FEAT. sock co.
Start-up costs: Chelsey Wilson and her then-business partner Alison Stewart borrowed R20 000 in total from their parents to pay for the first batch of socks. Turnover: After good sales as Emerging Creatives at Design Indaba in 2013, as well as securing some retailers at the show, they paid their parents the full amount back and started working towards making a profit.
‘Iremember when I was a kid, whenever my mom bought a pair of socks for me, I put them on straightaway. And I always wanted fun, colourful ones,’ says Chelsey Wilson. Chelsey and her childhood friend Alison Stewart started FEAT. sock co. in 2012 when they turned what was a fun tradition into a business.
‘Alison and I have been friends since we were about seven years old and we had a tradition of giving each other socks. Since we were both into design [Chelsey studied fashion design], we thought it would be cool to design socks together and start a business.’
They launched their business at the 2013 Design Indaba, where they exhibited as Emerging Creatives. This is where the business partners started getting real buyers and secured a few stores to stock their product. Then, in April 2016, Chelsey bought Alison out.
‘Alison wanted to pursue other creative things so we agreed that I’d buy her out. Assistants help me in my shop and at markets, but other than that it’s just me now.’
Initially it was difficult to find companies who were willing to take them seriously.
‘We would go to meetings and people would look at us like, “Who are these kids?”’ Eventually, they found a local company who saw their potential and they’ve been working together ever since.
‘It’s all about loyalty and having
a good working relationship with your suppliers,’ Chelsey says.
No stranger to entrepreneurship, Chelsey grew up in a home where running your own business was encouraged.
‘My dad started his business when I was a year old; he’s always encouraged my brother and me to do the same.’ She loves the freedom of being self-employed, but says that the hardest part of owning your own business is switching off.
‘I’m a very detail-orientated person and I take a lot of pride in my work. So when I get an email over the weekend, I’m like, “Can I do something about it now?”’
That commitment paid off. In 2016, FEAT. sock co. was nominated to participate in the Superbalist 100 competition: a face-off among local ‘movers, shakers, entrepreneurs and change-makers who are shaping their industries’, says Chelsey. FEAT. sock co. came second, a remarkable accomplishment (or should we say feat?) considering some of the contenders the business was up against.
Chelsey designs all the socks in the range, apart from the occasional collaboration with local and international illustrators or designers, and while she keeps up with trends to see what will sell and what won’t, she loves having the freedom to be creative. She enjoys using real-life experiences as a basis for her designs: one pair of socks features a scene from an icy snorkelling trip, another a waterfall and a landscape, both inspired by a recent trip to Iceland. Although Chelsey has travelled widely, she loves using her home town as inspiration.
‘Even if it’s indirect, I try to pick up on a Cape Town feel in my socks. It says something about my home and that’s really important to me.’ Her bestsellers also happen to be very Cape Town specific: the penguin print design is a firm customer favourite. So what keeps her going? ‘Staying busy. The best advice I got was from my dad: “When you’re a small business you have to look for stockists, even if you don’t know what’s going to happen or if it’s even going to work. You have to fill your time with things that will help grow the business and hope that you’ll get there.”’ www.featsockco.com