Start-up cost: R25 000 Turnover: ‘We’ve doubled in turnover each year for the past two years. We now have stock in more than 130 stores in South Africa, 20 in the UK and a handful across Europe.’
Believe it or not, sock mogul Dave Hutchison started his career as a finance lawyer, after studying business science then law at UCT. It was during a trip to London to further his studies that he realised he needed a change.
‘While I was there I was exposed to a whole lot of different ideas and new ways of thinking; I got away from everything that shapes you growing up, and I realised that law wasn’t what I wanted to do,’ he says.
There he was also introduced to the concept of social entrepreneurship: companies using their businesses – and a part of their profits – as a force for change. Dave knew this was something that could benefit South Africa, so he came back home with a goal: to start a business that mattered. As a believer in finishing what you start, he was determined to complete his articles.
‘But I didn’t want to lose two years of what I really wanted to do, so I set up Sexy Socks on the side and for the first 18 months I ran it at night, after-hours and over weekends.’
So why socks? Initially, it was the pops of colour that the men in suits on the streets of London displayed that fascinated Dave – he saw it as a fun way to give life to an otherwise formal outfit. But when he returned home, it was a man named Solomon that finally convinced him to follow through with his idea.
‘One Saturday afternoon, the doorbell rang,’ Dave says. ‘It was one of those cold, wet days in Cape Town. The man at the gate was completely drenched and all he wanted was some food. We brought him in and gave him some dry clothes and something to eat. That was when I realised that his situation wasn’t unique. There are thousands and thousands of people in Solomon’s position. That got me thinking about socks, and how I could give back to the community. So I decided that for every pair of Sexy Socks I sold, I would donate a pair of school socks to kids in need.’
On 1 April 2016, Dave walked out of his job as a finance lawyer and never looked back. In less than a year, the business grew to a team of nine. The best advice he got, he says, was to just go for it. That gem came from Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, who said in an interview that you need to put yourself in the shoes of your future self: what are you going to regret more at 80: trying and failing or not trying and never knowing?
Sexy Socks has donated 30 000 pairs of socks to date, with about 45 000 left to hand out.
‘The socks give you an audience – the kids have to listen to you while you give a little talk about entrepreneurship. The goal is to inspire them to think a bit bigger and to understand that there is more to life than perhaps what they thought they could achieve.’
Dave’s goal with Sexy Socks is to become a global brand that is universally recognised as standing for great quality, ethical business practices and a company that is spearheading a social consciousness movement through fashion in South Africa.
Made from bamboo, Sexy Socks are eco-friendly, antibacterial, anti-odour and anti-chafe. They are available in South Africa, as well as in the UK and Europe.
And although Dave doesn’t design the socks himself, he says he knows enough to know which pairs are sexy yet appropriate for work – and which are sure to get you sent home! sexysockssa.com