For Bombas, the Key to Early Success Was Saying No

When Randy Goldberg and David Heath, co-founders of popular sock brand Bombas, first met, socks were not among their shared interests. Entrepreneurship and companies with social missions were. In 2011, after Heath read on Facebook that socks were the most-requested clothing item at homeless shelters, the two began brainstorming.

Heath says he didn’t immediately think there was a business opportunity. “I just thought it was sad that a piece of clothing I only spend a few seconds a day thinking about is perceived as a luxury item for over 650,000 people living here in the U.S.” But, he says, “We saw TOMS donating shoes and Warby Parker donating glasses, and we thought, ‘What if we donated socks?’ ” 

Two years later, the pair launched the direct-to-consumer retailer in New York City, with a simple mission: make quality best socks, sell them online, and for every pair of socks sold, donate a pair to homeless shelters. By its second year, Bombas was profitable. Goldberg and Heath told their founding story and talked about their company’s brand-building strategy in a recent stream event with Lindsay Blakely, managing editor.

The reason for that early success? Staying focused.

“We said, ‘We’re gonna be socks, and we’re gonna be online,’ ” said Heath.

Its narrow focus allowed Bombas’s marketing, creative, and design teams to build energy and momentum behind the brand, and afforded the founders many PR opportunities, including an appearance on ABC’s hit show Shark Tank and a campaign for clothing retailer The Gap Inc.

“It feels like you’re saying ‘No’ to a lot of things at the time,” says Goldberg. “But when we look back on that moment, so many things happened at the same time that helped accelerate the business–all because we were able to stay focused.”

Bombas focuses much of its marketing on Facebook with half of its marketing budget allocated to Facebook ads. While the social media platform has come under fire for not taking a firmer stance against users that spread false and hateful information, Bombas has stuck with it, even as companies like Chobani, &Pizza, and Verizon have pledged to stop advertising on Facebook until it changes its policies.

Facebook’s sophisticated platform with its targeting and data capabilities has been critical for building the direct-to-consumer company, according to Heath. “There’s a reason Facebook is so successful in the market, and it’s because they’re really, really good at helping advertisers find their customers, he says.

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