By Ariel Schwartz
Real estate investor Jeff House loves socks. He thinks, in fact, that "socks are the new tie." He also loves microfinance, and all the companies like Tom's Shoes and Warby Parker that promote the "one-for-one" model of sales. House's partner Diana Charabin is a successful entrepreneur.
They've decided to team up and create the company of their dreams: a sock startup that gives 20% of gross revenue to Kiva, which in turn loans 80% of the cash directly to entrepreneurs and keeps 20% for its operations. House and Charabin call it the "one for many" model.
"On the microfinance side, it's something I've been passionate about for quite awhile. I went to Colombia with Opportunity International, a field partner of Kiva's, to deliver and distribute microloans to entrepreneurs," says House. "I had the opportunity to visit people in their homes, see the businesses they started." Back at home, House started wearing colored socks as a way to stand out in the business world. "They'rea way to express yourself, be a little different," he says.
So Jeff and House launched Cole + Parker, which is now seeking $20,000 on IndieGoGo (at the time of writing, they've already raised $16,686). Unlike many crowdfunded startups, House believes that Cole + Parker has its supply chain down pat.
The company is working with the founder of Toesox--they sell socks with toes, obviously--to produce the socks in China. House assures me that the factories where the socks will be made have stringent audits: "They're Walmart certified, and Walmart certification for factories has annual audits and surprise audits," he says. "Our socks do come out a little more expensive than they could, but everybody receives a fair wage." Walmart's program has its kinks (remember the Bangladesh fire last year?), but it's a big step up from factories without certification.
House is confident enough in the supply chain that he's confident in the Cole + Parker July delivery date for IndieGoGo supporters. "We know our turnaround," he says. "Unless a ship goes down or something, we're giving ourselves over a month's buffer."
Check out Cole + Parker's vibrant socks here.
Copyright 2013 by Fast Company. Reprinted with permission.