In this ongoing series, we are sharing advice, tips and insights from real entrepreneurs who are out there doing business battle on a daily basis. (Answers have been edited and condensed for clarity.)
Who are you and what’s your business?
I’m Ryan Berman, co-founder of a new startup called Sock Problems. Sock Problems is out to ‘sock’ problems in the world with cause-centered socks. If you aspire to sock inequality, sock breast cancer, sock hate or sock climate change, we most likely have a sock for you. We hope passionate people will have the courage to take a stand while standing in our socks.
What inspired you to create this product?
I was in the process of writing my book called Return on Courage, which helps brands address their business fears head on — so that they can get unstuck and take action on new ideas. I realized through the book writing process that I was stuck and taking no action on the idea I was most passionate about. If you’re going to write a book about courage you might as well live the premise. So, after sitting on Sock Problems for 5 years, I finally put the idea in motion.
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What does the word “entrepreneur” mean to you?
I realized how much of an “owner” I had become in my life vs. being a forward-thinking entrepreneur. An “owner,” in my opinion, is operating in the here and now; concentrating on maintaining their business. The entrepreneur, on the other hand, is doing everything in their power to create new opportunities and thinking about the future.
What was your toughest challenge and how did you overcome it?
It was locking in all of our Charity Navigator-approved charities. We give 25% of every purchase back to our partners and each sock has a leading cause partner associated with it. Imagine trying to articulate your idea to some of the world’s largest charities when you have no tangible product to share and no website to showcase. Somehow, these charities believed in our mission, our team and our values. It didn’t hurt that the comps of our designs resonated.
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What’s the problem you just solved or are attacking now?
There are hot-off-the-press new problems and we realize that we need to be ready to deliver for those passionate communities looking for ways to express their points of view. So the speed in which we can turn a meaningful sock around is a hot topic around our office.
What trait do you depend on most when making decisions?
Every decision we contemplate runs through our four core values: Transparency, Giving, Conquering and Playfulness. Transparency is critical because people want to know where their money is being donated. Giving because we see ourselves as a giving company that just happens to be selling socks. Conquering because the largest goal we have is to conquer problems. And Playfulness because, although we are dealing with heavy issues, we strive to be a beacon of positivity and to bring people together with light-hearted designs.
Related: How to Create the Stunning Visuals Critical to Startup Success
How has your leadership style evolved?
No one gets there alone. I used to think I could do it all myself. Now, I know how critical it is to find the right raft mates. There are only so many spots on the raft — so you have to choose wisely. I recommend finding people that share your values but who bring a breadth of experience to the team. As a guy who spent a career in the service business, I am beyond grateful to have a partner who has deep expertise in making a killer product. As a creative thinker who spent 15 years in preference marketing, I adore having another partner who is an analytical wizard in performance marketing. This is how we’ve rounded out our “raft” and it works for us.
Is there a particular quote or saying that you use as personal motivation?
Just one that I wrote: “Don’t just look at the world differently. Do the world differently.” I have a 2-year-old daughter and a 5-year-old son and I hope they choose to live a courageous life. I really do believe that courage is regret insurance. When it’s all done, I know I’ll look back at my life and be proud that I took a real cut at making something meaningful.