Sock Company’s One-for-One Model Helps Homeless Keep Their Feet Dry

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Reading the startling fact that socks are the most requested items in homeless shelters was the catalyst that inspired David Heath and Randy Goldberg to found Bombas, a New York City-based sock company that has taken the one-for-one donation model to a new level.

The collection of men’s and women’s socks, which was launched in 2013 after a successful Indiegogo campaign, is built for athletic performance and – à la Toms shoes and Warby Parker – also designed to support a matching cause per each sale.

“I thought: There’s this sock problem, and there’s this one-for-one model; we could do something there,” said David Heath, CEO and co-founder of Bombas. “Once we started, I wanted to make sure the donations would get to the people who needed them the most.”

With the help of some Googling, Heath discovered Hannah’s Socks, an Ohio-based nonprofit that donates socks to local shelters. He reached out to the organization, and a partnership was born.

Since then, Bombas has sent truck-loads of socks to Hannah’s Socks and other organizations, such as Back on My Feet and Covenant House. About 390,000 pairs of socks have been donated to date.

“When we first started, we donated the exact same product we sell,” said Heath. “All our new employees would go out and donate 10 pairs of socks on the street, and they would always return with the grey socks – people didn’t like the grey socks. They liked the black socks because they don’t show dirt as much. That’s when we decided to develop the Bombas donation sock.”

Instead of donating a product designed for a buying consumer or, much worse, donating a lower-quality version, Bombas has developed a donation sock that meets the needs of people who don’t have the luxury of putting on a clean pair of socks every day.

The donation sock includes an antimicrobial treatment that prevents the growth of fungus, is black with dark grey accents to minimize visible wear, and has reinforced seams to increase the product’s durability and lifespan.

And while manufacturing and distributing the donation sock may technically cost Bombas money, the brand value the company receives – and the goodwill it creates – certainly justifies the added expense. Even more, as recent research indicates that 80 percent of consumers are willing to buy a product from an unknown brand if it has strong social and environmental commitments, conscious consumerism is on the rise — and this mean’s that Bombas’ marketing strategy is likely to pay off.

That’s good news for those in need of clean, dry socks. In addition to continuing to donate to homeless shelters, Bombas also donates to schools in need and disaster relief victims, and this week the company launched a campaign to benefit organizations that support homeless veterans.

When those homeless veterans receive their socks, they can be assured the item was designed with their needs in mind.

Image courtesy of Bombas

Nayelli Gonzalez

Nayelli Gonzalez is Managing Director of Marketing & Strategic Partnerships at Conveners.org, a capacity building organization that supports the growing ecosystem of impact-focused conveners, accelerators, and mappers. A sustainability innovation strategist and storyteller dedicated to purpose-driven work, Nayelli has advised startups, nonprofits, small businesses and Fortune 500 companies to drive engagement and amplify positive impact in the world. She's a trained journalist with an MBA who writes on sustainable business and social impact trends for a variety of publications.