How We Bootstrapped A $720K/Yr Sock And Attire Firm That

Posted on

Hi there! Who’re you and what enterprise did you begin?

Hippy Toes is a Minneapolis-based sock and attire firm devoted to supporting the homeless group. Every product bought permits Hippy Toes to supply transitional employment to younger folks ages 16-24 who’re experiencing homelessness.

Hippy Toes creates jobs for homeless youth through their packaging, choose & pack order achievement, product meeting, screenprinting, and embroidery operations. Hippy Toes’s present employment program is a 6-month job readiness program hosted at its Minneapolis workplace. Contributors of this system are supplied employment for a mean of 15-20 hours per week throughout Q1-Q3 and as much as 30 hours per week throughout This fall.

By strategically partnering with native non-profits, Hippy Toes can establish its employees and be certain that their employment efforts are occurring in a protected, handy, and acquainted surroundings that overlooks the standard boundaries that restrict homeless youth from discovering constant types of employment. Hippy Toes’s purpose isn’t to be a endlessly employer for younger folks affected by homelessness. As a substitute, they goal to supply earnings, alternative, job coaching, and giving in a method that’s each earned and respects human dignity.

The long-term purpose for Hippy Toes is to play a pivotal position in positioning younger folks into steady housing and transition them into full-time employment elsewhere. Since adopting an employment mannequin halfway by means of 2018, Hippy Toes has created jobs for 160+ people and supplied greater than 5,100 hours of employment in complete.

Hippy Toes is dedicated to creating all of its socks and attire merchandise in america and with environmentally pleasant supplies and practices. Each pair of Hippy Toes socks is manufactured in North Carolina utilizing sustainable supplies similar to recycled cotton, recycled polyester, and natural cotton.

The recycled yarns utilized in Hippy Toes merchandise are sourced from a recycling facility in Spain that takes pre-existing supplies similar to T-shirt trimmings and textile waste and turns them into upcycled yarns. This course of makes use of 99% much less water than rising new cotton requires and eliminates the necessity to add synthetic dyes and harsh chemical substances to the completed product.

Hippy Toes is in a progress section of its enterprise, having grown 2020 income 156% over 2019, and 2021 income is at the moment projected to exceed 2020’s by 56%. Future projections present Hippy Toes holding tempo with the 50-100% progress 12 months over 12 months.


What’s your backstory and the way did you provide you with the thought?

Hippy Toes was a enterprise that I based throughout my time in faculty on the College of Wisconsin, River Falls. On October fifth, 2016, throughout the fall semester of my senior 12 months, I suffered a traumatic mind harm after taking a fall from my longboard and touchdown face-first on the chilly exhausting concrete. This harm compelled me to drop out of college (for the 2nd time) and left me unable to work and supply for myself.

In the course of the 3 months of restoration that adopted my accident, my household stepped as much as pay my hire and purchase my groceries. My buddies would take turns driving me to physician’s appointments, working my errands, and taking me for walks, simply in order that I might preserve some semblance of social life. I noticed that, with out this help group, homelessness would have been my most definitely end result.

I used to be amazed that such a horrible end result might occur to anybody with out the correct help programs or backup plans in place. I felt extremely privileged and fortunate to have folks in my life who had been keen to step as much as assist me throughout my time of disaster. This realization impressed me to begin a enterprise that would act as a help group for people experiencing homelessness who weren’t as lucky as I used to be throughout their biggest second of want. This was the place the thought for Hippy Toes was born.

I spent nearly all of my months in restoration creating a marketing strategy for Hippy Toes; a purchase one provides one socks donation firm that may donate a pair of socks to an individual experiencing homelessness, for each pair that’s bought. After my docs gave me the go-ahead to return to work and lessons, I took my marketing strategy to one among my professors, telling her it was my purpose to finish 30 credit within the Spring Semester, all whereas creating my new enterprise concept.

Whereas admitting that it was a near-impossible feat, my professor gave me permission to take all 30 credit and linked me with an on-campus enterprise mannequin competitors to additional develop and doubtlessly fund my new concept. Of the 2 contestants within the on-campus competitors, I positioned 2nd, however fortunately it was sufficient to qualify for the state enterprise mannequin competitors in Madison, WI, that April. With the extra time to refine my pitch, I used to be in a position to win first place on the Wisconsin Large Concept Event and take house the $22,500 prize in seed funding.

