The Story of a StoryBY Randy Goldberg | Co-Founder & Chief Brand Officer | Bombas
The initial idea for Bombas came about when my co-founder Dave saw a quote on Facebook that said, “socks are the #1 most requested clothing item at homeless shelters”. It caught him off guard. We worked together at the time and often had lunch together. One day, he shared that quote with me at lunch and we sat there puzzled, thinking about how something could be so significant to a group of people, that had long been an afterthought for us.We got a little obsessed and got in touch with a few homeless shelters to try and find out more. It turns out you can’t donate used socks to homeless shelters for hygiene reasons. And if you live on the street, a fresh pair of socks can become very meaningful. We wanted to help. At first we started by donating socks, but the more we thought about it, the more the idea of a one-for-one sock business—like what Tom’s had built for shoes—started to make sense. Luckily, we had no idea how to make socks. We just knew that athletic, everyday socks hadn’t changed in 50 years. I say luckily because that forced us to take a consumer approach to the product. We eliminated features we disliked (like that annoying ridge that runs across the toes) and added ones that made sense (like arch support in the midfoot that feels like a hug). It took us two years to make one pair of socks. TIME IS A LUXURY Two years is a long time, but those two years allowed us to find our first shelter partners, figure out how to best donate socks, and internalize our story. We didn’t know it at the time, but our story would be the key to the growth of our company. I know that’s a big statement, but that story allowed us to attract incredible employees, paved the way for marketing success, and got us on to TV shows like Shark Tank, Good Morning America, The Today Show and more. GET THE STORY RIGHT But that doesn’t mean the story came easy. We launched our business on the crowdfunding platform Indiegogo and it took us four months to write the script for the video we used in that campaign. These days, a script like that would take us a day to write, but at the time, what we were writing was really more than a script. It was the covenant of our company. It was the first telling of our story. We knew what we said in that video would determine who we were as a brand. So we wrote version after version, after version. We told it to our friends, we told our families, we told anyone who would listen. We paid attention to the parts of the story that resonated, and edited the parts that didn’t. We took the time to get it right. GET SICK OF SAYING IT Since our initial Indiegogo pitch, we’ve continued to tell that same story over and over again — in videos, in ads, on local TV, on national TV, on the radio, in bars, on Shark Tank. Our close friends and family are probably sick of hearing it, but this is a big world. You have to be comfortable repeating yourself and get creative in the ways that you do it. If you’re not sick of saying the same thing over and over and over again, you’re not saying it enough. ANSWER THE TOUGH QUESTIONS Even if you don’t have an origin story that you think is worth telling, there has to be something about what you’re doing that is interesting enough to share with the world, or else you probably shouldn’t be starting a consumer brand. It’s important to not only get excited about what you’re doing today, but also your vision for the future. What do you want to be famous for as a company? Why does your thing have to exist in the world? What are your core values, the things you would never compromise on? What are your core competencies, the things you do so well you could teach other people to do them? These questions are critical, and how comfortable you are with the answers will say a ton about where you will go.
THE OTHER BIG PART OF OUR STORY
Beyond our origin story, the other big key to our success has been our people. In five years of business, only one person has left our company. We put a lot of time and effort into creating the kind of positive, diverse, free-thinking environment that we all want to hang out in. I guess that’s part of our story as well. We volunteer together regularly, we have unlimited vacation days and we cover 100% of health care. We try to create a culture that fits into the way people are living their lives — because great people make great companies.
We take the same approach to company culture as we take to the wider brand. In today’s consumer landscape, you can’t build a brand by asking consumers to come into a fairytale land that you create for them. You have to meet them where and how they are living their lives. You have to make your brand adaptable to their individual world, their vision of how they want to live their life. It’s the same with company culture. We’re trying to fit Bombas into the way our people are living their lives, not asking them to leave their personal life outside when they walk through the doors.
IT’S JUST SOCKS
One last thing: above all else, we always say “it’s just socks”. We know it’s more than that. We know the company we built is important to a lot of people. But we also know that we are lucky to be where we are and that our work supports people out there doing way more important and meaningful work than we are. This just serves to remind us not to take ourselves too seriously. It’s just business. It’s just socks. Might as well have a whole lot of fun with it.
Randy Goldberg is the co-founder and chief branding officer of Bombas. He is responsible for bringing the brand to life, creatively conveying the Bombas brand and mission, and helping to design a sock that boasts a combination of fashion, function, and philanthropy. Randy graduated from The McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University with a BS in Finance, and is a veteran in digital creative, copywriting, strategy and branding. In addition to BOMBAS, Randy is the founder of two additional companies, which he currently runs—Tennis Partners, a creative consultancy, and Pop Up Flea, a personally curated pop-up market of new and vintage men’s goods.