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Sockin' it to em' | Strideline apparel business booming for Issaquah graduates
When other kids were dreaming of careers as firefighters, policemen or professional athletes, Riley Goodman and Jake Director were always the oddballs.
“I remember very distinctly in the third grade there was a day on the bus when Jake and I were sitting there and we tried to come up with an idea for a clothing company,” said Goodman, 22. “It was the strangest thing for a couple of third graders.”
Impressively, a few years later and the dream became a reality.
Sparked by the near-death experience of one of their close friends and Issaquah High School lacrosse teammates, Goodman and Director put a business plan into action.
“We just said we don’t know how long we’ve got here, this has always been something we wanted to do and we locked ourselves in the car for like two hours and said we’re not going to leave until we thought of something,” Director said.
Parked and looking at a view of Seattle, the then 18-year-olds reached a decision — they would create colorful, stylized crew socks for lacrosse players that featured the Seattle skyline.
Fast forward four years and that simple idea has evolved into so much more for the University of Washington business majors. Within the next two weeks the UW seniors will launch their line of athletic socks, Strideline, in six other major U.S. cities, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Saint Louis and Portland, Ore.
Sales, which have already reached $300,000 so far this year in the Seattle market, are projected to reach $2 million by the end of 2013.
“It’s really like chasing your dreams and reaching them,” Goodman said.
The success of Strideline is truly is a remarkable story for the life-long friends who were born just hours apart in the same hospital, grew up in the same neighborhood, attended Cougar Mountain Elementary, Issaquah Middle School and Issaquah High.
When they made their commitment to the sock idea just months before graduating from high school in 2009, neither knew the first thing about business.
“We had no money, no experience, really no connections outside of our buddies,” Goodman said. “We’ve really had to learn everything organically.”
After designing the Seattle skyline with Microsoft Paint — a basic preinstalled computer art program — the pair searched for manufacturers far and wide. With 500 emails sent out, they only received two responses — one in China and one in Turkey. Goodman and Director pooled their high school graduation money — $700 each — and shipped it off to Istanbul for an order for 1,000 socks.
“As we learned more, it’s such a miracle these socks came because we didn’t know anything about the manufacturing process,” Director said. “We just sent out the money via Western Union. The guy probably should have just taken it.”
The first order of socks sold out within three months and the rest is history.
The socks, which sell at $12 apiece, are in 100 storefronts — a number that will soon increase after sales begin in the six other large cities.
Lids, a national hat chain, also will soon sell them in 45 of its stores. If they’re a hit, the socks could expand to all of the chain’s 1,200 stores nationwide.
Aside from using what they consider the highest quality material, the pair said the product’s popularity of the bright colors and city skylines is quite simple.
“We like to say that we allow people to express individuality in a uniform,” Director said.
Strideline socks, which are one size fits all, come in 100 different city and color combinations
Celebrities like rappers Snoop Dogg and Wiz Khalifa have publicly sported the Strideline brand.
Kids have also caught the bug.
The product, which is most popular among 12-22 year-olds, can’t stay on the shelves long enough in many Seattle area stores.
“I’ve already sold eight pairs today and we’ve only been open for two hours,” said Levi Gruno, and employee at the University Village Seattle Team Shop, noting the business sells about 30 pairs per day.
Having been to Asia three times in the last six months, including a recent trip to the Philippines, Director admitted that work can be trying at times — especially balancing it with his college courses. But he also said he wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.
“It’s always been our passion and the fact that we get to run it together is an added bonus,” he said.
There are plans to soon expand from a bedroom operation into an office. And in the near future, the duo plan on expanding to different types of athletic gear — hoping one day to make their trademark “S” just as recognizable as the Nike swoosh.
“Ultimately we want Strideline to be the elite athletic brand in the country,” Goodman said.
Admittedly, they know that goal might be a ways down the road.
For now, the 22-year-olds said they will gladly sit back and enjoy the experience.
“There’s never been something in my life that I’ve dedicated more time, lost more sleep and been more stressed out about,” Goodman said. “At the end of the day, walking down the street and seeing someone in our socks and knowing that was our brainchild ... you’re just really proud.”
Learn more about Strideline on their official website.