September 2012

I run a sock subscription service with a good friend. Everyone asks "how'd you get started running a sock of the month club?" I, like a lot of major athletes, like socks. I think socks are a fun, cheap, and discreet way to show some personality. Early 2011, I was reading a Forbes article about small businesses that made it. They mentioned Black Socks, which is a sock subscription service that delivers Italian black socks once a month. I thought that was boring and that I could do better. I also enjoy web development. So, I built a website. It was just a front at first. My brother was the only member and he complained a lot about not receiving socks. There was a form to sign up but it led to a page that said "Sorry, unfortunately we aren't shipping socks yet but we'll contact you when we start." I did the bare minimum SEO: put 'Sock of the Month Club' in some title and h1 tags. Then I lost interest and moved on to other projects. I would randomly check on it's traffic. Eventually people started trying to sign up. About four people a month. I pitched the idea of actually starting this business to my friend Noah. He's a laid back guy and said let's do it. That's how it started. We launched Sock of the Month Club in 2012.

We started packing up socks once a month and mailing them out. It was super exciting at first. The process of setting up wholesale accounts with sock apparel companies and receiving a bulk shipment of socks was fun. As a sock lover holding fifty pairs of socks is a great feeling. I also liked being able to buy any sock I wanted at wholesale prices. After a few months all that excitement wore off and I noticed I was spending a good chunk of time packing socks, dealing with customer service, and doing web development. It was frustrating. Our margins are razor thin so I was working a lot basically for free. For the love of socks we kept working at it. We squashed the bugs in the website and smoothed out the process of packing and delivering socks. The amount time we spent packing socks went down, customer service time went down, and there was less web development to do. I started to enjoy "packing socks Sunday". Packing socks is an involved process. Noah, myself, and a few friends get together at Noah's place. Noah has all the supplies (socks, tissue paper, ribbon, wax, and envelopes) ready to go. We wrap our socks in tissue paper, tie a ribbon around them, and wax seal the ribbon to the tissue. We let all that dry then put them into a cardboard mailing envelope.

I appreciate working with my hands to make something crafty. You get in this zen like zone after making a few of them. I think it qualifies as meditation.

I didn't pick to run a subscription service in any logical way but from running one I think I know why the subscription model is appealing. You only have to ship one bulk order a month so fulfilling orders becomes simpler and less time consuming. If we were running an ecommerce sock site we'd be filling orders a lot more often and I could see everything being much more confusing. The whole process now takes 4 hours once a month to get socks shipped. We still have web development, customer service and finding socks to do. But for now I think the perks of having access to great socks, doing something physical and crafty, and earning some side money make running Sock of the Month Club worth it and fun.

Like I said running a subscription service is fun. I open sourced the original codebase for Sock of the Month Club. If you have an idea for a subscription service please check it out. I called it Subscribely and it's on Github. So check it out, use it, contribute to it, and have fun running a subscription service.