Startup hopes to sock it to the competition for a good cause

- October 18, 2013 3 MIN READ

Entering an established industry is a bold move for any start-up business, one that requires a compelling value proposition and a key differentiating factor to set itself apart from existing players.

Whether it be price, quality, service or strong partnerships, such start-ups need an angle.

Barnaby, founded by former management consultant colleagues turned sock aficionados (Shay Namdarian, Andrei Maior and David Tay, all in their mid 20s) is Australia’s newest entrant to the emerging fashion accessory market.

The guys aren’t short of ammo when it comes to their angle. “Barnaby socks are made from high quality combed cotton. The biggest point of differentiation is that each pair come with a button to help keep them together and are shipped in what we consider a unique packaging concept”, says Shay. He adds that Barnaby is building brand awareness by being socially conscious and partnering with YGAP (Y Generation against Poverty), with all profits from specially designed ygap socks going to charity.

On entering an existing market, Andrei says that they saw a gap in the Australian market for mid-price men’s “fashion” socks. “We believe socks are a great way for a man to subtly add colour and personality to an outfit. Starting Barnaby allowed us to complement our consulting jobs by doing something creative and rewarding and at the same time test market viability for a tangible product.”

The guys ran a “who is Barnaby?” campaign, complemented by their elegant faceless logo, leading up to their launch to build interest and mystique. So far, it seems to be paying immediate dividends with the guys not only amassing a strong Twitter following, but more importantly entering talks with several distributors to get their product to market.

Like any start-up, there has been no shortage of challenges for the guys such as balancing full time work commitments, finding the right manufacturer and building relationships across cultural and linguistic boundaries.

On juggling full time work with a start-up, Shay says that it’s important to be much more efficient with your time outside of your 9-5 workday. “Efficiency apps are awesome” he laments enthusiastically.

On the manufacturing front, the guys started off looking at conventional online marketplaces where manufacturers are linked to retailers and tested sock manufacturers in places far and wide, from China and Korea to Turkey, Italy and Portugal. “We tested sock manufacturers and did our due diligence on samples received, taking our time to ensure that a quality product would complement a quality brand”, says Andrei. “Samples were tested rigorously, worn and washed multiple times, which gave us the insights to choose the right material composition.”

Manufacturer resonance with the brand was important to the guys says Shay. “We wanted to find a manufacturer that understood our product and our vision. Eventually we found a manufacturer who is very interested in our brand and is always providing ideas/feedback in relation to the product.”

The next 12 months will be busy for the guys as they look to get the Barnaby name out to as many people as possible, build relationships with distributors and retailers, make their current processes leaner and look to forge new collaborations.

Early lessons they have for other start-ups are:

  • establish face to face communication with your manufacturer early in the piece to build the relationship and trust;
  • lock down detailed requirements and be as specific as possible when dealing with manufacturers (never assume!); and
  • clearly understand and research the end to end picture in terms of “hidden” taxes and import regulations.

Above all, when entering an established market, the Barnaby crew say it’s about taking measured risks, pushing through adversity and incorporating constructive criticism which is there not to detract, but to provide the impetus to make your product and/or service better.

To find out more about the mysterious Barnaby, head to barnabyshop.com