Interview with Jason Simmons: the Man Behind DeadSoxy

Besides having great style, Jason Simmons also has serious business savvy. He's the creator of DeadSoxy, a unique sock company that promises you quality dress socks that won't shrink in the wash any time soon or slip down your leg. Jason took time out of his busy schedule to chat with Her Campus about what it's like starting a business, Dead Soxy's charity efforts, and what brought him to the sock business. 

I love the name DeadSoxy, how did you guys come up with it? Also, what was it like creating DeadSoxy’s identity as a brand?

Oh my Gosh, truth be told, I think we’re still creating DeadSoxy’s identity quite a bit. Since we launched the company, it’s just evolved so much. From the people we create the socks for, the designs, to the material – it’s all evolved. As far as the name, I wish the story were better! It’s authentic, that’s for sure. My business partners at the time, I’ve since bought them out, were my two best friends. We used the phrase “dead soxy,” for years, before we even thought about starting a company. We would just say it when we noticed each other’s socks. It became this thing within our group.

When we started our journey, the name DeadSoxy wasn’t even on our radar. We actually had a couple of brainstorming sessions to come up with a name. It’s one of the fun things you get to do while launching a company. The names that came out of those sessions were atrocious, just real bad. We had a kind of “no wrong answers,” philosophy but God – it was bad. On the third one, my business partner at the time Michael came in and my other partner at the time Jay noticed his socks. And Jay just happened to say, “Oh man, those are dead soxy!” And we all just stopped, looked at each other, and were like “that’s it!”

What was going on for you before DeadSoxy took off? What was the point where you realized you really had something and committed to the company?

Gosh, you know what, I’m so glad you asked about that because it was such a big move for me, personally. I'm from a small town in Mississippi and grew up on a farm. It was a very, very, very modest upbringing. We used to race pigs in the backyard type of deal. I went to school, graduated, and took the first job that was offered to me, like most students upon graduating. I ended up staying there 10 years. I was a management consultant and by the time I left the company I was a partner. I did some really great things; I was the youngest partner in company history. I liked that job a lot but I didn’t love it. And I knew I didn’t love it.

But with it, I had done pretty well for myself. I afforded myself some flexibility in life to try things. At this point, I was just going through a very creative phase in my life. I tried to suppress that voice but it would just get louder and louder and louder. And around year seven of that old job, I started dabbling in apparel. I created a pair of pajama pants. It was just something I wanted to wear that I couldn’t find on the market. And I realized through that process that I really liked looking at yarns, researching, and getting samples made. The whole process just resonated with me and then to actually wear the final product – it had a big impact on me.

I realized pajama pants weren’t the place to start. Although, the pajama pants are way ahead of their time and you’ll probably see them around soon. So I was looking around in 2010 and 2011, and fun stylish socks were getting really popular and gaining traction. I had some too and all of them that I wore just never met my expectations. Almost every one of them, if not all, shrunk up after just one wash. It would start up my calf, one laundry cycle later and it’s down by my ankle. They would also just slide down my leg. I set out on this journey early on and I took the lead on product with my business partners. My goal was just to create a sock that stayed up your leg and didn’t shrink after just one wash.

With designing the socks, what are some places you look for inspiration? Are there any designers that inspire you?

Yeah, you know what, I find inspiration everywhere. Definitely while walking through any type of boutique or the mall. I just look at colors and patterns. I’m a big fan of Paul Smith, a designer out of the UK, the way he uses color is just really powerful. I also like John Varvatos. I grew up on classic rock so I love that vibe of just a leather coat and black jeans. So really all over inspiration, it comes daily. I just try to live an inspired life.

What was it like creating the socks and making sure they were in tip-top shape?

We didn’t start designing socks until we were really far in product development. I took the lead on product out of the gate and it took me two and a half years to get it right. And then we moved into looking at color palettes. The first two years of starting a company from scratch was very difficult, I had to make connections in a new industry. One of the things that kept me going was developing the socks. I would tweak their measurements, send it over to North Carolina to have them made, and get them back for more tweaking. I loved that feeling of tweaking something, trying your absolute best with each one. Then I would see we weren’t quite there and put them on to find what to fix. “Did I go too far? Is this enough?” It was really exciting. It was one of the most exciting parts of my days for the first 30 months leading up to the launch.

You guys have a great collaboration going on with Best Buddies with your socks adding a fun flare to their charity walk. Can you talk a little bit about how this collaboration came to be and any future collaborations coming soon?

We’ve got several other ones pretty far down, but it looks like they’re going to happen. One of those is with the Birthday Project; it’s also a non-for-profit charity. They go into homeless shelters and throw birthday parties for the kids; I think their work is just really important. The Best Buddies collaboration is really cool and unique because number one: their mission just really hits home personally for me. My niece has Treacher Collins Syndrome and it was difficult on her. A lot of the struggles I saw her go through had to do with how her peers treated her. We’re from a very small town, and inclusion is tough to come by in a smaller town, there were no programs like Best Buddies.

The program that we put together is really cool. We simplified our sock design process. We usually go through several steps: test colors, make sure they all work together, and seeing if the design translates well to the knitting machine, not all of them do. Instead of that, we had a design contest with the Best Buddies in Texas. Not all of the designs translated well to the sewing machine. But there were several good designs – exceptionally good. We went through the process of elimination and chose Alex, a young man who’s been with Best Buddies for a long time. He’s now graduated the program and become an ambassador. His design was just far and above – it translated really well and it had a light theme to it. Now we’ve made the socks and we’re selling them on DeadSoxy.com. We’re giving five dollars back for every pair that we sell. The rest of the revenue is going into PR and conversations like this one to get the word out. It’s going really well, we’re so excited. If we can even get close to our 100,000 dollar best buddies goal, it’s a massive win for us. Even just close to the goal would be over and above their traditional goal. They can do so many interesting things and help so many kids with that money.

Has DeadSoxy taken off the way you expected? And looking forward, what are your biggest hopes for the company?

Today, we’ve sold 168,000 pairs of socks and the company is coming up on its third anniversary in early May. I think if you had told me when we launched the company that three years later we would sell almost 200,000 pairs of socks – I would’ve been ecstatic. But the reality is, here today, I'm looking at our small office and we are busting at the seams. It’s never enough.

When we look at sprinkling in these little things that make a positive impact on the world, the bigger platform that we can get, the more impact that we can have. Early on when I was a little bit of a novice, I would’ve said, “Gosh yes, this is where I want to be.” But here today looking at it, I know that we have something really good, it’s just a matter of trying to scale it. The future is hopefully really bright for us because I think our intentions are good with the company, the brand, and the legacy we want to leave. We’re really devoted to having the best product we can possibly make. We’re excited but again, it’s never enough.

Do you have any advice for anyone looking for a direction for a new business?

For me, it was about what do I find myself doing when I have nothing else to do. I’ve always kind of been into design, apparel, and colors. I didn’t grow up with very much, so I would find myself shopping on a random Saturday when I didn’t have much going on. Even if I couldn’t afford anything, which was most of the time, I would just look around. I found myself looking on Amazon or doing brand research on a random Tuesday night. Unfortunately, it took me a long time to connect the dots and say to myself, “Gosh, I should do something in the industry.” So number one is just to really look at how you use your time and what you’re naturally drawn to.

From there just really dig in, and create a little niche for yourself.

Isabelle is a literary studies major at The New School

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