After commencement from faculty that Might, I took that money, referred to as a pal of a pal who’s now my enterprise companion of 5+ years, and the 2 of us set to work on launching Hippy Toes, the previously purchase one give one socks firm.


Take us by means of the method of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.

Whereas $22,500 gave the impression of some huge cash on the time, my new enterprise companion and Co-Founder, Sam Harper, realized in a short time that we had been the definition of a lean enterprise.

Fortunately, my background in faculty was in lean enterprise fashions, so we knew find out how to get scrappy. The issue was, we couldn’t get a single socks producer to take a few bright-eyed latest faculty grads significantly. It wasn’t till August of 2016 that we lastly had been in a position to persuade a hosiery mill to take an opportunity on us, and the one method we had been in a position to take action was by displaying up at their entrance door.

After being rejected by each producer that we spoke with, Sam had the thought to inform the subsequent one which we had been going to e-book a flight to return go to their amenities and design our first assortment. 12 hours after getting off the telephone with the subsequent producer on our record, I used to be on a aircraft to North Carolina. 12 hours later, I used to be again in Minneapolis with the primary 6 pairs of our assortment designed and in line for manufacturing. The humorous factor about our first assortment is that these are nonetheless a few of the best-selling socks that we’ve ever created.

Now that we had our manufacture lined up, Hippy Toes was able to launch, and on September thirteenth of 2016, we did simply that.


Describe the method of launching the enterprise.

Hippy Toes’s launch was as gentle as they get. We didn’t also have a web site at the moment and had been merely elevating consciousness about our firm and our mission. We started promoting merchandise at native festivals & festivals as a approach to earn money circulation for the upcoming vacation season. On the time, we knew that we would have liked to be absolutely launched earlier than the vacation. In any other case, we wouldn’t be capable to earn sufficient money to proceed.

Fortunately, we had our web site up and working by November 2nd and had been in a position to begin driving site visitors & eCommerce gross sales. Admittedly, nearly all of our income in our first 2 years got here from in-person gross sales occasions. Whereas these occasions had been exhausting & time-intensive, they not solely made us cash, however they gave us the chance to talk nose to nose with our prospects.

This facetime turned out to be invaluable as we had been in a position to take our prospects’ enter and apply that to our future merchandise and advertising and marketing efforts. These conversations allowed us to study who our goal demographic was and make changes to our enterprise to satisfy their wants.

Moreover, these in-person occasions allowed us to money circulation Hippy Toes till we had been in a position to determine our promoting and media shopping for efforts to drive income by means of our web site. These early conversations nonetheless assist inform us on who our buyer is and find out how to goal them by means of paid promoting on social media.

Right this moment, Hippy Toes continues to be a self-funded enterprise. We leveraged a line of credit score to offset a few of our seasonality and took a small reduction mortgage at first of the pandemic, however outdoors of that, we’ve been in a position to develop solely off money circulation.


Since launch, what has labored to draw and retain prospects?

Hippy Toes has been in a position to maintain progress for a number of causes. Traditionally, our income has come from 2 channels, our eCommerce enterprise does a lot of the heavy lifting today, however the the rest comes from B2B gross sales efforts, particularly, creating customized socks for different organizations.

We have now a novel means to create customized branded socks for organizations to make use of as presents or promotional merchandise. Whereas branded socks are a typical promotional product, our prospects buy from us understanding that their partnership creates employment for homeless youth and due to the sustainable supplies that we create our socks with. When in comparison with different socks suppliers within the business, Hippy Toes’s are thought of a premium as a result of these distinctive worth propositions.

On the eCommerce facet of issues, Hippy Toes’s success comes from fixed testing of advert varieties, creativity, and buyer demographics. We’re consistently working roughly 40 advertisements at a time, and reallocate our advertising and marketing finances to those which are performing the very best.

Because of the seasonality of socks gross sales, Hippy Toes spends nearly all of our promoting finances within the 4th quarter when socks gross sales peak. This seasonality nonetheless, was a problem for us throughout the spring and summer season months when socks are a much less fascinating merchandise. This seasonality was a problem to beat as a result of it restricted the amount of money that we needed to carry into our busy season.

Via 2019, we’d get to October feeling extremely money strapped, which in fact impacted how a lot stock we had been in a position to order and restricted our advertising and marketing finances. With a weak money place going into our busiest months, we struggled to make the most of the enterprise of the vacation season. We felt that we had been lacking out on income just because we had been restricted by the quantity of stock we had been in a position to buy and the {dollars} that we had been in a position to spend on advertisements.

