FEAT. sock co.

Fairlady - - ENTREPRENEURS - CHELSEY WIL­SON

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

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