
S: I made the first prototype in my parent’s garage when I was 15. I remember they were a Jordan brand sock and the design was yellow with these red flames on them. They were awful looking but the process of customizing the socks was figured out. Since then, I have gained experience with design creation and also reinventing the process. My dad made some custom materials to improve the quality of the process!
R: How do you make your product? Yourself? A manufacturer? What’s your process like?
S: Each sock is printed by myself, my dad or my friends. It’s a few step process. First, printing the design out of a machine then prepping it to be printed on the socks. Then each sock has to individually printed with the process taking about 2-3 minutes. Then the socks get tagged and ready for shipment.
R: What’s your day to day like? Do you have any favorite and least favorite parts?
S: Each order I receive ships out in 2-3 business days. So each day I’m printing and shipping out orders. My favorite part of the process is getting the socks in the envelopes to be shipped. Seeing my socks being shipped to Australia, France, Germany, Hong Kong and more is crazy to think about!
R: What was your initial investment? How did you get the money?
S: My parents supported my idea from the beginning and bought the equipment needed to continue to grow the business. At age 16, I don’t think I would have had any other opportunity to get that initial money. So I’m very thankful to my parents for believing in me!
R: Do you have a favorite sock?
S: My favorite sock is the PB&J design.
R: Where was the first place you sold your product?
S: eBay was the first platform I began to sell on. This was before the Amazon boom so eBay was still a great platform to sell on.
R: Where do you sell your product now?
S: Amazon, Wal-Mart.com, Etsy and my website.
R: Where would you love to sell your products in the future?
S: I’d love to sell my products in unique independent stores and retail chains like Wal-Mart, Target, and TJ Maxx. My ultimate goal would be to work with the E-sports industry and create officially licensed product for individual games!
R: What’s your marketing like? Is social media an important part of your business? If so, how?
S: Up until last year, I spent $0 on advertising. I was early enough in the market that I captured much of the market share due to my volume approach. I only had 3-4 competitors back in 2013, now there are hundreds so marketing is a must! I have a team dedicated to making social media posts, advertising on Facebook/Instagram and managing the website.
R: What are some of the most frustrating challenges and/or moments you’ve had with Seth’s Socks?
S: Working with an overseas manufacturer was by far the most frustrating. Not being able to really control and manage quality control was an issue I had with two manufacturers. One order would be great and the quality was top notch. Then I’d reorder and find out they were using cheaper materials and the result was low quality socks.
R: Do you still use a manufacturer? What advice would you give to people trying to find and use a manufacturer?
S: I still do use a manufacturer! My advice to anyone looking for a manufacturer is to request product samples from multiple manufacturers. Make sure to judge how fast they respond, how fast they ship and cost, and the most important, quality.
R: What are some of your greatest achievements and victories you’ve had with Seth’s Socks?
S: Working with a 2012 Olympic Silver Medalist, Manteo Mitchell, General Mills and Frito-Lay. All three were a great experience and I still talk to Manteo to this day.
R: What advice do you have for people who want to sell a product?
S: Make sure you have a reason to sell that product other than for money. Seeing the amount of lives you can impact with a single product still amazes me. I have parents and grandparents coming up to me after purchasing my socks saying, “My son/daughter wore your socks to school and they said all of their teachers and friends kept asking where they got these crazy socks! They are excited to wear them all the time.”
A pair of socks brightens kids’ days and also makes them unique and stand out! Simply amazing to me and that’s the exact reason I wore crazy socks.
R: Is there any business advice or quotes you’ve heard that you think about often?
S: “Your present circumstances don’t determine where you can go; they merely determine where you start.”
I emphasize this the most. Businesses that I have created have all started out with little to no cost. Out of my parent’s garage, my college apartment for my E-sports business. You don’t need a fancy, state of the art setup to get started! Don’t let the excuse be that you don’t have enough resources!
“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”
I’ve failed many times in my career so far but I’ve learned to embrace it and learn from it. It’s part of being a business owner and an entrepreneur. I like to use Amazon’s 5 year stock market chart for an example. Amazon had some crashes but it consistently trended up. Failure is just part of the job!
R: What’s your favorite thing about being a business owner?
S: The freedom it allows me is a big thing! Also, waking up and getting an email from a big name or company is a thrill in itself. It gives me something to look forward to everyday because I never know who may reach out or find me!
My favorite is again seeing and reading reviews about my products and how they excite and impact lives all around the world. There’s no better feeling than that!