Bio: Chief Executive Officer, Eternal Optimist, Visionary, Website Analytics Wonk, Fastest Beard-Grower in The West, Greets Celebrities In Coffee Shops Like Old Friends. Born on a backyard ranch in the hinterlands of Oklahoma City, Bryan is both the face of and brains behind Foot Cardigan. Although most would agree he is by far the least attractive member of the team, Bryan possesses an ursine charisma that puts others at ease while simultaneously inviting them to join in the fun. He attended Belmont University in Nashville, TN, where he majored in Music Business, which is convenient because now he owns a sock company.
Hometown: Norman, Oklahoma
Favorite Dallas hangout: Anywhere in the Bishop Arts District, restaurants with good whiskey cocktails
AHD: For those who aren't yet hip to the brand, what is Foot Cardigan and where did the idea come from?
BD: I didn’t bring enough socks on a three-month European journey with my wife last year. The first ones we found were a 10-pack of wacky-designed socks in a retail shop in London. They became part of my everyday wardrobe when I got back from Europe, my ‘thing,’ if you will. Soon after, I saw the ‘Dollar Shave Club’ video go viral and fell in love with the subscription model as a business. I put them together and had a sock subscription sandwich. Simply, Foot Cardigan delivers a random pair of crazy socks to your mailbox every month.
AHD: Since your official launch in June of 2012, what kind of response have you received?
BD: To say we’ve been overwhelmed by the reaction to our brand would be an understatement. Even for me, the eternal optimist, expectations have been grossly exceeded. Not only in number of customers, but I’m constantly humbled that our product is given as a gift to cheer someone up or for a birthday or Christmas. It kind of makes it personal knowing that THIS is the gift that someone is getting for a certain occasion. I just hope it puts a smile on their face.
AHD: All but one of Foot Cardigan's five partners moonlight in the world of crazy socks and monthly subscriptions. Can you tell us a little bit about each?
BD: Oh man, where to begin. When the five of us are in a room together, it gets out of hand quickly. Individually, we are so different but it works. Here goes.
- Matt Fry is the most creative person I know. He writes all the genius copy for our brand and his crazy ideas are limitless. He is the first person I call when I have an idea. At his day job, he makes websites work better.
- Tom Browning makes sure the business runs. He’s our ‘no’ guy and is the first one of us to do this full-time, quitting his government job last year. He runs our shipping, operations, legal, financial, etc. He also has a PhD and doesn’t own a pair of jeans. True story. Weird, but true.
- Matt McClard is our developer/designer. Since we are an e-commerce business, his role is clearly vital. He makes sure the ‘E’ and ‘Commerce’ pieces of our site don’t break while designing a lot of the socks we send out. He develops websites for a living, but not-so-secretly wishes he could just focus on his UFO conspiracies. Seriously.
- Kelly Largent is the guy who ‘steps off the bus first.’ He looks like a Disney prince. He is also the most levelheaded of the five of us. He has insane connections and some serious sales skills. Therefore, he heads up our business development. One wink from this guy and the deal is done. At his day job, he sells really expensive medical devices that are hard to pronounce.
- As for me, my ‘bio’ is up top, but I was in the music business in Nashville for a while before moving to Dallas. When I got here, I helped several small businesses with marketing and now I do business development for a marketing company. I typically have some kind of facial hair and wear clothes that are likely too tight on me. YOLO, right?
AHD: How were you able to launch a quirky, successful start-up while holding down day jobs at the same time?
BD: Basically, we begged our wives to let us have man-time, occasionally stay out late and bribed them with spa/girls weekends while we worked. There was some major sacrifice on their part, and we’re so thankful for that. Between the five of us there are six kids, so we owe them. While that is true, we also wanted to build a business that catered to our individual and team skills as opposed to one that would require us to hire or outsource other people to do the work. We wanted as close to 360 degrees of control as possible. Three of us work with websites all day long in our day jobs, and I have some good experience with sourcing apparel. When you break it down, we sell socks online. We had the skills to make that happen internally. We all know our capabilities and limits in business and communicated that from the beginning.
AHD: You had the brains to start small and test everything before making a significant commitment. How can other entrepreneurial creatives learn from your approach?
