By establishing the first registered distillery in the country, Jack Daniel built his success on two fundamental ingredients: identifying a need in the community and crafting a quality process to satisfy that need. Today, Gentleman Jack Tennessee Whiskey honors the makers who follow this time-honored success model of finding the sweet spot of where demand and innovation intersect.
Prologue — Paving the Path to the Perfect Sock
How do you create value around something people don’t normally notice? This is the question Bombas co-founders Randy Goldberg and David Heath confronted when they took up the challenge of creating a profitable company built on equal parts entrepreneurial creativity and compassionate philanthropy.
For years, the two young media execs had been tossing around ideas for a startup, but nothing made the cut. Then, they stumbled upon the kind of familiar factoid that fills socially-conscious social media feeds: socks, it turns out, are the clothing item most requested in homeless shelters across the country. Socks.
Socks are an item of clothing so common that they’re practically invisible in both the fashion industry and the marketplace. But suddenly, socks were essential and very meaningful as they became part of a compelling puzzle that Goldberg and Heath couldn’t stop thinking about. Could they harness their creativity to find a market-based solution to meet this need of this deserving community?
How could they make socks interesting enough to consumers to get people to buy their socks? The answers, like the product itself, were not obvious.
The Journey — Darning a Hole in the Sock Market
Timing helped. Goldberg and Heath were starting to think about this sock problem just as the “one-for-one” business model, where a consumer purchase is matched by direct donation of the same (or similar) product, was taking off.
They looked to businesses who had pioneered the model, as well as to those who adapted the model to a direct-to-consumer application. Taken together, the two companies’ strategies provided examples of how to connect consumers to a product with a larger purpose, all fueled by the internet.
“We asked ourselves, ‘does this model work to help solve our sock problem?’” Heath recalls. “And the more we explored it, we felt like this was a pretty good solution.” By then, they knew the market, and they knew something important about socks: there were high-end, technical socks, and there were almost disposable, functional socks, but there was nothing in between. The duo started to think about what kind of socks they wanted to make and how their product would represent their values.
They created the name Bombas from the Latin word for bumblebee, and they focused the brand on hive mind and the long game where repeated small achievements add up to make a big difference. Their brightly colored socks, made of superior materials with notable technical properties—sold as single pairs and in multipacks—deliver both product value and social value to consumers. Each purchase is value-added, making an impact through small but collective, and constant, efforts.
Challenges — Research, Funding, and Growth On Purpose
Two years of R&D yielded a high-quality product that they truly believed in. The final test was to see how the world would receive it. Goldberg and Heath knew they wanted to build a direct-to-consumer, e-commerce brand, and their product development strategy reflected a viral ethos. They began with family and friends before handing out socks to strangers at their gym. Then they expanded their test sample using a crowdfunding campaign.
In just twenty-four hours, they hit their modest campaign goal of $15K and ended up thirty days later with ten times their ask, donating nearly 20,000 pairs of socks in that first month alone. The numbers told the story: Bombas was going to work.
When Bombas launched, the company set clear goals and pledged to donate a million pairs of socks to individuals in homeless shelters around the country. They thought it would take ten years. It ended up taking only two and a half.
The Road Ahead — The Relationship Hive
Based far less on business school takeaways than on lessons learned along the way, their growth strategy from the beginning has been simple and twofold.
“Basically we find people who are way smarter than we are, and we do everything we need to do to make the business work,” Goldberg confides. By combining innovation with an approach steeped in relationships, Goldberg says that the company enjoys ongoing success while staying true to the reason the business was launched: “to try to help solve a problem in our community.”
Goldberg pauses for a moment to let that thought settle in. “It’s an exciting time.”
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This article was produced by WIRED Brand Lab in partnership with Gentleman Jack.