To offset this seasonality, we launched new merchandise that had much less seasonality or no less than the other seasonality of socks. Most new product efforts similar to generic attire (shirts, shorts, and so forth.) weren’t driving sufficient income to maintain up with our money circulation wants.

We didn’t truly discover the profitable product till April of 2020, once we launched our Hippy Friendship Bracelets – a beaded jewellery merchandise made solely by hand by younger folks affected by homelessness. This product not solely was a year-round well-liked merchandise, nevertheless it additionally allowed us to alter the messaging round our mission when buying advertisements.

Reasonably than telling our prospects that “every buy of Hippy Toes socks creates employment for homeless youth” we had been in a position to market the Friendship Bracelets as “Each bracelet is handmade by a homeless younger individual.” This small change to our copy appeared to land with our prospects, and this bracelet advert continues to be one among our top-performing advertisements of all time. Right this moment, our Hippy Toes Friendship Bracelets are our prime promoting product Might-August and a prime 5 revenue-producing product even within the 4th quarter.


In my view, the one most impactful resolution that Hippy Toes has made that has led to additional progress & buyer retention was the pivot away from our Purchase One, Give One socks donation mannequin. Initially of 2019, Hippy Toes had donated 20,000 pairs of socks. Whereas my enterprise companion Sam, and I had been pleased with this accomplishment, one thing did not really feel genuine.

Once we got down to launch this enterprise, our purpose was to be a help system for folk affected by homelessness. What we had been truly doing at the moment, was merely freely giving socks. Positive, socks are probably the most requested gadgets at homeless shelters, however we seen that as a symptom of homelessness and nothing extra.

By giving somebody a pair of socks, had been we having a measurable influence on their life? Or had been we merely slapping a bandaid and an extremely complicated concern. Sam and I made a decision on that latter, and knew that we would have liked to alter our mission to remain genuine to our authentic aspirations.

That is why, firstly 2019, Hippy Toes solely deserted the BOGO mannequin, and made a pivot to our mission. From that time ahead, Hippy Toes’s mission was to supply alternative and employment to younger folks ages 16-24 who’re experiencing homelessness.

Our logic – giving somebody a job, is rather more impactful than simply giving them a brand new pair of socks. We noticed the real-life influence of constructing this transformation virtually instantly. Right this moment, there are younger people who’re not experiencing homelessness who credit score Hippy Toes’s employment program for taking part in a significant position of their success story.

Not solely was this pivot made to be extra genuine to our authentic purpose of being a help group for homeless people, it was additionally a choice that allowed us to separate us from our competitors. Bombas is an organization that I’m certain most Individuals are aware of at this level. Shark Tank’s success has gone on to lift a number of hundred million {dollars} and is now one of many largest socks corporations on the earth. They launched on a purchase one give one donation mannequin and nonetheless function with this mannequin at present. Since their launch in 2013, they’ve given away over 50 million merchandise to homeless folks. With solely 4 million folks experiencing homelessness within the US, that is greater than 10 gadgets for every individual.

There’s no method that Hippy Toes was going to compete with numbers similar to this, so we knew that we would have liked to make a change to our mission because of this as effectively. Now we are able to actually defend the concept that Hippy Toes’s mission to make use of homeless younger people has a deeper influence on a person stage than donating tens of millions of merchandise has. Homeless people will at all times want donated gadgets. But when these similar folks got job alternatives, then they’ve an opportunity to interrupt the cycle of homelessness, discover sufficiency on their very own, and would not must depend on donations simply to outlive.


How are you doing at present and what does the long run seem like?

Right this moment, Hippy Toes is in a progress section. YoY progress from 2019 to 2020 was 156% and YoY income progress from 2020 to 2021 is on monitor to be 50-60%. This progress has primarily been sustained by our eCommerce enterprise, particularly by working advertisements on Fb and Instagram. This advert platform will proceed to be our essential promoting platform, although we will likely be increasing our advertisements to TikTok in 2022. In the course of the holidays season, Hippy Toes’s common ROAS has fluctuated from 2 – 3.1 throughout the 4th quarter for our top-funnel efforts. For retention efforts, our ROAS will likely be as excessive as 6 or 7.

