Welcome Andrew! How did you come with the idea for Comrad?
When I left my PM job at Salesforce, I was on my feet all day. I was traveling a lot and training for my first triathlon. My legs were tired, aching & sore.
And as I complained, a pro college athlete friend of mine introduced me to compression socks, and instantly - my legs felt better. The problem was that they were ugly, expensive, and uncomfortable. The majority of medical compression socks are just that. “Medical looking” and either beige or black, it's not something you want to really wear out.
So I started having conversations with family and friends. My dad's a physician, my sister's an attorney, my mom a social worker and my cousin's a chef: All of them were on their feet all day and I asked them: Do you wear compression socks? And I was surprised to hear they all said yes. I followed that up with “What brand do you wear?” to which they all replied they didn’t really know… the socks were always kind of ugly, expensive, or uncomfortable.
So that insight kicked off a 2 year project where I was trying to make the most comfortable every day compression sock in the world. I went through 300 prototypes and dozens of manufacturers. And eventually, I had a go-to-market product. I tested it on family, friends, pro athletes, like everyone under the sun. And the feedback was resoundingly positive.
That’s when I felt ready to soft launch the company (this was in 2018). So now, we’re just about at the 5 year mark and approaching a $10m run rate with 8 full time employees.
Congratulations on the growth so far! What’s one or two unlocks in the past 12 months?
One is around COVID. We built a ton of sensibility and insurance around our supply chain in the event of another catastrophe.
One of the most important things for a DTC brand to get right is the supply chain. And post-COVID, one thing became abundantly clear: We needed a reliable line of communication with our manufacturers. And another is that we need to find a cost-effective way to ship products faster while circumventing large container ships.
During COVID, it was the container ships at the port of Los Angeles that were at the root of most of the delays. So since we have really good margins, we were able to find a faster shipping method on the water that is marginally more expensive: “Fast Boats”.
Fast boats as I see them are essentially cargo ships that are 1/8th of the size of a container ship and don’t carry containers. It’s ultimately the containers that cause all the delays, so without them - we get speed up our supply chain massively.
The second unlock is expanding to omnichannel. From launch until last year, we were 95% DTC. And today we’ve opened up some wholesale channels and Amazon.
As you know, with changes to privacy laws and advertising, the advertising data is really unreliable and CPMs + CPAs have gone up. But a channel like Amazon or retail will bring a sense of stable income to your business as they’re unimpacted by those changes.
What is it about selling socks on the internet? What makes this category interesting to look at?
I've always been a lover of socks. They’re really important to your comfort and also very much complement your outfit.
But from the business side, there’s also many reasons to get interested in the category:
- Socks are extremely lightweight to ship
- There’s very little damage / spoilage that can take place
- It’s relatively recession proof
- It’s a higher frequency purchase
- It’s a +$40bn global market!
Even with all this, we’ve had to find our groove - and we see ourselves more as a wearable wellness company vs a sock company. We make products that are functional in improving wellbeing via circulation. Those products also happen to be stylish and comfortable.
Socks were the most universal and obvious way to introduce our vision - but soon we’ll be releasing a broader range of products targeting other areas such as shins.
Let’s dive into Storetasker and the website: How did you come across us? How have you leveraged us?
I previously built and exited a SaaS company - so I know a little bit of coding and design. So I was able to get us up and running quite quickly via Shopify but didn’t have the resources to hire anyone full time until year 2. Back then, agencies were out of the picture too - so that’s why I turned to Storetasker.
I used you guys for small bug fixes and technical tasks early on. Eventually, I was able to bring on some agency support and as we got more sophisticated, I turned back to Storetasker for help with CRO and site optimization.
And ultimately - that’s where I see Storetasker fitting in for us: Whenever we need support that our agency isn’t setup to support, we loop you in.
Super. Last question: What got you to where you are today on Comrad?
Product excellence and customer obsession, underlined with phenomenal team members and culture.
We've focused on constantly improving the product at every single release, even when we're reordering products that are part of our core collection.
And we really go out of our way to make sure customers are happy, providing free returns & exchanges as well as looping them into our product roadmap. We survey our highest LTV customers and we literally have them vote on what they’d want to see next.
Those two pieces can really only be unlocked once you find a super autonomous team that’s aligned with the vision of the company.