We spoke to Josh Turner, CEO of Stand4 Socks, a social enterprise helping to better other people’s lives.
At Trade Finance Global, we like to recognise and support the excellent work of social enterprises, and we’ll be supporting Stand4 Socks in 2016.
Josh Turner is a 25-year-old lifetime entrepreneur who started his first business activities at age 7 and had various ‘ventures’ from eBay powerseller, events, fashion and ecommerce. Studied business management at University of Birmingham and was selected for the New Entrepreneurs Foundation upon graduating. Founded Stand4 Socks in 2015, which seeks to create connections between transaction and impact through reinventing what it means to buy a pair of socks. Winning Great British Social Entrepreneur of year 2015 (Bronze). He is passionated about the ability of businesses to create change the power of social enterprises will play in the future.
Josh, what was your inspiration to start selling socks?
It’s hard to say what makes you start a business, as entrepreneurs creating something new you just have this burning desire to ‘do it’ when you see an opportunity. Back at the time I started Stand4 I was working on a tech-based idea to streamline corporates expenses through an app – a ‘billion dollar idea’, but despite being a young ambitious entrepreneur I came to the realisation I had no tech experience or finance expertise in this space to raise the investment needed – I had just seen how clunky and out of touch corporates expenses processes were.
I have typically always been a product man, although I have strong interests in tech (what millennia l doesn’t nowadays!). 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 gives 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 an 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 Stand4?
To be honest most people laughed when I suggested the idea in the early days, they thought it was a stupid idea ‘socks changing the world?, really?’ crazy idea maybe, but never a stupid one…and I think this certainly played a part in what drove me early on! Compared to the tech idea, which had too much support, I didn’t have the drive to take it forward, which I got with Stand4. I wanted to do something quite out there, and different.
What’s been the biggest achievement to date at Stand4?
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. However, now I am undertaking ambitious plans to scale the business. One of greatest achievements for me was not just that people buy, like or follow what you are doing, but that people have taken it upon themselves to share it, and returned as repeat customers – that for me is powerful and maybe a small achievement it has great power for what I am doing and done!
How does Stand 4 Socks help others?
Stand4 helps others through an innovative twist on the buy one give one. We realised early on that sending socks to kids in Africa or south america would have little value to their lives – when they don’t have clean water, proper primary education or healthcare. Combine these tangible impacts like a years clean water, or vaccinations against measles ….with a everyday product like the purchase of socks and you get Stand4. Whereby something we wear most days, and buy regularly can also have an impact on someone else life. Secondary, we also raise awareness of some of the largest global issues through our colourful socks sparking conversations around woman rights or environmental sustainability. We are only just getting started, what if socks could change the world?
What are your plans for the company?
We have three new product ranges all coming this year including athletic socks, bamboo socks and corporate range, which I am very excited about. Also have partnered with some new and exciting charities taking our impacts into new causes and countries for example 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 its very much all go go go currently!
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. Stand4s vision is to create an online market place where all purchases have a positive impact, far beyond just socks. We also want to work with other organisations of all sizes to bring social impact into their business models. Models, which don’t drive down prices, but actually increase ‘value and purpose? 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 brought a tractor for a farmer in South America? The opportunities aree endless, but the impacts are substantial.
What would you recommend for a young entrepreneur, looking to start their own company?
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 want to help people you used to have to start a charity and rely on fundraising, 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?