10 Questions With John Machacek: Wright Foot

Written by: John Machacek

John Machacek, Chief Innovation Officer for the Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Development Corporation, has worked with countless startups throughout our community over the years. He knows their ups, and their downs, but most of all, he knows the questions to ask them. Here are John Machacek’s 10 questions for Joe Wright, Owner and Chief Sock Guy, Wright Foot.

Contents
1. Joe, what would you say is your Wright Foot elevator pitch?2. I recall that this all started with you wearing fun socks and posting about them, and becoming known as the “sock guy” on Instagram. Then as you decided to sell your own socks, how did you go about creating the business? 3. Were there any particular resources you used to get guidance or teach yourself? 4. A significant element of your socks are the puns that you incorporate into the design. How does the design process work as far as coming up with the notion and then actually designing the visual representation? 5. I want to ask some questions about marketing, as your business is consistently catching my eye with your content. What are some lessons learned so far, with what you’ve done? 6. I notice that with some of your posts, you are not only showing particular socks but you are telling the viewers about some of your business goals and even some shameless asks to increase views. Will you please tell me more about those strategies? 7. Your content is pretty much always fun and goofy. The video you have on your home page particularly cracks me up. What is your mindset in planning these out and setting the tone for your messaging? 8. Aside from the e-commerce sales, I have seen you at various markets and have seen your products in retail stores locally. How are you going about those in-person and wholesale sales? 9. If you could go back in time to Joe from several years ago, what hindsight advice would you give yourself? 10. Lastly, what can we do as a community to help you and Wright Foot succeed? About JohnSupport Wright Foot

1. Joe, what would you say is your Wright Foot elevator pitch?

Wright Foot is a vibrant sock company that playfully specializes in puns. Featured puns such as “Otter Space” and “Couch Potato” are fan favorites within the substantial sock collection. With humorous socks like this, you’re guaranteed to start the day off on the Wright Food.

2. I recall that this all started with you wearing fun socks and posting about them, and becoming known as the “sock guy” on Instagram. Then as you decided to sell your own socks, how did you go about creating the business?

I definitely embraced “Sock Guy.” When I was trying to come up with a brand name, I actually didn’t have Wright Foot as the first idea. Another idea I had for a name was Monkey Toe Socks. Luckily, one day I woke up and realized my last name was perfect for a sock brand. I decided that I could make cooler socks than what other brands were doing. So to set myself apart, I started by giving my socks funny names. For example, the first few sock names were “Feeling Lucky Punk” and “Blue My Mind.” It seemed like a simple idea at first but that is how I slowly transitioned into puns. Without naming my socks funny names like that right from the beginning, Wright Foot definitely would not be what it is today.

When I was deciding on my brand colors, packaging, and overall look, I wanted to stay away from having one true brand color. The reason for that was to let my socks do the talking. I went with cardboard packaging because I felt like it gave it an old-school feel. I have always liked the brown bag look so wanted to incorporate that in my brand. For my shipping mailers, I went with a full white mailer but put my logo on a full side of it. It feels a little boring but when it comes in the mail, people know instantly what it is. I have played around with the idea of switching up my mailers for certain holidays, I would love to make it even more of an experience when my customers get their socks in the mail. Maybe this year will be when I implement that! This is something I love about running my own business, there are always opportunities to switch stuff up and to try something new.

To find my manufacturer, I searched Alibaba.com, which is filled with manufacturers in just about every market you can think of. I ended up working with three different manufacturers that were overseas. Oddly enough, the very first one I started working with is the only one I am working with currently and I have been working with them for five years now. One thing that drew me to this particular manufacturer was that they let me start with small quantities of socks. For example, they sent me a catalog that I could pick out and only had to start with 10 of each of the ones I selected. Once I started to transition to my own designs, they allowed me to start with 50 pairs. This was a huge draw—other manufacturers needed me to do 250 pairs, which at the beginning of my Wright Foot journey, I definitely was not in a place to order that many socks. With the new designs I wanted to make sure they were popular enough to be able to sell all of them. With 50 pairs, there was a lot less pressure and I felt like I could explore more with all my new designs. Something I wish I had done was get some samples from them right when we started communicating. However, luckily my first order through them, the socks were great quality and the cost of the first order was reasonable, but I also had a full-time job as a teacher so the risk was low.

There are a ton of different platforms to sell things on such as Shopify and Squarespace. I stumbled upon Wix and they have been great to me—they even did a spotlight feature of me on their social media just a few months ago. Wix is very user-friendly with their drag and drop feature. They continue to add new features that help improve the experience for not only the consumer but for my side as well. They allowed me to add a gift card option as well as a free shipping option for customers who ordered over a certain amount. So, knowing they are striving to improve their services is what has kept me working with Wix.

