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Socking it to the big boys using innovation

Business

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Facebook, Instagram, skateboarders and personal trainers have all been part of an innovative marketing approach that has borne early fruit for new Adelaide business Restless Socks.

Partners Kirra Thomas and Andrei Priplotski built an army of social media friends and followers well before they had product to sell, sharing design ideas and even pictures of their trip to China to meet potential manufacturers.

They also sponsored skateboarders and BMX riders – squarely in their target market of 13-30 year olds – bringing them on board to spread the word.

When the company’s website went live with a pre-sale offer on November 1, the first order was received within three minutes. By the time of their launch party on  November 28, the pre-sale stock had been exhausted and demand was growing.

The long-time friends aren’t yet thinking of giving up their day jobs (Thomas is a paramedic, Priplotski works in retail, both are 28), but they are delighted that doing things their way is working and they are making money to reinvest and build the brand.

They are a little surprised at how long it has taken, however.

“We naively thought that we’d have socks in hand within three months and it took a year,” Thomas said. “All that time we worried that someone else would get in before us.”

The idea for a specialist sock business was born when Thomas visited the US and realised that it can be big business. American and European companies, led by the Swedish giant Happy Feet, can make millions just catering to guys in suits who want a dash of colour.

She saw the potential for a casual range with the same emphasis on quality and customer service and Priplotski, who was keen to start some kind of business, couldn’t think of a reason to say no to at least doing a bit of research.

They spent time online and at fashion trade shows, and were advised to use primarily combed cotton and not skimp on the quality. Unable, despite their best efforts, to find anyone in Australia who could manufacture to their specifications, they headed to China (much like all the big American and European companies).

Thomas came up with the ideas and an artistic friend did the designs. The initial range has five options built around a travel theme – Australia, America, France, Africa and Mexico. The Restless Socks name comes from their combined love of travel (restless legs don’t stay still).

The range is currently one colour per design, and one size fits all, but there have been few complaints. People who normally wear anything from kids’ size 5 to men’s size 14 seem to be comfortably fitting into a standard US men’s 7-11.

Demand is growing through word-of-mouth and the socks have already become popular with personal trainers, after the guy who runs Priplotski’s gym took a shine to them.

“People have told us that their feet have never been so looked at before,” Thomas said.

Restless Socks sell for $20, which is comparable with overseas products, and many initial buyers have opted for the full range.

Five new country designs (as yet unnamed) are already on the drawing board, along with the first in a series based around pop culture.

As well as online sales via www.restlesssocks.com.au, they are available from the Created Range Store in Adelaide’s Regent Arcade and through stockists in NSW and ACT.

This is part of a special Engine Room series in InDaily which features some of the “undiscovered gems” of SA business.

The Engine Room is dedicated to championing the growth of South Australian companies – for more information go to www.theengroom.com.au.

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