Blowing your socks off: subscription services and the convenience economy

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Bryan DeLuca is the brains behind Foot Cardigan, a sock subscription company here to replace socks and bring a bit of whimsical wonder back to your mailbox.

Made famous through their success on the US version of Shark Tank, where legendary businessman Mark Cuban invested $250,000, Foot Cardigan offers subscription-based monthly tootsie blanket deliveries, bringing a fun, funky, fresh update to Australia’s ankle game.

Soon after seeing The Dollar Shave Club video go viral, DeLuca was inspired to test and launch the brand.  

“It was March 22nd, 2012, and I know the date for a reason, as I watched this video and I was immediately drawn to this idea of a subscription business. And I said, hey, here’s this guy who is taking something really boring like razors and making it cool and relevant.”

His brain started spinning as he began to tabulate what kinds of products could warrant getting a delivery in your mailbox every month.

Foot Cardigan was born on June 1st, just two and a half months after seeing the video.

PicMonkey Collage

DeLuca and his co-founder Matt McClard started simple and small, without the fancy website and design that they have now. But DeLuca says that it was getting started that mattered.

“We wanted to just get it out there into the world and see if it would stick and four years later it stuck.”

“I think the biggest fear that would-be entrepreneurs have is the fear of failure and the fear of rejection. They worry that no-one is going to like what they do. I see it all too often, even from friends of mine here in Dallas. I see it all too often that they have this really good idea and a year goes by and they’re still talking about this really good idea.”

DeLuca says he’s heard every excuse and wants others to know that starting out your product doesn’t have to be perfect before launch.

“What I tell entrepreneurs is – get over that first initial hump and that fear of failure because ultimately no-one cares about your product as much as you will. People will hate it, people will love it.”

He says it’s an important part of the journey to makes sure you don’t spend all your time and money making something that no-one likes so it’s important to get it out there, test it, gauge the market response and take on feedback.   

The big challenge Foot Cardigan has faced was gaining exposure and creating a following for something that was so unique and new that people weren’t even looking for it.

“How do you tell people something exists that they don’t know exists? How do you tell people they want something if they don’t know it’s there? So that was our challenge and people know subscriptions exist but how do you take a sock subscription and start advertising for it online when people aren’t searching for it,” said DeLuca.

Sock Gnomes

The answer for them was PR and so they have been working with media to expand their audience reach and gain traction in all and any area from tiny towns and coastal cities to global capitals.

“We had a hunch that people would start to get it and understand it and like it and that’s kind of what happened. That’s really how we created this organic growth.”

Then they did some very silly things. They used the US election, Mitt Romney versus Barack Obama, to launch a marketing campaign “Sock the Vote” with taglines like “Vote with your feet” and it got them a lot of attention from the media and brought a lot of traffic to their site.

They do have a bit of crazy, sock competition but DeLuca says that sticking to a subscription service has been a way to dip their toes into apparel and that the customer service and product journey comes first.

As far as foreign markets go, with a growing number of international subscribers, including a foothold in Canada, they are looking to connect more with foreign markets and offer more hyper local experiences. Their eyes are on Australia and a number of fancy foot cardigans will be developed for the local customers including a pair of Sydney socks.

Subscription services are increasingly disrupting the traditional retail model and as people command greater service and convenience, we will see more and more businesses enter this space.  

“Humanity is impatient. Our attention spans are shorter and we crave a custom or tailored experience. Gone are the days when any big brand can just put an ad on television or in the newspaper.”

When someone orders a product you have to think about how it will make them feel, says DeLuca, and if they will want to order it again.

They’ll include little “treat yo self” surprises like coffee gift cards, inspired from the show Parks and Recreation, and go above and beyond by sending flowers to a customer that’s had a break up and wants to cancel their partner’s subscription.

“We’re creating some kind of emotional connection with people that want to have something fun on their feet. Life’s too short to wear boring socks.”

You flamingo girl

Chloe Potvin
Chloe Potvin is a contributing small business writer for Kochie's Business Builders.