Another thing that I take pride in is the fact that I do all my own shipping. Pirateship.com has absolutely aided the convenience for me. I got myself a thermal printer and now can print all my shipping labels at home and that saves me a ton of time when I can just drop them off at the Post Office.

I also hand-write thank you notes for every single online order that I get. It really makes a connection with people, and it shows that I truly appreciate their order and support. Making it a community is something I take very seriously; my customers mean the world to me.

The first few years of Wright Foot was a GRIND. In the early days, I would try to cold message at least 50 people a day on Instagram to offer them a discount code for my socks. With this, I developed some really cool connections with customers who are still shopping with me to this day. I would spend hours looking at hashtags that allowed me to find people on Instagram who would be interested in the socks I was selling. With all that work, over the years my following slowly grew to the point that a simple post can sell socks for me now and I don’t have to spend my time cold messaging people and can point my energy towards other things.

3. Were there any particular resources you used to get guidance or teach yourself?

One big resource was my education in communications from Valley City State University. A major in business obviously would have been good too, but I have many different skills that my communications degree has given me. I find myself using those skills just about every day.

I went viral on TikTok back in 2021 and that really set me on the path that I am on now. My 5 second video gained over 7 million views in about 48 hours and brought in over 500+ orders. After this video went viral, I had a huge problem with inventory, so I reached out to SCORE. SCORE is a collection of volunteers with a plethora of knowledge in about every type of business you can imagine. I was lucky enough to be assigned to Del Carver when I reached out to SCORE. He has helped me in so many ways to better run my business, to look at things a little differently, and to take the actions I need to better all areas of my business. I have appreciated SCORE so much that I have now volunteered to be a mentor. SCORE brought me on as an SME (Social Media Expert). I wouldn’t say I am an expert, but it has been so fun to help fellow small businesses out with what I have learned over the years. I want to be able to help small businesses achieve the success that I have. There is so much potential in the world we are living in with just social media alone, and I want people to be able to seize that potential.

4. A significant element of your socks are the puns that you incorporate into the design. How does the design process work as far as coming up with the notion and then actually designing the visual representation?

The puns seem to come to me in many different ways. Sometimes they just pop into my head, sometimes I scour the internet to get inspiration, and other times I could just be in the middle of a conversation with family or friends, and they say something that sparks an idea and I have to run to my notes section in my phone to write it down. Once I have the concept in my head and what I want it to look like, I then reach out to an artist to help me bring my idea to life. I have been lucky enough to work with some phenomenal artists. My cousin has designed a few socks for me, as well as a friend from college, and a friend I met while shooting a commercial in Colorado have also helped me create some phenomenal designs. Another resource I use is an App called Fivver. There are countless freelancers ready to tackle any type of project you can throw at them. I highly recommend using this app for anyone looking to start any type of business.

One thing I would love to do is to work with local artists and showcase their work on my platforms. Especially the local artists that I have become friends with over the years. Definitely be on the lookout for that when I am finally able to get that going.

From when I get the sock idea, it usually takes me about two months to get the final product in my hands. This includes waiting for the design to be finalized, sending it to my manufacturer, having them send me a sample picture, and finalizing that. With my manufacturer overseas, I am always impressed with how quickly I can actually get the socks online and sell them.

5. I want to ask some questions about marketing, as your business is consistently catching my eye with your content. What are some lessons learned so far, with what you’ve done?

I have gone through a lot of trial and error. You just have to go see what works for you and post, post,
post. I consumed a lot of content about what other small businesses are posting, and I still do. Using others’ videos to inspire you to make content for your own page is a good way to approach content
creation if you are feeling overwhelmed. Trends are always a fun thing to jump on but if the particular trend does not fit my brand, I find myself passing on it. There is always different content to make and you don’t have to force it.

My main platforms are Instagram and TikTok which I have grown to over 250,000 and over 300,000, respectively. I have been drawn to Instagram more lately. Since they have released their Reels section, the potential to grow on that platform has gone through the roof. Their analytics are more reliable than TikTok as well. I have had far more reliable view counts on Instagram compared to TikTok. I like to tell small business owners to use the content they create on one platform and post it across all other platforms. I also post videos that have performed well in the past over again. One video has gained me over 10 million views in the few times I have posted it.

A big hurdle that took me far too long to get over was using my face for my business. Which is funny now because a lot of times when people think of Wright Foot, they think of me, the “Sock Guy”. I believe 100% that you need to be the face of your business. Being comfortable with having your face and personality on your platforms is huge when you want to make a connection with your audience. Consistency is also important when it comes to social media, in two different ways. A lot of people will tell you to post every single day, and some will tell you to post a few days a week. I have found for myself that having a few days in between posts works best for me. I see my videos getting well over 10,000 views each video with the potential to go over one million views. But there are other pages that post far more often that still get phenomenal views. It’s just finding what works best for you and your lifestyle. Some people can’t create the amount of content you need to fill every day of the week and that’s okay. The other way that consistency is important is having your videos looking the same. High-Quality video and lighting can go a long way. I simply record on my iPhone and use a light that I got off Amazon that took my videos up another level. I also have the same background in every video, which seems small, but I feel like when people see my sock bookshelf and me, they know it’s Wright Foot. It also makes my Instagram page look clean when it is all the same background.

