DeFeeting the Competition – An Interview with Shane Cooper of DeFeet
Socks. Yes, socks. DeFeet socks, to be precise. Kristin talks with Shane Cooper of DeFeet in this weeks’ Intrepid Entrepreneur Podcast. They discuss the passion behind his business that trumps even the hardest set backs and difficulties – the humor and the chutzpah that packs a punch when you’re an entrepreneur. Follow Intrepid Entrepreneur to get more updates (especially about our upcoming weekly giveaways) by joining our community on Twitter (@GoLivingUber) and Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/LivingUber). Don’t forget to rate, review and subscribe if these podcasts are becoming your latest obsession!
What’s Micro Sockery, you ask? What’s a Sockologist? Why do people care about sock tans? Are socks really technical products? Did DeFeet really make socks for President George Bush Junior (read: Peleton 1 sock)? If you’re cycling, running or powder skiing obsessed, you’ve undoubtedly heard about DeFeet. This 23-year-old American manufacturer of competition-grade cycling, running and skiing socks (and yes, their socks also are completely suitable for bike polo, progressives and ski-jouring and apparently, truck driving, but you’ll have to listen to this podcast to get that one) is full of personality and authenticity. This is one podcast that you won’t want to miss!
DeFeet was launched in 1992 by Shane Cooper and his wife Hope (Dixon) Cooper, who serves as the company’s CFO today. From a bit of a wayward background of traveling musician and bike racer, Shane (most often known as Coop) decided to take his upbringing, which occurred in close proximity to knitting machines in the hosiery hub of the United States, North Carolina, and create a collision with his other passion – cycling. Going from the first product, a totally customizable, open mesh weave airflow sock, to a complete collection of cycling, run and ski socks. DeFeet has stayed independent and committed to American manufacturing through the duration of its lifespan. And that wasn’t always the easy road, as Shane spills in this podcast. He also lays down an amazing array of one-liners and stories that couldn’t possibly come from a guy who just loves to ride bikes and make socks. …
DeFeet socks are similar to the company’s culture: Elegant, simple, useful and built to last. Okay, forget the elegant. It’s more about personality, integrity and maniacal quality control and innovation.
Shane Cooper is the epitome of a passion-driven entrepreneur and he has more stories to share than I could fit into this podcast. The DeFeet story is like no other – it’s my hope that you’ll enjoy the ups, the downs and all of the amazing stories wedged in-between the journey of this independent gem of a company!
Bravery in Business Quote:
“I didn’t have a business plan, I don’t have an MBA – I’m just a dreamer” (this quote is best heard when sung to a Journey song).
Habit for Success?
“Keeping the passion front and center? That’s the key to making it all work. We love being with our tribe and growing our tribe!”
DeFeet’s North Carolina factory was burned to the ground in 2001. At the time, the company had 50 employees, owned the building and was doing exceptionally well. It took the company seven years to get back to profitability. Shane and his dear friend and business partner Paul Willerton took to the road in a dark purple PT Cruiser, as soon as the company was operational and production was on line again, and visited retailers with a gift pack, just to make sure that their wholesale partners knew that they’d be back. What was in the gift pack? A pair of DeFeet’s with a Phoenix embroidered on the ankle – and they did rise again!
Coolest Expansion Idea:
To DeFeet, the best idea around expansion is growing their tribe and the stoke among their tribe.
Read this awesome blog post about Shane chasing his wife Hope Dixon (bad-a** cyclist, gourmet cook, and CFO/COO of DeFeet) up the many steep hill climbs in and around their offices and factory. It’s titled, befittingly, When a Woman Drops a Man.