Two Students Find Startup Success Selling Socks

Two college buddies in high-tech Seattle are striking it rich in the very low-tech industry of socks.

Yes, socks. Jake Director and Riley Goodman (pictured) make crew socks with stripes that feature the skylines of U.S. cities. They run their company, Strideline, from their frat house at the University of Washington.

With no prior experience, the pair invested $700 each in 2009, their senior year in high school. They found a manufacturer in Istanbul by sending a mass email to manufacturers all over the world — and ran into some Customs problems — but quickly solved them and went on to sell out their first run of 1,000 socks in just three weeks.

“As we learned more, [we realized that] it’s such a miracle these socks came, because we didn’t know anything about the manufacturing process,” Director says. “We just sent out the money via Western Union. The guy probably should have just taken it.”

U.S. Customs Call During Social Studies

But he didn’t. When the socks arrived in the U.S., however, they didn’t just show up on Goodman’s doorstep like he thought they would. Instead, Director received a phone call during his third-period social studies class, asking him for the necessary paperwork to clear customs. After filling out the necessary forms, the pair found themselves with their first 1,000 socks.

Sales increased fivefold over the past year, growing to some $640,000 in 2012, Director says. The partners project sales to grow to $2 million or $3 million this year, thanks to retailer Lids, which now distributes Strideline socks nationally. Strideline currently offers city socks for Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, St. Louis, Seattle, and Portland, Ore. More designs are slated to launch later this year, he says.

Why socks? The pair had thought about starting a business since they were in third grade. After a lacrosse teammate’s car accident, they decided life was too short to wait until they were older. They considered clothing for each part of the body, working from head to toe, and came up with crew socks emblazoned with the Seattle skyline.

No Business Experience? No Problem!

With no real business experience, Director and Goodman filed their initial paperwork with the help of a business consultant — not from their parents, they say. (Goodman’s dad is in construction development, and his mom is a horticulturist; Director’s dad is a CFO, and his mom has worked in finance, too.) Yet the duo did all of the early work themselves, including idea conception, product design, sourcing, accounting, sales, and marketing.

Goodman and Director’s only retail and business experience?  “We both worked at a lacrosse retail store throughout high school,” Goodman says. “In college, I held a job as a server at a local pizza restaurant, and Jake was the head lacrosse coach at Bishop Blanchet High School in Seattle through last season.”

As the business grew and they began selling online, Goodman’s mom handled shipping out of his old bedroom, and the partners stored boxes of socks in their parents’ garages.

Skipping School for Manufacturing Trips 

Director and Goodman, both 22, are now seniors in the Foster School of Business. Running Strideline while attending college presents a few problems. “Our professors have been very understanding, but missing three weeks of school to travel to China definitely presents its challenges,” Director says, adding that they both plan to finish school after a fifth year of studies.

To make managing their workloads a bit easier in 2012, they divided up their duties: Goodman focuses on sales and marketing, and Director handles operations and sourcing.  They’ve also hired various part-time employees, such as an accountant, a design specialist, a customer-service manager, and a social media manager.

“We will add staff if we find that we can’t handle the volume of business ourselves,” Goodman says. “[But] our goal is to continue to keep our overhead as low as possible for the next couple of years.”

Their next learning experience will be navigating the ins and outs of renting office space. They plan to move later this year.

About M. Sharon Baker

Veteran freelance business writer M. Sharon Baker creates compelling content that helps companies connect with customers. She's also a freelance journalist and blogs at Every Word Counts.
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435 comments
ArthurCunningham
ArthurCunningham

Wow this is a great article. That just goes to show that you can turn small possibilities into a huge oppotunity. I love hearing success stories of other enterprising people, very inspiring I must say. I took a advatage of a oppotunity as well and turning it into something great. Check it out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JCIhVnUKbAk

Troybd
Troybd

Director and Goodman, both 22, are now seniors in the Foster School of Business. Running Strideline while attending college presents a few problems. “Our professors have been very understanding, but missing three weeks of school to travel to China definitely presents its challenges,” Director says, adding that they both plan to finish school after a fifth year of studies. Read more:http://www.diybizvaluation.com

Brian Kalakie
Brian Kalakie

hire the least amount of people as possible...employees are your worst enemy in business and the most costly. Also, take the time to hire the "right" person for the job. Outsourcing is the best method for them at this point

Joyce Bartel
Joyce Bartel

..."Share" ~ then care, as to those who can spread the news & sell/advertise/promote. (y) Best to you in this effort! :-)

Jeff Whiting
Jeff Whiting

Hiring is now the most important thing you do!!