6. I notice that with some of your posts, you are not only showing particular socks but you are telling the viewers about some of your business goals and even some shameless asks to increase views. Will you please tell me more about those strategies?

This year, I thought it would be fun to show my followers the growth I am hoping to achieve this year. I have been giving an update post every week showing my progress. I am hoping to sell 10,000 pairs of socks, and 1,000 shirts and reach 500,000 followers. Who knows if I will actually reach these numbers but having my followers be a part of this journey is going to be a lot of fun. Many followers have been rooting for me to reach these numbers, and it means so much to me to see my followers support me as much as they do.

I have some other posts that pretty much ask people to follow, like, and share. This seems odd and maybe a little gimmicky, but people honestly forget to click the follow button and forget to even like a post at times. It is incredible how much more interaction you can get by just asking for the engagement. There are countless YouTube personalities who start their videos by asking for people to like and follow. It is simple but extremely effective. Now that I have saturated my page with those types of videos, I have noticed that when my followers see me at events, they tell me how they like every one of my videos and watch it at least five times. So, these strategies have definitely helped to get more and more people to engage with my brand.

7. Your content is pretty much always fun and goofy. The video you have on your home page particularly cracks me up. What is your mindset in planning these out and setting the tone for your messaging?

I don’t take myself too seriously. I mean, I sell socks for a living. With it being socks, I love the idea of making my content bigger and badder than what people might expect. So, for my commercials, I have wanted them to be high quality, funny, and surprising. I have a buddy from high school who is extremely talented when it comes to video creation—Nick Biewer. We have made four different commercials together and they just keep on getting better and better. For one of my commercials, we made it look like a legit movie trailer with a ton of action and even a fight scene. For another video that is on my homepage that you mentioned, we wanted it to feel almost like “Saturday Night Live” or “I Think You Should Leave.” There are a few clips of random different scenes. So, we can even pull those scenes out and use them for shorter clips. Bringing that level of creativity to a simple sock brand is just something I find really fun. We could easily just make content that simply shows off the socks and call it a day but it’s more fun just being a little extra, to entertain people and spread some smiles. Creating more content for YouTube and maybe even a Podcast in the future is something that excites me as well.

I am able to let more of my personality out when I make content like this. Being myself is exactly what I have grown Wright Foot from. So, the fact that I can just continue to be myself and make amazing videos with my friends is something for which I am extremely grateful. My job is pretty sweet.

8. Aside from the e-commerce sales, I have seen you at various markets and have seen your products in retail stores locally. How are you going about those in-person and wholesale sales?

Much like my content creation, it was a lot of trial and error to find what vendor shows I wanted to attend. When I first started Wright Foot, I was going to about every vendor show I could find. Now that I have been doing it for almost five years, I have weeded out some of the ones that really aren’t worth my time. Some of my favorite shows I do every year are the Downtown Fargo Street Fair, the Folkways Night Bazaars, and the Carlos Creek Winery Grape Stomp in Alexandria, MN. The summer is definitely a busy time for me, but I have an absolute blast interacting with everyone and getting to tell them about my punny socks.

I have been able to get my socks in some local shops that I am pretty excited about. Right now, I am in Halberstadt’s, Scribble Lady Downtown and recently got into SCHEELS. For SCHEELS and Halberstadt’s, I simply sent a cold email. I am not afraid to reach out to those possibilities because what is the worst thing they say? No? If you are afraid of no’s, being an entrepreneur is going to be a very tough gig.

9. If you could go back in time to Joe from several years ago, what hindsight advice would you give yourself?

Don’t be afraid to be the face of your business. For a long time, I always told myself that I wanted my socks to do the talking. But business isn’t just the material or thing you are selling. It is a connection with people. It is people wanting to support people. If people see a person with a passion for the thing they are selling, there is such a deeper connection than just buying something.

10. Lastly, what can we do as a community to help you and Wright Foot succeed?

Buy my socks! Haha! Purchasing a few pairs is never a bad idea when wanting to support Wright Foot and myself. But also following me on social media, sharing my content with family and friends, and just word of mouth are all things that you would be surprised with how much it helps any small business.


About John

John Machacek has been helping local startups with the Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Development Corporation since prior to his position with the GFMEDC. Before joining the team, Machacek was the VP of Finance & Operations at United Way of Cass-Clay and a business banker at U.S. Bank.


Support Wright Foot

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Instagram | @wrightfoot
Twitter | @wrightfoot

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