Jan 18, 2017
Industry: Lifestyle & Consumer
A few years ago Harrison Mitchell was walking through Nordstrom’s, looking for socks for his wife. It was a serendipitous search. Mitchell never did find what he was looking for, but he did find a niche he was prepared to fill.
“The men’s section at Nordstrom’s had tons of cool socks, but I went to the women’s section and found smart wool and tights,” Mitchell says.
For the previous ten years, Mitchell has been working in textile and home décor manufacturing. He had a team in China ready for this new venture. He just needed to tell them to switch the focus to women’s socks.
“We had a strong team with a lot of experience. We got off the ground quickly. And my wife thought it was a good idea. She saw me wear fun socks and thought it was her turn,” Mitchell says.
In 2015, Mitchell started Woven Pear, a women’s sock manufacturer. “It took off really quickly. We got a great response. Our socks are fun, bright, and we put a strong focus on quality. We bridge the gap between a novelty item and fashion.”
Woven Pear socks are hand-dipped and hand-dyed. Though the socks are manufactured in China, Mitchell tries to be as hands-on as several thousands of miles of distance will allow. “When I was ready to start Woven Pear, I went over to China personally. Getting the quality right was important. A lot of our socks have writing on them. The left sock says something and the right foot says something else. With a language barrier, things could have gone really wrong. And we have had issues at times, but not enough to change manufacturers or keep a permanent staff in China. They are doing an amazing job.”
Manufacturing overseas carries with it the burden of long lead times. When Mitchell has a new idea for a sock, it takes 45-60 days for him to see an actual version. “That time is not terrible,” he says, “but we are still working on shortening it. The key is technology. We need a dedicated machine to speed up our production time.”
Woven Pear socks can be purchased in over 120 retail locations as well as online. In addition, Mitchell has come full circle. This year he signed a contract to sell his socks on Nordstrom.com. “We’ve seen a lot of good growth through this contract,” Mitchell says. “Our growth is a product of our quality and our fun designs. They are fun to wear, and they connect to the customers. The socks are relatable but stylish. They make our customers feel good.”
Challenges: Nailing down the perfect material composition. “It has to be high quality but breathable, comfortable and warm,” Mitchell says. “We also added padding in the heels and toes so they wear better.”
Opportunities: New customers. Woven Pear has been exclusively for women, but Mitchell is ready to move into the baby and kids market. “They can’t roll off the feet easily. We’re trying to find something comfortable that does not come off, irritate, or cut off circulation,” Mitchell says. Woven Pear also wants to offer compression socks. “That has been a challenge. We’re working with nurses and waitresses, women who are on their feet a lot, and we’re getting great feedback.”
Needs: Financial. Woven Pear is ready to expand, but that requires a financial investment. “We have a really good base line. We just want to get more socks in more hands – and feet,” Mitchell says.