LOCAL COUPLE BUILDING SOCIAL ENTERPRISE ONE STEP AT A TIME

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When Jeff and Ali De Maria started their online sock subscription business in late 2014 they didn’t realise how important a local focus would become for their brand.

Both were working long hours in stressful conditions for global companies. During one of their frequent late night, sleep deprived discussions they realized they were unfulfilled at work and needed to make a change. Agreeing that neither had time for the volunteer work they had previously enjoyed only a few years ago, they agreed to start a project that would leverage their skills to raise money and awareness for causes they were passionate about. The pair set about researching social enterprises and business models that would allow them to make a difference while maintaining their day jobs.

Launched from their small home office in Seddon, their brand Soxy Beast has grown to reach over 500 monthly subscribers around the country. Each month subscribers receive a new pair of socks designed in collaboration with an Australian artist, with 10% of revenue donated to a featured charity. With a mission to spread “art, love and socks”, the couple package every pair with information on the featured artist they worked with and the charity being supported. Since launching Soxy Beast they’ve been able to raise awareness and over $10,000 in funds for a diverse range of causes including the Royal Flying Doctor Service, The Australian Wildlife Conservancy, and Headspace.

Their unique business model mixing fun products with social awareness has found strong support in the western suburbs.

“Our customers tend to be a bit funky, a bit colourful. They like something that’s a bit out-there. It’s not like we actively targeted our neighbours or anything, but we’ve actually found that a good chunk of our Victorian subscribers are from the western suburbs. Maybe we’re just a bit more open, and caring out west,” laughed marketing manager, Ali.

While the collaborations and designs for each monthly edition are planned well in advance, the monthly cycle of sock production, photography, promotion, packaging and shipping involve many local suppliers in the chain.

“Our graphic designer, Kate Mansell, who came up with our brilliant packaging actually lives right around the corner from us in Seddon,” Ali explained, “and our web design and ecommerce guru was only a few streets away in Footscray. It’s great working with local suppliers. I’m amazed at how much talent is just a short walk away in our neighbourhood.”

Beyond just having a charitable business model, the founders also feel strongly about the need to keep all production in Australia, and use local suppliers wherever possible.

“The first question everyone asks us is ‘where are they made?’” said founder, Jeff. “At first, having a local manufacturer was a practicality. We couldn’t afford the risk associated with manufacturing overseas. Minimum order numbers, communications issues, delays with shipping – it was all too risky. As soon as we realized local production was an option we went for it, and now it’s an integral part of the brand.”

For more information or to subscribe and start getting artist designed socks delivered monthly, visit soxybeast.com.au

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