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Get to know a Toronto startup: WeSell Socks

Posted by Anna Starasts / January 21, 2014

We Sell Socks TorontoI bought my best friend Wu Tang socks for Christmas. Yes, you read that correctly: black and yellow cotton yarn spun into footwear, bearing a big stylized W of the renowned hip hop group. The trend of socks as a subtle way to show off style, not just a practical way to cushion your precious hooves from the abuse of rubbing shoes, shows no sign of slowing down.

WeSell Socks clearly agrees with me because this Toronto startup is betting all its chips on people who take their sock game seriously. The subscription sock service, which officially launched on New Years' Day, delivers subscribers a pair of good quality, stylish socks to their doorstep for $12 per month. Jump on their current early bird special and they'll wave the shipping within Canada and the US (a flat fee of $5 will apply in the near future). What's more, these socks will warm your feet and your heart. For every pair you buy, WeSell will donate a pair to someone in need.

Here's what founder Kevin Lee had to say about the roots of his stylish & socially-minded startup.

What was the inspiration behind WeSell Socks?

I'd been interested in building a socially responsible business for a long time. My first attempt was actually in my first year of high school. The specific inspiration of how to structure WeSell came from two companies I admire: Toms and Warby Parker.

Why build your entire business around socks?

It seems silly that I'd build a whole business around socks, but I think you have to love socks to understand. When one of my colleagues first showed me his funky socks I had to stifle my laughter. It was only after I got interested in wearing stylish socks that I finally got what I was missing out on. That's also why I believe they make such a great focus - people who like socks, REALLY like socks. I don't need to tell them my socks are awesome, they know they're awesome!

You've been inspired by companies like Toms to make charity part of every purchase. How will WeSell give back?

When winter comes around, one of the most requested items homeless shelters ask for are socks. Currently, I'm talking specifically to homeless shelters around Toronto, such as Covenant House, about how best to distribute our socks to the less fortunate.

Who do you consider competitors in this space?

There are startups based in the US, like Sock Panda and Soxiety, that offer a sock subscription service. Any apparel company that sells socks could also be considered a competitor, but I see them more as future partners rather than competition. The biggest difference with WeSell versus other startups out there is that we offer our users the ability to do social good with every purchase.

What's coming up next for WeSell?

Like every other startup, lots of stuff! But I'll let you in on one...we're working on socks that stay together in the washer.

Check out the WeSell Socks Facebook page for the latest developments.

Discussion

23 Comments

JOhn / January 21, 2014 at 03:12 am
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I love this idea and hope these guys are successful, but god damn does their website suck hard.

It's got all the visual panache of the typical hipster-approved website, but is totally lacking in functionality and useful. The only option is to immediately give them my email address under "sign me up"! No information about the socks that I can find - what are they made of? Where are they made? Who designs them? Will I get a different design every month? How long till the designs repeat?

I want to like this, but come on Kevin - throw me a bone here about exactly what I can expect.
4ChanApologist / January 21, 2014 at 08:11 am
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Agree with John above, this seems like a cool idea but when I went to their website for more info all I got was a sign-up form.

No thanks, guys.
Laura Bee / January 21, 2014 at 09:46 am
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I'll echo the comments about the website providing no details. I love socks, but if I'm signing up to pay $12, I need to know more details.

Most importantly, are they only men's socks?
TMood / January 21, 2014 at 09:53 am
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Is it just one pair of socks a month?

Don't get me wrong, this idea is pretty great, but if it's just one pair for $12 then i'm not sure it's worth it. There are a tone of socks on the market that range from 5-15 dollars, which allows me to (1) pick my socks, thus ensuring i don't get a pair i hate, and (2) not be forced to get a new pair every month through a subscription. Not to mention that the forthcoming addition of a $5/month shipping fee is only going to make the price even less reasonable.

Like i said, i like the idea a lot, but if i sign up for a monthly subscription to something i expect it to be cheaper than regular price, not more..
Kevin / January 21, 2014 at 09:54 am
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Hey John,

Thanks, we hope we are too! :) Our website is definitely in it's "teenage angst" phase. Hopefully it'll grow up a bit in the next few months.

In terms of your questions regarding the socks:
- They are 85% cotton, 10% polyester, and 5% spandex
- They are made responsibly in South Korea. I specifically chose South Korea over China or any other manufacturer because I have heard nothing but good things about their attention to detail, quality and work conditions. I could easily increase my margins but I value quality over quantity (and I feel my subscribers do as well).
- The designs are currently sourced from a variety of sources but I intend to bring the design of the socks to the local design community soon enough (it's coming sooner than you'd think!)
- You absolutely will receive a different design every month. We may bring back some if there's a large outcry for an "encore sock appearance" but otherwise it'll be a different sock each month.
- I hope never to repeat socks unless it's asked for by my subscribers
Kevin / January 21, 2014 at 10:03 am
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Hi TMood,

I agree that we could charge less but it would compromise on what I feel are important; quality, conditions the socks were made in and our ability to give a pair for every pair we send.

We definitely understand that some people will find some parts of our pricing model difficult; price and not personally selecting one's socks. We have some ideas on how to address those concerns in the near future but for now, we're focused on providing a convenient way for people to keep their feet and their hearts (we're cheesy like that) warm.