BD: Well, the majority of us have started businesses before, so we’ve definitely learned some hard lessons along the way. But we absolutely subscribe to the lean startup method. Why would we spend a ton of time and money creating something that we don’t know if people even want? It doesn’t make sense. So, you test and test and test. If your testing shows that people want it, create it. If it doesn’t, don’t. It can be a hard pill to swallow if no one wants your product, but at least you know before you waste time and money.
We also believe in putting out the minimum viable product when we have it. That is, ok, the website isn’t perfect but people know what we sell and the shopping cart works well enough for now, let’s make it live. It’s the least amount a business needs to work at the most basic level. Nothing is ever really ‘ready’ to launch. Just get it out there. Make it better as you go along. Get constant feedback and change. In February, we’re launching the third iteration of our website in 8 months. We’re always adapting.
AHD: The Foot Cardigan story is certainly one of creative collaboration. How have you all worked together to better your product?
BD: When the team was initially assembled, that was the one thing I kept asking myself. Short and long term, who can challenge me and the other partners to make this the best it can be? I’ve had to have some hard conversations with great friends to get here, but I would go to war with these guys. At the core, we respect each other personally and professionally above all. We challenge each other and really push the boundaries of our skills. Another important thing is that we are all equal partners and hold each other accountable to do our jobs. No one micro-manages, but we’re all competitive in nature, so everyone kind of beats themselves up a bit if they DON’T get something done.
When everyone is on the same page as a team it creates a solid and necessary foundation, then the product SHOULD get better.
AHD: The writing at footcardigan.com is hysterical. With lines like "there's a whole world of podalic accessories at your fingertips, er…toetips" and the recent "sock the vote" campaign, it's clear you're having fun. What do you hope such quality content adds to the customer experience?
BD: We’re blushing. Thank you for the compliment! Matt Fry is a copywriting genius, so I have to give him the credit there. His personal writing style and humor were a perfect fit for what we wanted to create.
When we created Foot Cardigan, we intentionally wanted people to feel comfortable with us as a team and brand. We want their experience to be as easy as it is for us to create it. It’s pretty effortless on our part, because the tone of the brand is a direct extension of who we are individually. We want the experience to be that easy for the customer too. We’re selling socks, not something like atom colliders. We’d either be the best or worst sellers of atom colliders because we’d create them in the same tone as Foot Cardigan. Being ourselves through our brand allows us to connect with our customers on a level they expect. So, if we call a customer a ‘fart muffin’ they’ll probably (hopefully) laugh and say, ‘Oh, those guys. Those guys are so funny and sexy and perfect.’ Because really, that’s who we are.
AHD: One of your partners said your socks are "a very social purchase that people want to talk about." Do you feel like your products are building community?
BD: I hope so. If you think about it, in a lot of professions, wearing fun socks is the only way people would have to express themselves through their wardrobe. If you have to wear suits or scrubs everyday, your socks are possibly the only way to show your personality through what you wear. We also like creating products that people see and HAVE to comment/talk about. Like, ‘Are those pooping monkeys on your socks?’ Yes, yes they are.
We hope our socks are conversation starters that can re-kindle the ancient art of face-to-face communication. Maybe someone will get a date because of it. MAYBE someone will get married because they were connected through our socks. Take heed, Match.com, Foot Cardigan is breathing down your neck…er, foot.
AHD: Your first pair of custom designed socks received national attention. What can we expect in the near future?
BD: We got lucky with the election socks. It just happened to be an election year and creating those socks was the first big risk we took and it paid off.
We’re working on some collaborations that could be a lot of fun. We have to stay on the hush-hush for now, but keep your eyes peeled. We’re also about to open this up internationally, which is a whole new ballgame. In terms of sock designs, there’s a line we have to draw in our concepts that push the boundaries of how to use the sock as a canvas without just putting something weird on them. We want people to say ‘What?!? That’s crazy!,’ not, ‘WTF?’
AHD: Is there any better Valentine's Day offering than a Foot Cardigan subscription? How can we learn more, gift a subscription or get one of our own?
BD: Duh. Of course there isn’t a better gift. Think about it. It’s unique enough for your Valentine to really think you put effort into the gift, but that you didn’t try TOO hard. You know what I mean?
This Valentine’s Day we’re pushing our dual subscription that gets both you AND your Valentine a monthly subscription for crazy socks. A couple that socks together, stays together, right? Just head on over to footcardigan.com and the site will steer you in the right direction. If you can’t make up your mind, shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll make a decision for you and/or give you advice or answer any questions on any topic you’d like to talk about, socks or not.