A simple item like socks is an essential part of any man’s wardrobe. 30 year-old Cape Town-based tech entrepreneur, Nic Haralambous, found a way to turn this common piece of clothing into a niche business.
NicSocks is an online retail store that sells custom-made, quirky and colourful socks. Haralambous (pictured below) tells us how he started this lucrative business in just six weeks and already supplies to people all over the world.
NicSocks is the latest in a long line of businesses over the past 12 years. The most recent exit I had was selling my company, app startup Motribe to Mxit in 2012. Socks is definitely not a new idea but a trend that’s coming round again and the online space really did open up the options.
I got tired of paying a fortune for imported socks and I knew we could do it cheaper and better locally, which is why I started the business. The socks are locally sourced, designed and manufactured. They’re made of silky, durable bamboo and each design is limited to a few hundred.
I wanted to see if I really had entrepreneurial chops, so I gave myself two months to build and launch an online business with R5000 and generate significant revenue in 30 days. That was in December 2012, now two years later and we are still going strong.
In general, starting a business is all-round tough. But specifically starting a business as a sole founder is tough. It’s always nice to have people to bounce ideas off of. The other difficult thing when starting an online company is waiting for the market to find you and catch up to e-commerce. I started with my own R5000 and grew that into a sustainable business over two years.
“Everything worth doing takes time”
The major setback in e-commerce is always the courier systems and companies in South Africa. They’re still trying to adapt to the ways of e-commerce and it’s the small businesses that suffer when the pricing isn’t consistent or the service sucks.
Over the next two years we’re going to expand our footprint and aggressively grow our product range. We’re pushing into various sales channels (retail, custom sock designs and online) and will continue to drive this. We currently ship to over 20 countries so we’re also actively seeking ways to increase those numbers. I want to sell 3 000 pairs of socks a month, and once I have a captive audience, to start branching out into matching outfits.
SA’s startup ecosystem is growing at a rapid rate. There is funding available, founders building things and exits finally starting to take place. We need more time to really come into our own as a community.
The government needs to start helping startups more. They need to give benefits to people investing in startups and to let the flow of money in and out of the country happen more easily, and to allow for deals to come in from all over the world.
My advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is to shut up and do it. Stop finding excuses and find solutions. Everything worth doing takes time. Rushing will not get you to where you want to be, patience will.