The men behind Foot Cardigan can reveal this much about their Shark Tank appearance: they showed up in their boxer shorts. The proprietors of the sock-subscription company had to show off their unique product, and that would be hard to do if it was hidden under pants and shoes. On Friday’s episode, Shark Tank viewers will learn whether the rapidly growing business gets an investment.
Rapid growth means Foot Cardigan has just moved into a new, 6000-sq.ft. warehouse and office in Dallas. Three of the company’s four founders have now quit their jobs to work at Foot Cardigan full time. The business has 6 other employees, 4,000 subscribers, and expected sales of $1.5 million this year, according to The Dallas Morning News.
So what are subscribers getting? Relief from the task of shopping for socks, and a surprise in the mail every month when a new pair arrives. Foot Cardigan’s customers pay a monthly fee of $9 for a “dudes” (men) or “dolls” (women) subscription that entitles them to the whimsical foot accessory. Kids subscriptions are $11 a month for two pairs, and it’s dubbed “whippersnappers.”
But as Matt McClard told the Waco Tribune, appearing on Shark Tank was not an easy decision for the Foot Cardigan crew. The Baylor University graphic design grad said they didn’t doubt the company was right for the show; they wondered if the show was right for the company.
“We’ve had the Shark Tank argument in our company for a really long time. ‘This is the kind of idea you’d see on Shark Tank,’ but we would say, ‘Is this the right idea for our company? Is this the kind of company we want to build?'”
Once they decided to appear on the program, and their self-described “cheesy” application video was accepted, they did their homework. They watched full seasons of the show to get to know the sharks. McClard prepped himself with notecards containing business data that he kept on hand and reviewed daily. Apparently, the Foot Cardigan crew did not want to be accused of not knowing its numbers.
Although the company is only three years old, it got national exposure in 2012 by issuing election-themed footwear. Customers had their choice between blue Obama and red Romney socks. In the present-day service, subscribers receive a sock design randomly chosen by the company. Bright colors are expected, and past patterns have included lightbulbs and corgis (the Queen’s favorite breed of dog).
Bryan Deluca, who appears on Shark Tank with McClard, told Footwear News that it’s more about the entertainment value and less about the practicality of a new pair of socks every few weeks.
“Socks are a commodity too and we think people would love getting them delivered. And, no one gets fun mail any more! You either get bills or you get something you know you ordered from Amazon, so our socks are a fun surprise — it’s more about an experience.”
But will the sharks bite? CarterMatt noted in its show preview that there have been many subscription services that have turned into Shark Tank fan favorites. But if the service is not proprietary, the sharks may question its investment potential.
In the past, the Shark Tank panel has seemed willing to put money down on a subscription service. Mark Cuban bought 30 percent of Misto Box, a coffee-of-the-month service, for $75,000 in 2013. The entrepreneurs behind Surprise Ride, which sells a monthly activity kit for kids, appeared later that year and left without a deal, but they did get a bite. Robert Herjavec offered $110,000 for 25 percent of the business, but that was rescinded when the entrepreneurs asked the other sharks if they had any interest.
Shark Tank, featuring Foot Cardigan and guest shark Troy Carter, airs Friday night at 9 p.m. on ABC.
[Main image courtesy of Foot Cardigan]