Looking for socks so comfortable you barely notice them?
Pick up a pair of cloudline socks and you’ll be walking on clouds in no time
To find out more behind how Cloudline Apparel got its start and what’s in store for the future, Josh interviews Cloudline Apparel co-founder, Austin Campbell
More about the episode...
Josh sits down with Cloudline Apparel co-founder Austin Campbell. Cloudline Apparel is an outdoor brand producing some of the softest and most comfortable merino wool socks on the market. Many brands are developed over quite a long period of time but for co-founders Joe and Austin Campbell, they were up running not long after the idea was first conceived. Join us as we put Cloudline under the microscope and listen to how they were able to launch and grow their operation so incredibly fast!
Have an opinion? We want to hear it! Join the conversation and leave a comment, check out show notes, and get all the links mentioned in this episode below
- Check out Cloudline Apparel’s website
- Pick up some Cloudline socks and apparel
- Follow Cloudline on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest
- More about Cloudline Apparel
What is Cloudline all about?
“We make merino wool socks, focused on outdoor activities…”
What made you decided to start producing socks?
“My friend joe and I, we both like the outdoors and we were looking to start some business. We threw around a lot of ideas, he brought up socks… So, that just started to snowball and we just ran with it…”
Did you have any experience before you got started?
“Not specifically, really. I worked for an aerospace company and we had manufacturing on site but, nothing to do with textiles. Joe was working for Boeing originally, doing more technically stuff than I know how to do...You don’t need to be an expert, I’d say, to become an expert in a new thing…”
How does Cloudline standout from other sock companies?
“I think our size is a differentiator and maybe an advantage… We’re a two man team and we sell online mostly. When we get feedback from customers or a through hiker that’s taking our socks on the AT or the PCT about an issue or an idea for an improvement it’s very easy for us to go to our factory, get samples made, and transfer that into what’s selling to the customers…”
How did you prototype your product to the point where it was ready to sell?
“It started with finding that factory, and that was kind of a big challenge. We’ve found lots of resources online to help find it but, you’d call or email and get no response or the line would be disconnected because they’d close down… we found one that we just really loved. It was noticeably better than the others and so, we started working with them…”
What made you guys be able to launch so quickly?
“I think in some ways maybe we got lucky with finding a good factory...I want to give a shoutout to alan. He’s the guy at the factory, kind of the owner. He was super willing to work with us and believed in us when we just had an idea...He guided us…”
What did you do to gain exposure?
“We did a lot of focus on social media, building our following on instagram, pinterest, twitter, and facebook. We sent out some press releases to various outdoor [organizations]. They mostly didn’t pay attention to us, I think social media was really key for us…”
Was there a specific channel that seemed to perform better than others?
“I think instagram has been big, and then pintrest and I should also mention flipboard. We did a lot of content, blogging and hiking related stuff…”
What has the growth been like for you when you started in 2015?
“It was slow at first then picked up steam. This will be our third full year and every year so far we’ve been able to double from our modest sales…we’re at a better point now size wise where hopefully this year we’ll bring on an employee and start to expand the business that way...”
Do you feel like there is a specific thing you can attribute your growth to?
“I think patience and consistency on our part. I think one of our main drivers and focus is a lot of companies in the sock space do lifetime guarantees and we do that as well. But, when someone has a problem I feel that we do our best to try and take care of them like they were a friend or family. We don’t make them mail their socks with a hole in it back to us before we give them a new pair so they can get back on the trail…”
Is there something that no one knows about Cloudline Apparel that really differentiates you from other brands?
“We’re so small. I think doing everything personally and with a personal touch, where we’re really invested in the business versus someone who’s an employee, has been a big advantage. Eventually we’ll be big enough where that’s not possible and it will be up to us to build a culture and treat our employees in a way where that they carry on with that tradition. But, I think that’s the one thing that people doing know…”
Have you ever gotten a response from a customer that was surprising or stood out to you?
“I was shocked from the beginning at how much people like the socks and, the number of people who had taken the time out to email us or send a message on social or tag us in a picture...that always feels really great. I think a couple times in particular, we had a few people who reached out that are going through chemotherapy or they have a skin condition that makes their skin extra sensitive and, they take the time while their dealing with that to email us an tell us how our socks are so soft that they’re the only socks they can wear comfortably...:”
What is your commitment to sustainability?
“We rely on our wool supplier. They have their whole corporate sustainability initiative and we get wool from them that is harvested from sheep that aren’t subjected to the practice of mulesing, which is a big deal to us… Mulesing is a especially bad because they basically shave off the skin and the wool aren’t the backside where stuff would accumulate usually and attract flies…”
What does a normal day look like at Cloudline Apparel?
“...I usually start the day off checking social media, making sure any customer messages are responded to. Obviously we have to ship our orders, that’s a must. The good thing about having oru own business is some of the stuff can be done when we have time. So, if it’s a nice day, maybe we decide we go on a hike or, take the morning off to go on a bike ride and then we go to the office…”
What would you say is one of the hardest parts about starting and building Cloudline?
“I think finding the right manufacturer was a huge challenge. It took a lot of sleuthing and research; I think I Googled to like page 40 of Google for a couple key words until I felt I exhausted all the options. The other challenge is just being patient…”
What is your greatest fear and how do you manage it?
“I think my greatest fear would be having to go back to a 9-5...I came from a job where I did a lot of overtime and a lot of weekends for projects and things and was missing out on a lot of adventures and life because of it. That’s part of my motivation for starting an outdoor brand…”
What have been some of the biggest mistakes that you made and how do you manage it?
“I think that’s tough because we didn’t make the mistakes until we made them so managing them, I think we’ve learned as we’ve gone. We probably should have done a little more research into our original branding. We should have been a little more focused…”
What advice would you give someone who wanted to start a business?
“You can do it. I think, it’s scary and they’ll be so many voices in your head telling you reasons you can’t but, if you choose something that is semi related to a passion or something you believe in, that’s a great foundation…”
Where do you see Cloudline Apparel headed into the future?
“For 2018 our goal is to double our sock styles and expand into more interesting patterns... We’re also currently working on developing base layers. In five years I hope we stay true to our roots...In ten years, I hope that if we’ve done that, Cloudline and Joe and I will be looked as respected members of the outdoor community, hopefully leaders…”
What’s the best part about running Cloudline?
“I think seeing our socks as part of people's adventures. I get excited everytime I see someone tag us in a picture, especially if it’s someone new that I haven’t seen tag us before…”