This Mom Decided to Make 'Flip Socks' for Her Baby. 9 Years Later, Target Started Selling Her Updated Product.
The founder and CEO of Sockabu shares how she persisted over several years to find the right manufacturer and bring her vision to market.
You might recognize Abbie Boudreau from her many years of reporting on ABC's "Good Morning America." Well, now the three-time Emmy Award-winning journalist has gone from covering the news, to making the news. She sat down with me to talk about her sensory-friendly socks, which are now available at Target.
Jessica Abo: Thanks so much for being here. Tell us a little bit about your children's sock company, Sockabu.
Abbie Boudreau: Sockabu is more than just a sock. It's the only sock that can cover your toes for warmth and comfort, or uncover them for breathability and natural traction. They are pediatrician-approved for less slips and falls as your baby learns to walk. Also, Sockabu socks are totally seamless, which is great for children who are finicky about wearing socks.
What made you come up with this idea?
My son was only a baby when I first came up with the concept of a "flip sock," so we're going back nearly nine years! He was always ripping off his socks. He seemed uncomfortable and frustrated whenever he wore traditional socks, as is the case with so many babies. So I wondered why that might be. I decided to cut the tops off his socks so his toes could be free for him to play with and he loved it! But as a new mom, I was worried his toes might get cold, so I grabbed my sewing machine and sewed on what I like to call the "flip." This way, his toes could be uncovered for play time, and with a single flip, they could be covered during nap time, or if we went to the grocery store or on a walk if it was chilly outside. At that point, I didn't think the "flip" socks would be a sellable product, but it certainly stopped my son from always wanting to rip off his socks.
When he became a little older and started learning to walk, I realized these socks were perfect for helping his toes grip the ground while he was still wearing a comfortable sock. He was no longer slipping around when he was trying to walk. The natural traction from his toes was so much better than any baby gripper sock we had ever tried. That is when I thought, "Wow, this could be a safer sock for babies and toddlers. This could be a product."
How did you go from there to bringing your socks to market?
That was years in the making. With my handmade prototypes, I was able to secure two design patents, which in and of itself was challenging enough! But trying to find a manufacturer ended up taking me about six years. I totally underestimated how difficult that would be. I figured because I was able to create my socks myself on an at-home sewing machine, finding professionals to take over production would be pretty easy. I brought my prototypes to lots of different sock manufacturers and after a while I became used to that feeling of rejection. They would take one look at the sock and say, "What are you talking about, lady? We don't do things like this." They would explain that their socks were made on circular knitting machines and didn't have any special features.
I couldn't figure out how to get my socks beyond the prototype stage. I had lots of different samples made over the years, but nothing was good enough. I questioned whether I was being too much of a perfectionist. I worried I was getting in my own way. But I just had to have my socks the way I wanted them. That's when I realized that I needed to stop thinking about them as traditional socks, but more like a garment or a piece of clothing. I needed to become the expert of my own product.
Only at that point did things start to change for me. I brought my prototypes to the Manufacturing Solutions Center in North Carolina. They understood how to approach my vision through a completely fresh prism. Thinking outside the box, I worked with their team of amazing experts, engineers and professional knitters. I don't think that I could have made this happen without them. They studied the sample, understood what I was trying to do and helped create Sockabu: A totally seamless sock with a "flip" function. They are made on a specialized machine and they're hand-finished to perfection.
How did you take this from a side hustle to a full-time job?
I had always wanted Sockabu to be my full-time job, but I already had a really great job as a T.V. journalist for "Good Morning America." It's hard to leave a secure, nearly 20-year long career for a side hustle without any guarantees. Then, like so many people have experienced during COVID, I was faced with a phone call from my employer with a massive pay cut. I had to make a decision. Ultimately, I decided this was the right time for me to retire as a journalist and to follow my dream of becoming an entrepreneur. I am now the full-time CEO of Sockabu and I love it.
For me, side hustles are awesome for testing products and ideas. But it's very difficult to turn a side hustle into a real company when you cannot give it the focus it deserves. With my job as a journalist, I was always putting my dream of Sockabu on hold. I was never able to break through because I was too busy covering stories. I always knew in the back of my mind that Sockabu could be a success if I started focusing on it full-time. You can't just put your company on hold and expect it to become a success.
Tell us about your Target launch.
This is so exciting. Target is selling the socks as early-walker socks for babies and also as sensory-friendly socks for toddlers who tend to struggle wearing traditional socks, mainly because they don't like the feeling of uncomfortable seams touching their toes. A lot of people have bought tagless shirts for their kids. That's an example of sensory-friendly clothing. Sockabu socks are also sensory-friendly because they are totally seamless. They have a no-heel construction, so you can get the socks to fit just right without saggy, bulky heels to bother you. When children have sensory processing challenges or sensitivities, socks can be hard. My daughter has similar issues with her clothing and cannot stand wearing traditional socks. But she will wear Sockabu socks. She loves being able to choose whether to cover or uncover her toes completely.
I certainly didn't set out to create sensory-friendly socks. I just wanted to make safer socks for toddlers. But when I began hearing from moms who told me about their sock struggles and how our socks were helping, it really touched my heart. I am just so happy to have a product available that can help kids. We are honored that our spunky, little sock company has now launched on Target.com as "sensory socks." And it's truly my hope that we will one day revolutionize the way kids wear socks.
What's your advice for other entrepreneurs?
If you still have that fire in your belly, please don't give up. Doubting yourself at times and doubting your product is totally normal. People will tell you that you're crazy and wasting your time, energy and money. If you believe in your passion, don't listen to them. When I walked away from my journalism career to work full-time on Sockabu, a lot of people thought I was making a big mistake. But you cannot expect other people to truly understand your desire, deep down, to never give up. If you feel that way, then keep going. I'm so glad I did.