Along with rising our income, Hippy Toes’s buyer record has considerably grown as effectively. Our social media following grew from 10k to 20k on Instagram alone in 2021. Our e mail record has grown from 6,000 members to 12,000 members in 2021 additionally. Via December tenth, 2022, Hippy Toes has pushed 116,437 distinctive guests to our web site, which is up by 74% from the identical interval in 2020. Via this similar interval, our AOV is $68.03, our conversion charge is at 2.73%, and our returning buyer charge is at 12.36%, which is a 3% enhance over 2020.

Via December tenth of 2021, we’ve seen an 88% enhance to our ecommerce gross sales, a 76% enhance to our B2B gross sales, a 49% enhance in site visitors, a 6% enhance to AOV, and a 26% enhance to our returning buyer charge.

For 2022, Hippy Toes’s purpose is to extend income by 100%. We undertaking this will likely be completed primarily by means of our eCommerce channel, although we will likely be making an attempt to land an enormous field retailer in 2022 which might account for a good portion of the aforementioned progress. Shops similar to Goal, REI, Macy’s Dillard’s, and Nordstrom have all been recognized as an excellent match for our merchandise & worth level and our purpose is to have gadgets in no less than one among these shops by October of 2022.

Beginning a enterprise is frightening and comes with plenty of threat, however I promise the danger is price it. Even if you happen to fail, and imagine me most individuals do, the danger may have been price it for the experience and perception you acquire alone


Via beginning the enterprise, have you ever realized something notably useful or advantageous?

One of many essential classes realized by launching this enterprise is the significance of staying lean & nimble. With out funding, Hippy Toes has relied on money circulation to scale. This implies we have to make extremely effectively knowledgeable selections in terms of the place we’re going to spend our cash. We take a look at typically, and attempt to fail quick & fail small. We’ve made pivots to our product, to our mission, and to our advertising and marketing efforts to maintain up with the wants of our prospects and the ever-changing promoting business.

Let’s be trustworthy, the digital promoting business isn’t what it was once. Again in 2012-2014, natural income was potential to drive on social media channels alone. In these ecomm “glory days” it wasn’t extraordinary to earn an 11+ ROAS on digital advertisements on Fb or Instagram, however these corporations realized they had been freely giving site visitors, and have since modified their algorithms in order that their platforms have develop into a “pay to play” kind system. The results of this has been costlier advertisements and fewer ROAS general.

After which got here iOS14… This replace has flipped the digital advert house on its head. The quantity of knowledge that we are able to entry on our goal prospects has all however disappeared. We merely can’t monitor customers throughout the web like we used to. This made all of our advert efforts costlier and fewer correct, which has really broken our means to promote profitably.

Our means to remain nimble has been one of many solely causes we’ve nonetheless been in a position to develop in 2021. I can confidently say that if we’d have had the advertising and marketing finances that we do now again in 2020, earlier than the iOS14 replace, that we’d have simply been in a position to have grown greater than the 156% that we did that 12 months.

One of many efforts that we’ve made to offset this new problem, has been to usually collaborate with influencers and artists who’ve massive natural followings on their social media platforms. One of many first collaborations we did in 2021, was an attire and socks collaboration with Minnesota Vikings Professional-Bowl Linebacker Eric Kendricks. Eric helped to design the collaboration and share it together with his followers just because he’s a fan of the work we do with homeless younger people.

Within the 2 months following the discharge of this collaboration, we’ve generated greater than $23,000 in income from his assortment alone. Since that collaboration, Hippy Toes has labored with 2 different collaborators, each artists, and has bought greater than 2,700 pairs of collaborative socks. In 2022, our purpose is to have no less than 1 new collaboration each month.


One thing that we ignored early on that we shouldn’t have is the ability of web optimization. Right this moment Hippy Toes ranks excessive on Google for particular key phrases similar to American made sock, eco-friendly customized socks, and socks that assist the homeless. Previously 3 years, we started to concentrate on web optimization by means of blogs & backlinks and the results of that is about $500 in income every day of the 4th quarter merely as a result of natural site visitors.

What platform/instruments do you utilize for your small business?

Hippy Toes’s internet retailer is run on Shopify. They’re by far the very best platform for an eCommerce enterprise to function on. Outdoors of that, our enterprise lives on Google Workspace and we use OmniSend for our e mail advertising and marketing. For our B2B efforts, Hippy Toes makes use of Mixmax for gross sales automation, HubSpot for our CRM, and Shogun for our inbound customized socks requests. Hippy Toes additionally used UpWorkto rent supportive roles similar to outbound gross sales, customer support, and graphic design.

