Hosted by LWD member Rena Simon at ZGF
Carrie Atkinson, founder of Portland based company Sock It To Me
Carrie shared with us how she started her small business selling at the Portland Saturday Market 12 years ago and how she has grown her company to a multi million dollar business operating in a 30,000 sqft space and employing 45 people, some who have been with her from the start. Together they balance a 90% wholesale and 10% retail business, consisting of many new and existing sock lines and their newly launched underwear line.
More about Sock It To Me: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xc0U6e7nr6s
Carrie spoke how her entrepreneurial spirit and curiosities helped fuel her business. She also discussed the value of trusting her own business intuition and natural leadership qualities. This has helped her to decide when it was time to start hiring employees and how to design a company culture with a health work / life balance.
Her path to create a business model that worked:
-Work no more then 40-50 hours a week
-Hire when it makes sense
-Hire out what you don’t like most
-Delegate – let go of control
-Trust everyone wants to do a good job
-Support women – much of their leadership team is female
-Culture of fun
-Build business relationships with manufacturers
-Listen to the market
-Move on from designs that are not selling – no time to be remorseful – if its not making money move on.
Carrie has also reached out to mentors for professional growth:
-Entrepreneur groups for startups
-Oregon Entrepreneurs Network: https://www.oen.org/
We asked her how they stay on top as the market gets more crowded. She said having a “well oiled” company has helped them stay ahead of the masses.
-Having the manufacturing and execution down to fulfill large orders
-Good relationship with manufacturers so new design ideas can be more fluid. They have worked with some of the same factories since the start. These kind of relationships helped them invent their “Stretch-it” technology.
-A strong support team for customers
-Copyrighting and trademarking designs
Engaging with the customer – for many years now they have done a “design a sock” contest: http://contest.sockittome.com/ – everyone in the company gets to help decide who the winners will be. They now receive over 5000 submissions from all over the world.
Sock It To Me also has a strong design team that does the surface design, specs quality and fit and pays attention to design trends.
Ten years ago Carrie initiated the “Cool Girl” section on their company website. Every month they highlight a dominated “Cool Girl” -Who is a cool girl? Someone who defends awesome: an every day super hero! Someone who exudes positivity, and leads by example. Cool girls make a difference in their communities and in the world, challenge the norm, and aren’t afraid to be themselves.
We briefly talked about copyright infringement, a growing problem in general within the design community and for small businesses. Here is a great link of other companies talking about this issue:
**all images pulled from the Sock It To Me website