The latest up-and-coming sock designers?
No, it’s not Rob Kardashian: Meet Will Gladstone, 12, and his brother, Matthew, 9. The Arlington siblings run the Blue Feet Foundation, which manufacturers bright-blue socks with bird logos to support the endangered blue-footed booby, a threatened species found on the Galapagos Islands known for its spirited mating dance. Proceeds benefit the Galapagos Conservancy, and the brothers have raised $18,000 since launching a few months ago.
The idea began in science class at the Fessenden School in West Newton last year.
“We did this big bird unit,” says Will. “We watched a video on these different birds, and that was one that came up. They’re threatened because people travel there and can destroy their habitat. They mainly eat fish, and the fish are going away.”
The brothers started a logo contest among pals. Dad Peter Gladstone helped the pair create a final design on logo site 99designs.com and located a manufacturer to produce the cotton footwear.
“They came to me with this idea, and I thought it would be a lemonade stand on steroids. I wanted to help them learn business,” Peter Gladstone says.
The brothers charge $12.50 per pair and now have customers from Japan to New Zealand thanks to savvy marketing.
“The boys set up a social media account. What started to happen is they were going onto other people’s feeds and posting about their socks. What we noticed is they got lots of support from conservationists and zookeepers. Once they found a community that embraced the idea, [the blue-footed booby] is like the mascot of the Galapagos, and it took off,” Peter says.
Will says their key customers are “mainly women, bird enthusiasts, and people who love nature.”
Despite the whimsical design, most customers are adults, though there is a kids’ size, too. Sales spiked around the holidays, when people wanted them as stocking stuffers.
“One month, we had a $1,000 shipping bill,” Peter says. The brothers stuff each order personally and have enlisted their parents and grandparents for help.
“We put a thank you card in each package, write out the label, and talk about what this will go to. We ask for photos of them wearing the socks,” Will says.
Like any good designer, Will also plans to expand his business a bit, perhaps shifting to red socks for Valentine’s Day. (Yes, there is also a red-footed booby.)
He’s also circumspect about the future of the sock business, saying he hopes to become a photographer one day.
“My brother says, ‘If we go out of business, I hope it’s because we save the birds.’ Maybe we’ll start a foundation in general to help all of the animals,” Will says.Kara Baskin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.