In the spotlight: Stand4 Socks and Founder-CEO Josh Turner
In the spotlight: Stand4 Socks and Founder-CEO Josh Turner
Stand4 Socks is a great early stage start-up based in the UK. Founded by young entrepreneur Josh Turner in 2015, this bootstrapped social enterprise has been quietly doing its thing, while making an impact and putting some fun on our feet!
Josh is a 25 year old serial entrepreneur, starting his first business ventures before the age of 10 in the form of eBay powerselling, events and eCommerce. He studied Business Management at the University of Birmingham, before then joining the New Entrepreneurs Foundation and founding Stand4 Socks.
I had a chat with Josh recently to catch up on how things have gone in his first 2 years, what’s coming next, and where his biggest challenges and opportunities lie.
[SW] Hi Josh, can you introduce Stand4 and tell us what it’s all about?
[JT] Hi Sam. I founded Stand4 Socks in 2015. Stand4 is a social enterprise seeking to create connections between transaction and impact through reinventing what it means to buy a pair of socks. We sell high quality, creative socks with bespoke designs relating to a chosen cause, and recently won Great British Social Entrepreneur of year 2015 (Bronze).
[SW] What made you start the business?
[JT] As an entrepreneur creating something new you just have this burning desire to ‘do it’ when you see an opportunity.
I just saw an opportunity to take what is a traditionally dull and mundane product (socks) and charity, which lacked transparency and trust in the eyes of the consumer and mash them together to create something new.
The ‘buy one give one’ model made famous by Toms shoes really inspired me, but I also saw its limitations. Certainly there was no real value in sending socks to people in developing countries when they don’t have any education, food or medical health. Colourful Socks for me had this interesting power as a subtle fashion statement, which can communicate so much, so why not what someone Stands for?
[SW] Why did you choose to include a social element in your business model from the start?
[JT] For me it wasn’t really an overly conscious decision at the time, it was more why wouldn’t I? I strongly feel that starting anything new without a social element of some kind is going to be a struggle.
CSR (corporate social responsibility) has gone from a ‘nice to do’ to a ‘must do’. You see big businesses of all sizes trying to bring CSR right into their business models. ‘Social enterprise’ is going through a huge explosion at the moment, and charities have to become more commercial and innovative about how they operate to achieve their mission – the middle ground is where social enterprises are thriving, and it isn’t just a fad.
[SW] Can you share some of the learning points you’ve had along the way?
[JT] I spent maybe too long on the product development and didn’t launch as quickly as possible. But I’m certainly happy with the foundations we have built; we have a fantastic manufacturer who really understands my vision and have built a very close working relationship to be able to scale.
I’ve found social media is a great thing for a start-up founder. When you’re having a bad day and you get a personal tweet or someone loving what you are doing; it makes it all worthwhile.
Always ‘be nice’. It’s an out-dated way of thinking that business is all about screwing people over and only worrying about yourself. Being nice has zero cost but huge rewards, I have built great relationships with our stakeholders like our charity partners or manufacturers, and I don’t think that’s just because we are a ‘do-good brand’. It’s just the way I approach business and life.
[SW] Where do you work from?
[JT] Anywhere and everywhere! I originally spent 6 months based at home. I’m always in and out of London – so trains and coffee shops are familiar!
Most recently I have relocated to Manchester and have been hot-desking in SpaceportX, a more tech focused co-working space in the heart of the Northern Quarter.
[SW] What support did you receive to help you start your business?
[JT] Stand4 has been self-funded to date.
When launching Stand4 I was also part of the New Entrepreneurs Foundation, an individual entrepreneur accelerator in London. Programmes like the NEF really do help support you in many ways, from mentoring, networking, executive coaching and relevant workshops. More importantly, as a single founder they give you a ‘cohort’ of like-minded people. This really helps in making you feel less crazy for the unconventional path you are taking.
[SW] How has the journey been so far, and what’s coming next for Stand4?
[JT] Firstly we have launched and proven the concept, which was most important.
We have made some mistakes and done some things well, but learnt a lot.
We have three new product ranges all coming this year including athletic socks, bamboo socks and corporate range, which I am very excited about.
We’ve also partnered with some new and exciting charities taking our impacts into new causes and countries including Water.org.
Later in the year Stand4 will be launching its first crowdfunding campaign and we are working on a number of strategic partnerships to really help scale the business. So it’s very much all go-go-go right now!
[SW] Wisest thing anyone has ever told you?
That there is no such thing as a bad decision – you can only make what you feel is the best decision at that point in time given the information in front of you. Whether that turns out to be a good, bad or great one only time will tell, but sitting on the fence and doing nothing is always going to be a bad one.
Either that one, or:
Always remain a hunter, not a farmer. A farmer ploughs the same field for the same crops and return, it puts limitations on your growth and your returns. A hunter doesn’t rest on last years crop, he is always out hunting for new prey and new opportunities.
[SW] If money (or funding) were no issue, what would you do differently?
[JT] Great question. For me I don’t feel not raising money has held us back.
Too many start ups nowadays are obsessed with ‘going through the motions’ of being a start up; raising a bunch of money, getting a cool office space, hiring people etc. Then they sit back and ask why aren’t we successful already?
Just because in the current environment it’s easy to raise money doesn’t mean a lot of start-ups should. I turned down a round recently for this reason. It wasn’t the right time and I couldn’t see how the money would have helped the long-term vision. Bootstrapping a start-up will push you to your limits, and force you to hunt for a valid market fit, at which point you then look to scale. What often happens at the minute is that people are scaling an average idea quickly, into an average business and not really solving any customer pain points.
[SW] What motivates you to keep at it?
[JT] Being a start-up focused on a triple bottom line (profit, planet & people) is a strong driver to build on.
Business is business, and has been a passion of mine ever since I was a kid, its natural to me and I can’t see a time in the future where it doesn’t still excite me.
Having something you created from nothing which now has a somewhat tangible impact on other people’s lives is a really moving and truly unexpected motivation. I would pull pints in the local pub to keep this going if I had to. When the success of your business is defined by more than just money it’s the most powerful driver in you and those around you.
[SW] What’s your ultimate goal for your business?
[JT] Global consumer spending is forecast to reach $20 trillion by 2020, imagine if by then 1% of purchases had a positive impact on the world around us.
Stand4’s vision is to create an online market place where all purchases have a positive impact, far beyond just socks.
Imagine if by getting a loan from your bank you also gave a micro loan to women in India? Or by buying a new car you bought a tractor for a farmer in South America? The opportunities are endless, but the impacts are substantial.
[SW] Any further tips you would share with anyone looking to start a social enterprise?
[JT] Just do it! No matter your age or background.
If you see a problem and have a solution, it doesn’t matter if it’s just in your local community or a huge international issue. If you wanted to help people, you used to have to start a charity and rely on fundraising – but now you can now start a business and help even more people. Starting a social enterprise is one of the most rewarding things you will do; something you start today could make someone’s tomorrow better, and so what have you got to lose?
Q: What if socks could change the world? Its crazy, but is it? We make amazing quality socks that look and feel good, but also do good!
INFO: We have more causes launching this Christmas with our new bamboo sock range, sports socks with high functionality for running and cycling include a unique massage effect, and then a UK based impact of homeless sock, a thick twisted cotton sock where we directly give a pair to a homeless person in the UK.