The minute I heard about Candace Fair, founder of StudioSox, I knew her story was just what I needed to hear to get inspired. For starters, this Pilates-instructor-turned-enterpreneur launch an innovative product line (from manufacturing to marketing) without any previous experience, which is the kind of small business story that always blows my mind. The second thing I love about Candace's story is that it shines a big light on what many of us entrepreneurs do on a daily basis: we wear so many hats at our own companies, master tasks we had no idea how to do before launching, and we do it filled with a sense of adventure and excitement (at least most of the time).
For those reasons and more I was excited to get the chance to catch up with Candace and let her tell her story, packed with all the juicy details, about how she went from "I wish this product existed..." to "Heck why don't I just create it?!"
We’d love to start by you taking us through the story of you discovering a need and then creating these work/play/exercise socks that we now know as Studio Sox.
Your business began after you modified a pair of socks that you stumbled upon in a “hippy store” in California. But you had to have known something about this type of sock before even seeing it. Tell us a little bit about your professional and personal background and how you became a sock connoisseur.
I work in a Pilates studio in Carpinteria, CA which is on the beach in southern California. In our studio we often work barefoot as do other Pilates and Yoga Studios. However, I do not like being barefoot all the time so I began looking around for socks to wear while teaching that would still give me the flexibility to demonstrate an exercise on the apparatus if needed.There were some socks on the market to meet this need but they didn’t satisfy me....they were too "socky", and could only be worn in the the gym or studio.
One day I was in northern California in a little “hippy” store and saw some Japanese style low-rise Tabi socks made of cotton. Cute! Perhaps I had found the solution to my problem. But this time the socks were slippery on the the wood floors as well as the apparatus. Bing! could I make these from a better fabric with a non-slip tread and have something to sell? I asked others what they thought of my idea always they said go for it! The name for my company came to me while walking my dog. It just slipped off my tongue.
Now when you finally found this sock, and decided you were going to modify it to make it even better, did you have any previous business or production experience?
Before this light bulb idea I had never been an entrepreneur or produced a product for sale. I had been a dessert chef, ESL Teacher, stay-at-home mom, Pilates teacher... so I was entering completely new territory and by the way... I don’t like to sew. But there are people out there who do! So my job was to find the right people to do what I needed done!
How long did it take you to go from the place of “I’m going to make my own self a pair of socks” to “Okay, I’m going to create a business and produce these for others”?
What were some of the first things you had to do to get the ball rolling?
To carry this idea through to production I had to learn many terms and titles with which I was unfamiliar: laser cut vs.die cut vs. saw cut .... this was just for the socks... It took some time to get the product exactly right and to launch an online e-commerce website which is a whole other adventure into the unknown. It is all an ongoing process. Now I am learning how to sell on Amazon! I would say I took a long time... 2 or 3 years. Creativity and sorting out the steps came in bursts of activity followed by some fallow weeks. So I did not propel myself through it. I was slow and deliberate. (Too slow and deliberate my sons said!)
What were some of the most challenging things you had to figure out and learn along the way?
Before I started this business I had no reason to use many of the programs or applications that came with my computer. Now with many hours of staring at the computer I know so much more about my computer and the things it can do and it is impressive!
I find it interesting to be beset with these new problems.. I don’t really like the word problem... perhaps stepping stones is a more optimistic term ....steps along the way which cannot be stepped over or gone around and must be taken in a certain order.
What were some of the coolest things you had the opportunity to learn as you grew your business?
I have learned that I can figure out lots of things. It may take some time. The answers are out there, one just has to keep asking the questions. Sometimes one has to figure out what the question is!
Most people said I would have to take my business to China for manufacturing but knew I wanted to manufacture here in the USA - I wanted to see people face to face and shake their hands. My vendors are within 90 miles of my office. StudioSox American made products and of that I am proud.
Who would you say are the “users” of Studio Sox. If someone were to tell you “well I don’t do Pilates or Yoga” what would you say?
Although StudioSox were created with Yoga and Pilates in mind, they have broken through that boundary. For instance, the grip tread makes them useful for seniors who need a sure foot on bare floors such as wood or tile floors during night time trips to the bathroom. Younger wearers have made them a fashion statement with flip-flops and sandals... especially the open toe style.
Travelers love them as they are lightweight and take up no space! Perfect for hotel rooms that don’t provide slippers. StudioSox are also great for shoeless households. Imagine giving your guests a pair of darling StudioSox to wear during their visit as in a traditional Japanese household. I also think that they are perfect stocking stuffers and hostess gifts.
How do you stay motivated and wear so many hats in an operation of one?
Truthfully I had no idea there would be so many hats to wear within one day. Motivation comes from all around me...the people I meet, Tin Shingle podcasts, my Mother, friends ... every time I get a order on Amazon my brother gets the biggest kick out of it. So do I!
Where do you envision your entrepreneurial journey taking you over the next five years?
My goal is to sell my successful business to a bigger and even more successful company that is delighted and lucky to acquire StudioSox!