In regards to the shipping fee in the future, we'll still be offering free shipping but not in the manner we offer it now (sorry about being vague, we'll have more details in the future! :) )
Talbot / January 21, 2014 at 10:39 am
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To those who question the price .. it is worth it. I have bought a few pairs for a niece, a pair for a friend and a pair for myself and we all LOVE them. They are very high quality, thick, warm, form fitting socks. They HUG your feet, not hang loosely around your ankles and feet like crappy cheap socks do.
BC / January 21, 2014 at 11:03 am
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Hey Kevin,

I appreciate the fact that you are making your socks or rather contracting your production out of South Korea instead of China. I've been over to Seoul South Korea many, many times over the past five years or so and have been nothing but impressed with their ethics, drive and overall ability to start a project and finish it out to completion. I know this is a generalization but from my experience dealing with some of their top industry companies Hyundai, Asiana & other less known ones the results have always been excellent.

That said, it would be awesome if you could source production closer to home to somewhere in Canada or the United States and Mexico. That's one of the big things that will sway me over to purchase one product over another. There is that something special feeling about being able to support the local economy. Especially if a pair of socks is going to the local homeless it would make sense to put some of the revenue and profit back into the local economy. With Ontario obviously being the first choice, then Canada then North America… I'm sure you get the picture!

Cheers!
Kevin / January 21, 2014 at 11:41 am
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Hey BC,

I don't like generalizing on China (especially since I'm Chinese myself) but I definitely found it difficult to find an ethical Chinese manufacturer. I feel like the first step in improving the production quality and general ethics of China is to create a demand for such values in manufacturing. I like to tell myself that my choice for going with a South Korean manufacturer is a step forward (accidental pun) in improving manufacturing conditions globally.

I definitely want to manufacture somewhere closer to home — the tricky part is keeping costs on par or lower (which is difficult especially in the US and Canada). I'll definitely have to keep looking into it but there are many hurdles to overcome versus manufacturing overseas. I don't want to ramble too much about it but if anyone wants to learn more about the difficulties of manufacturing here versus overseas I recommend you watch NPR's video series about how they manufactured a Tshirt (http://apps.npr.org/tshirt)
n / January 21, 2014 at 01:16 pm
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$12+5 for a pair of socks (not chosen by me) seems a bit too much. I can get socks from factory outlets 3 pairs for $5 or even less (chosen by me as well). Donating socks to needy is a great idea, but I can donate money myself and get a tax receipt in addition. I don't think this will fly - only hipsters will line up for this! Good luck
SueD / January 21, 2014 at 04:27 pm
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Are they men's socks only? I signed up for FootCardigan recently and they offer both. Any plans to include women's socks (if not included already)?
SC / January 21, 2014 at 04:30 pm
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scroll down people. one page scrolling website is the norm.

although, some navigation at the top would be cool. like this website blotinteractive dot com
Kris / January 21, 2014 at 06:24 pm
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Do you offer you socks for larger feet? If not then that's a market to get into finding socks that fit comfortable for shoes sizes 13-16 is hard!
loepr / January 21, 2014 at 06:57 pm
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Did you dumbasses even scroll down the webpage?
Kevin / January 21, 2014 at 07:03 pm
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Hi SueD + Laura Bee! They're unisex socks so no worries there! (Sorry Laura Bee! I missed your comment earlier!)

Hey Kris! It certainly is a market we want to get into! I have many colleagues that have a horrible time finding comfortable socks. The funny thing is that the machines that make those larger socks are hard to come by resulting in a niche. I definitely want to bring socks to everyone but at the moment they're only One Size Fits Most (Men's 7-13, Women 5-10).
Kevin / January 21, 2014 at 07:33 pm
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Hey Laura Bee + SueD! They're unisex socks — no longer do you have to worry which ambiguous gender assignment your socks are! (Sorry Laura Bee for not seeing your comment sooner!)

Hey Kris! I have a bunch of colleagues that have the same problem! The problem is that the machines required to make those socks are available in low quantities—hence the niche is formed. We hope to fill the 13-17 sock niche soon but unfortunately we are unable to at this time :(

Hey SC + Ioepr! It's alright. It's been a long day for everyone. I imagine people's eyes are glazing over my mountain of words. I need to work on shortening my responses down a tiny bit. :S
Garry Smith / January 21, 2014 at 07:51 pm
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Is the 1$2 a month automatic renewed? and how do we cancel if we decided it is not for us?

I just placed my order

great idea!!!
Sean / January 22, 2014 at 05:56 am
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I seconds that of Gary's question. If we've signed up under the 12 flat fee, will that carry on until we end our subscription, or will the 5$ shipping be applied to future orders? Excited for my first pair!
Kevin / January 22, 2014 at 10:17 am
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Hey Garry + Sean! I don't have any intention of charging you an additional $5 after the special is over (I might be offering more products in the near future though!). If you love what we're doing please tell as many of your friends and family to join!
chau / January 23, 2014 at 11:39 am
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Hi Kevin of WeSell Sock! Congrats and love the photographs and social goodness that you want to do!

Are you guys from Shopify btw? When I went to the Fall Interactive Tour last year, one of the guides at Shopify told us about this idea that was launched temporarily. He showed us a similar website.

:D If it is, I'm glad you guys put it up again!!
Kevin / January 23, 2014 at 04:37 pm
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Hey Chau!

Thanks so much!

It likely was! I'm personally not from Shopify but I did acquire the domain name from some friends there. They were a little too busy to run the operation with me but I'm feel like I'm carrying on the torch in their stead!
Michelle / February 4, 2014 at 01:24 pm
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In the article it says that if you join in the earlybird you will not be charged the shipping cost but when you go to sign up it has the total monthly cost listed as $17.
CLAIR / September 23, 2014 at 01:48 pm
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I have been trying to cancel my membership but can't figure out how. The email address that used to be affiliated with my membership is no longer valid. How can I cancel?

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