Beth Rogers
Beth Rogers

I disagree with Michael. Seniors ARE found!! They have already BEEN made!! And the best part since Obama took office??? They only WANT part time, as they are on Medicare and they can only work so many hours a year. So, I think you jave the best of both worlds there. They are very knowledgeable, and take their work seriously, so they show up on time, do a good job, and actually enjoy what they are doing!!! Seniors are a GREAT resource this country tends to push to the side. Search them out! hit the Senior Centers with ads for their community bulletin boards! Free advertising is a plus too!!!!!

Tammy Reed
Tammy Reed

Set your goals high and trust your instinct. Love people and enjoy your own business!

Chrisjon Hill
Chrisjon Hill

That, and I hope revenue is your number on concern.

Chrisjon Hill
Chrisjon Hill

Don't hire anyone that won't cause or satisfy a minimum of 3X their pay, within 30 days.

Rose Millar
Rose Millar

i sure could use a job to supplement my fixed income im a good dependaple worker

Henry A. Vollenweider Jr.
Henry A. Vollenweider Jr.

I remember a guy when I was in College who has said he was going to have a company with that Name/Intuit/In to It/Amen/Aloha

Nancy S Bollinger
Nancy S Bollinger

Just remember there are many individuals who cannot for one reason or another work full time and they need to be given a chance to work. I am, of course, speaking of individuals who are disabled. Unfortunately many of our disabled work for a pittance and little respect. They need the opportunity to move up and forward, not be kept leased to a $2.30 an hour pittance.

Jeremiah Consistantly Ballin
Jeremiah Consistantly Ballin

Motor Club of America is 100% Legitimate work from home opportunity. Turn a $40 investment into a start, into a payment of $80-$800 every week. Text 3134565773 or Email: jeremiah.smith15@gmail.com

Mary F McKenna
Mary F McKenna

The best advice I can give when hiring is to hire people who want to see your company be successful & love your concept!!! Hire people who will love what they can do to keep your business growing & want to work & love to go to work!!! It might not be easy to find those people but all around it will make for gr8 relations & a recipe for success!!! Wishing you all the best !!! :)

Susan Cantrell
Susan Cantrell

Whoever you hire make sure their drug free & trustworthy.

Mary Beth Kennedy
Mary Beth Kennedy

so true i just got out in 2011 for 1st and 2nd the first one war np went down 4 the second one and i cnt find a job any where

Ruthy Clarfield
Ruthy Clarfield

This message is for anyone interested in working from home and making good money... I work from home and love it so I thought I would introduce you to it. The job I do does not require you to buy a packet, sell anything or ship anything. I work part time and make a great income from it. If you want to work from home and want more information please ADD ME AS A FRIEND and then message me. USA, UK AND CANADA ONLY!

Larry Meeks
Larry Meeks

Debbie Casey, below me, makes a great statement , and gives a damn about others that are just dropped off at the curb.. :) ty sweetheart ,you rock ! :)

Corri Bischer
Corri Bischer

I would definitely hire seniors. You could not have said this better, Debbie.

Corri Bischer
Corri Bischer

Get a great training program in place and then offer internships for things like marketing, promotions, community development because you will get great ideas that may last longer than the internship or even allow the finances to create a position.

Sarah Hutchinson
Sarah Hutchinson

Get ahold of me if you do hire..I am looking for something better than what I am doing now..Thanks, sarah

Cathy Shea
Cathy Shea

Careful, no friends and no family .. Too hard of things go wrong and it will

Kristi Nelson
Kristi Nelson

Schedule interviews all on one day. I have the best luck with the 40 and over group! They are my best and most dependable workers!!

Sunnie Dannielle O'Neal
Sunnie Dannielle O'Neal

File a grant online for small business & it allows you to hire employees. That's the next step I am taking as a small business owner. There are over 1,200 grant you can apply for.

Ramona C Scott
Ramona C Scott

hiring some one that has not work before so you can teach them about work and life

Bob George
Bob George

contract it out , spend your time marketing

Justine Conteh
Justine Conteh

I'm always on line so I found out how to make money on line...if you want more info send me a friend request first then send me a message....

Terri Haremski Seeger
Terri Haremski Seeger

Manufacture your product with American made materials in America with American workers!

Nolan Bennett
Nolan Bennett

I agree, seniors have the knowledge, just need a place to use it.

Marta A. Sloane
Marta A. Sloane

Please make socks for people with average or larger feet, we don't all have feet or legs the same size as 8 year olds..