My private favourite software that we use is ShipStation. We onboarded with ShipStation at first of 2021 and have saved HOURS of time in our achievement efforts. The automation instruments on ShipStation are a real godsend. Previous to utilizing this software, Hippy Toes was manually fulfilling orders by means of Shopify. We outgrew their achievement companies on the finish of 2020 and ShipStation has been the one motive we’ve been in a position to sustain with order demand throughout This fall of 2021.

What have been probably the most influential books, podcasts, or different sources?

The Huberman Lab has been a favourite podcast at Hippy Toes. The podcast itself isn’t strictly business-related, moderately it focuses on methods to optimize the human mind and physique to carry out at the next stage. Within the fast-paced entrepreneurial surroundings, effectivity is vital.

Traction by Gino Wickman is one other e-book that Sam and I are fairly keen on. This e-book is the place we realized the worth of dividing up roles & obligations. We discovered it to be extremely useful for Sam and I to develop into specialists in several areas of the enterprise moderately than every of us attempting to study every little thing. Right this moment, I lead our gross sales, product design and growth, in addition to oversee the mission and operations. Sam is in command of our advertising and marketing, finance, and helps our excessive stage technique.

Recommendation for different entrepreneurs who need to get began or are simply beginning out?

My finest recommendation to aspiring entrepreneurs is to easily begin. Everybody has an concept for a brand new product or enterprise, however solely a slim proportion of them will truly pursue this dream. Beginning a enterprise is frightening and comes with plenty of threat, however I promise the danger is price it. Even if you happen to fail, and imagine me most individuals do, the danger may have been price it for the experience and perception you acquire alone.

Should you do determine to take the leap, be sure you encompass your self with a group of gifted and passionate folks. Certainly one of Hippy Toes’s largest strengths is the folks that make it occur. My enterprise companion, Sam, possesses expertise that I don’t, and vice versa.

When selecting a group, be sure you discover individuals who stability you out, but additionally keep in mind, know one will love the enterprise as a lot as its founders. You’ll endlessly be your finest salesperson, so stage set expectations and proceed to like what you do and showcase that like to your companions & prospects, as a result of on the finish of the day, that is an enormous a part of why they selected to help you.

Additionally, don’t neglect about web optimization.

Are you trying to rent for sure positions proper now?

Hippy Toes not too long ago introduced on an Employment Program Director in October of 2021. This individual has 14 years of expertise working with younger folks affected by homelessness. This new rent will focus their time on enhancing and creating Hippy Toes’s employment program in order that it may be probably the most impactful program for every younger one who participates in it.

Because the Hippy Toes program continues to develop & develop, we’ve realized that it could be helpful to begin a Hippy Toes Basis, that may permit us to increase the influence of our employment program to efforts outdoors of our personal enterprise wants. Our Employment Program Director would naturally shift to changing into the Government Director of mentioned Basis.

Whereas Hippy Toes is not going to be hiring till late 2022, roles that we’ve recognized as future hiring wants embrace a digital advertising and marketing supervisor, copywriter, and part-time graphic designer.

The place can we go to study extra?

If in case you have any questions or feedback, drop a remark beneath!


Michael Mader
Founding father of Hippy Toes

Wish to begin your personal enterprise?

Hey! 👋I am Pat Partitions, the founding father of Starter Story.

We interview profitable enterprise homeowners and share the tales behind their enterprise. By sharing these tales, we need to allow you to get began.

Involved in beginning your personal enterprise? Be part of Starter Story Premium to get the best companion to beginning and rising your small business:

  • Join + get recommendation from profitable entrepreneurs
  • Step-by-step guides on find out how to begin and develop
  • Unique and early entry to the very best case research on the net
  • And rather more!


Do you know that manufacturers utilizing Klaviyo common a 95x ROI?

E mail, SMS, and extra — Klaviyo brings your advertising and marketing all collectively, fueling progress with out burning by means of time and sources.

Ship extra related e mail and textual content messages —
powered by your information.
Klaviyo helps you flip one-time consumers into repeat prospects with all the ability of an enterprise resolution and not one of the complexity.

Be part of Brumate, Beardbrand, and the 265,000 different companies utilizing Klaviyo to develop their on-line gross sales.

Attempt Klaviyo without cost proper now ➜

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.