Founded in 2013, Bombas has improved upon the regular old sock, and for every pair it sells, it donates a pair to a homeless shelter.
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For many, socks may seem like an insignificant wardrobe staple. But for David Heath and Randy Goldberg, founders of buzzy sock start-up Bombas, socks are not only big business, they are helping make people’s lives a little bit better.
Founded in 2013 and backed by “Shark Tank” star Daymond John (“I’m really happy to be part of what they’re doing,” John tells CNBC Make It), Bombas is often referred to as the “Toms” or “Warby Parker” of socks for its socially conscious business model: For every pair of socks sold, Bombas donates a pair to the homeless.
In fact, the charitable aspect of the business isn’t just an afterthought, it’s what sparked the idea for the company in the first place. In 2011, Heath stumbled upon a Facebook post that said socks were the most requested clothing item at homeless shelters. The statistic gnawed at him.
“I thought, ‘How sad is it that — something I’ve never spent more than a couple of seconds thinking about [how to pay for] could be seen as a true luxury for somebody else,'” Heath, now 36 and CEO of Bombas, tells CNBC Make It.
At the time, Heath was working with Goldberg at a media start-up, so he told his friend what he’d learned. Inspired by the boom of other buy-one, give-one companies, they thought maybe they could replicate a similar business with socks.
“We didn’t grow up dreaming of starting a sock company. I’m not sure anybody ever has. But we got obsessed with socks,” says Goldberg, now 40 and Bombas’ chief brand officer.
“We looked at every pair of socks in the market [and] we realized that what most people were wearing just weren’t that comfortable. And there were ideas and features that we started to notice that we could improve upon, and we just set out on a … journey to create one, amazing pair of socks.”
To begin constructing the perfect pair of socks, the duo worked with manufacturers around the world, testing existing socks then sampling their own versions and giving them to friends to test. It was a challenging time, since they were still working their full-time jobs while hustling on Bombas at night and on weekends from home and at coffee shops.
Friends and family were interested in giving them seed money, but Heath says they chose to bootstrap the research. They believed if they could just get the product out there, it would be a hit.
After all the testing, Heath says they decided to make seven material improvements with Bombas socks for better comfort, including using high-quality cotton and merino wool, reengineering the toe seam, creating a “honeycomb” arch support to hug the middle of the foot and using an improved stitching technique on the heel to grip the foot. Additionally, Bombas calf socks were created so they don’t slide down or leave marks on the leg, and for its ankle socks, there’s a cloth blister tab to avoid rubbing.
The toe seam improvement was actually inspired by Heath’s own embattled history with socks. He has ADHD and as a kid, suffered from hyper-sensitivity issues, so finding a comfortable pair of socks was something he struggled with.
“I tried pretty much everything on the market,” he says. “I ultimately resorted to turning my socks inside out, because the toe seam over the front would always irritate me. Whether I was in class or playing sports, I just couldn’t let it go. So, in a weird way, starting this company kind of fulfilled somewhat of a childhood problem that I solved.”
In 2013, the co-founders quit their day jobs and launched a crowdfunding campaign on IndieGoGo that spring and summer. Originally, they set a goal of raising $15,000 in 30 days, but within the first 24 hours, Heath recalls, they had raised over $25,000. In total, Bombas crowdfunded just over $140,000. With the capital, they officially launched the business that October.
In 2014, Heath and Goldberg raised a $1 million seed round from friends and family. The entrepreneurs also went on ABC’s “Shark Tank” and scored a deal with Fubu founder John.
In the two months after their episode aired, the company did $1.2 million in sales and sold out of its inventory.
John says Bombas is one of his top three most successful “Shark Tank” investments.
Read more about Bombas here:
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Daymond John-backed start-up Bombas is reinventing the sock—and it’s bringing in $100 million a year | CNBC Make It.