From Kickstarter Success to Fully Scaling a Growing Startup
Ricky Choi is a young entrepreneur who not only cares about his style, but makes sure to keep his friends up to date on fashion as well. Nice Laundry co-founder Phil Moldavski was a fashionable guy from head to toe – except when it came to his socks. “Phil would come to work dressed in a nice pair of jeans, good buttoned down shirt, great pair of dark shoes…but every day with this outfit he would wear these same ratty white Adidas gym socks with black dress shoes.” Ricky, being a sock connoisseur himself, helped Phil get over this hurdle by refreshing his look with designer socks. While doing this the two realized that the world needed their help – with their sock drawers.
Co-founders Ricky Choi and Phil Moldavski met while working at Living Social and left their jobs to participate in Dev Bootcamp in San Francisco. They spent several months learning how to code. “We wanted to do something e-commerce and the only way to get that done is (to create) a website.” Their experience at Living Social showed them the value of having an in-house development team that could make instant changes instead of having to communicate outside of the company through freelancers or an agency. The pair came back to Washington D.C. in December of 2012 and started to build Nice Laundry by creating a Kickstarter campaign that would launch in early 2013.
Ricky describes Nice Laundry as “the absolute easiest way to refresh your sock drawer online.” Instead of selling a single pair of designer socks at an elevated price, Nice Laundry offers packs of 6 pairs for a price of $39.
Ricky Didn’t Start With Socks
Nice Laundry was far from Ricky’s first entrepreneurial endeavor. Going back to high school, Ricky had been interested in owning his own business and started a car washing and detailing service. While in college, he got a taste of the startup world through a local incubator program and started a clothing company. After graduating, Ricky started LacrossePlayground.com, which was the 2nd most visited lacrosse website. Before joining Living Social, Ricky went into venture capital. Having seen many sides of business has been a significant advantage in launching a successful startup.
A Huge Kickstart
After launching their Kickstarter campaign in early 2013, it was clear that there was a market for unique designer socks at a reasonable price. Nice Laundry became a Kickstarter success story after acquiring over 2,000 backers and $119,000 during their campaign. Although the original goal was to raise $30,000, that was quickly achieved and support for the project kept growing. “We were very blown away. We put a lot of work into the Kickstarter project. It was a full-time job while we were running the campaign. It was truly exciting to see how much we exceeded our goal by.”
The $30,000 goal was enough to launch a minimum viable product version of the company, which included meeting manufacturer’s requirements to produce their designs. Although the full amount raised allowed them to launch their business beyond just a couple of lines of socks, the pair was more impressed with the number of supporters. “What is more important to us is our backers,” said Ricky who went on to explain that before tools like Kickstarter, they would have needed to raise a round of funding just to get that many supporters through marketing efforts. Thanks to their campaign, they had 2,000 passionate customers before even starting the company.
The early orders were just the starting point, as delivering on them would be a time intensive and tricky part of their startup. “Getting 2,000 orders out doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, but without that much infrastructure in place there’s a ton of moving pieces.” Since the logistics company refused to send a container truck to Ricky’s apartment, Nice Laundry was forced to secure warehousing space. After all was said and done, they were still able to deliver all 2,000+ orders without any late deliveries.
The Next Step for Nice Laundry
“Focus is very important for a startup, especially at the beginning. We are focused on socks for at least the first 24-36 months of our existence.” The company is 6 months into that timeframe and is working on a new spring/summer line of socks that includes 36 new patterns. Nice Laundry is also looking to expand beyond the colorful sock segment to allow each customer to build their own perfect sock drawer from designer socks to athletic socks. It’s safe to say that Nice Laundry is building a strong brand from the ground toe up.
Get the full story, listen to the complete interview with Nice Laundry’s Ricky Choi here!
- What good is an old sock? Find out how Nice Laundry helps you recycle your socks to benefit those in need and reduce textile waste.
- How Ricky deals with the constant battle of focusing on appropriate items within the business. Ricky described focus as the top barrier that he and Nice Laundry have had to overcome.
- “Stay lean and try to do as much stuff yourselves as you can.”
What’s your best piece of advice for fellow young entrepreneurs?
1. Follow the traction. In starting up a concept, you’re going to create an idea in your head. You don’t know exactly what is going to work. Through testing and experimenting, go with what works.
2. Constantly test. Follow what gives you the best traction. Nice Laundry performed countless tests on items of their business as small as a Google AdSense ad. Through these tests and following that traction, they were able to make a significant impact on their target market.
3. When you do get to the fundraising state, understand that fundraising is not an end. “Reality is once you raise a round, everything is just beginning at that point, you’ve achieved nothing.”
If you could have one entrepreneur join your team at Nice Laundry, who would it be and why?
1. Kim Dotcom: “What I admire about him above all else is his ability to execute. When he sets a goal – come hell or high water, he gets it done.”
2. Sara Blakely: “She figured out what a market needed, how to best address that market and scaled SPANX to a multi-billion dollar company.”