How Hippy Feet Built a Successful Mission-Driven Sock Brand
February 17, 2022
Most of us take socks for granted. We dig them out of a drawer and pull them on without thinking much about it.
But, for many people, this common luxury is just out of reach.
Realizing the dire need for socks in homeless shelters, Sam Harper and Micheal Mader started their mission-based benefit corporation, Hippy Feet, with a focus on helping out those experiencing homelessness.
To achieve their mission, they needed to build a successful customer-centric brand.
In our series celebrating some of the incredible brands working with Shogun, we talked with Sam about how Hippy Feet got started, how their mission has evolved, and how they found ecommerce success by building out a customer-centric online store.
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Defining their mission
In 2016, Sam and Michael started selling their eco-friendly socks out of their apartments after winning a small grant from a startup competition.
Learning that socks are the most requested but least donated items at homeless shelters, Hippy Feet began donating a pair of socks for every pair they sold.
And it was well-received.
They donated over 20,000 pairs of socks in their Minneapolis community, both in shelters and out on the streets.
People there started to get to know them and loved what they were doing.
Finding some success, they moved the business from their apartments to a warehouse and built a passionate team to go with it.
A few years in, they began to feel like they were simply treating a symptom of the problem and not actually helping people get out of the cycle of homelessness.
In 2019, they stopped their one-for-one model and started a transitional jobs program for youth experiencing homelessness. This work includes assembling and packaging products, managing the warehouse, and fulfilling online orders.
Since that time, they’ve employed more than 160 young people in the six-month program that gives them a stable income and job training.
Their socks help not only the homeless but also the planet.
Made in the US with recycled shirt scraps, they save water and divert manufacturing waste.
“Growing cotton to create socks is a highly water-intensive process—a single pound of cotton requires almost 2,400 gallons of water.” Sam noted. “Rather than growing new cotton, we use recycled cotton from t-shirt trimmings.”
In 2021 alone, they were able to divert over 6,000 lbs of cotton from the landfill.
But, doing good alone doesn’t build a business. Hippy Feet needed to define their brand (and its values) to attract customers.
“The world may not need another sock company, but it does need organizations that drive towards progress, protect the planet, and lift up the most vulnerable people around them.” Sam Harper, Co-Founder
Building a brand identity
To begin to develop the look and feel of the Hippy Feet brand, they explored its more abstract characteristics.
“We asked ourselves questions like ‘If you met Hippy Feet at a party, what would its personality be?’ and ‘What does Hippy Feet smell like?’ It helped us know the brand at a deeper level. From there, a lot of the practical questions answered themselves.” Sam Harper, Co-Founder
From that, they could start to create their logo, color schemes, and brand voice.
They weren’t the only company selling socks, so their brand identity was essential to differentiating themselves and attracting a solid customer base.
Sam clearly understands this:
“There are a lot of mission-driven companies out there that are doing wonderful work. To stand out in a crowded space, we lean heavily on our brand identity and values.”
Centering the customer experience
With a clear brand identity in place, they began creating an online store that matched their vision—an exceptional ecommerce experience.
“At Hippy Feet, we believe an exceptional ecommerce site is one that is customer-centric. This means removing friction from the customer experience, clearly communicating our values, and making it easy to find what someone is looking for.” Sam Harper, Co-Founder
So, when they built their Shopify store, they led with their core values and included straightforward navigation for a smooth shopping experience.
Understanding that the customer journey often begins on Google, they also created landing pages that would rank for their unique niche of ‘eco-friendly custom socks’, driving searchers directly to their unique products.
But, building those pages wasn’t always straightforward.
A fast and flexible solution to their page building needs
To create this customer-centric shopping experience, Hippy Feet needed the flexibility to tailor pages to the unique needs of each project and quickly iterate on that design.
Initially, they would either hard code pages to include what they needed or simply settle for the design limitations of their Shopify theme.
This meant that building custom pages was expensive, and getting to the final product took too much time.
They needed something that made store customization quick, intuitive, and cost-effective.
With it, they can build out a customer-centric shopping experience without relying on costly developers.
“Customizing the look and feel of our site allows us to put a consistent image forward and create stronger, more meaningful relationships with our customers whether they’re interacting with Hippy Feet in person, on our website, or on social media.” Sam Harper, Co-Founder
They use Page Builder to create landing pages for their influencer collaborations, in which organizations and celebrities work together on custom socks and apparel that can reach a larger audience.
These pages give the brand a singular place to drive traffic from influencers to better explain the collaboration and their impact directly to the biggest fans of that influencer.
As new traffic pours in, they can then use retargeting ads to draw potential customers back to the store. Moreover, the team can better attribute success to a marketing initiative, like the influencer campaigns, when there’s a dedicated landing page.
“Shogun Page Builder has become a new tool in our toolkit. We’re able to use landing pages more effectively when we create and optimize them quickly.” Sam Harper, Co-Founder
Custom socks are a huge part of Hippy Feet’s business—making up nearly 40% of their revenue—so it was important to have a landing page that could communicate the impact of buying custom socks from Hippy Feet.
Their Custom Socks pagehas been a powerful educational tool and has given them a significant boost in organic traffic.
As more companies focus on doing good in the world, the market for charitable and eco-friendly promotional products will continue to grow.
As Hippy Feet grows, they plan to use Page Builder to expand their portfolio of collaborations and revamp some key Shopify pages.
With more success, they can expand the good they do in the world:
“Over the next couple of years, we’re going to make our impact much more localized. When you purchase products in your area, you’ll be directly benefiting young people experiencing homelessness in your own community.” Sam Harper, Co-Founder
If you are building an ethical and sustainable brand like Hippy Feet, great marketing is the best way to support your mission.
To replicate Hippy Feet’s success, there are a few things you can do:
State your mission and values loud and clear
Define your customer journeys to create high-converting sales funnels
Develop a consistent and stunning brand identity
Build dedicated on-brand landing pages that streamline the shopping experience
Customize your store pages to differentiate your store from the rest
When I asked Sam what advice he’d give to new entrepreneurs, he said:
“If you a trying to build a great ecommerce experience thinking you have all the answers, you’re going to fail. Instead, be humble and expect to come across findings that surprise you. Let your data tell a story and continue to challenge your assumptions. This will lead to an experience your customers love.”
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Sean is one of Shogun's tireless content marketers. When he isn't creating exciting ecommerce content, he's probably biking or at the park.