Southern Scholar, founded by Kevin Wohlman, is a superior dress sock subscription for today’s modern gentleman.
How did you come up with the idea?
I was working your typical 9-5 postgrad-entry-level job at a Big 4 accounting firm, except it was more like 8-midnight a lot of the time. I began to notice that every guy, from intern to partner, seemed to be wearing some sort of patterned or designed sock to work. Guys just weren’t wearing plain blacks, browns, and blues anymore, and this included me. However, within this trend, I found a few major flaws.
1. A lot of guys in my office were wearing socks that were far from office appropriate – at least in my eyes.
2. Every new brand I seemed to discover that offered stylish designs that I deemed office appropriate seemed to bunch up and slide down with every step I took. I spent more of my 15+ hour work days pulling my socks back up than getting any real work done.
3. Every pair I bought seemed to only last a few wears and washes before they were worn out and ridden with holes.
So, I started designing my own and getting samples manufactured from all over the world using different material blends and dimensional cuts until I created the perfect sock. Something that could be worn in the most prestigious or formal of environments and still add a touch of uniqueness and style to your look. Something that stayed put throughout a long and strenuous work day. Something that was so comfortable you looked forward to putting them on in the morning. I started wearing them to work to see what other people thought (keeping the fact that I made them a secret) and after receiving tons of compliments I knew I had a winner. I quit my job shortly after to launch Southern Scholar and the rest is history.
How do you select your products?
I design them myself and have them manufactured. We are not a curated box. I design everything based on inspirations from everywhere. I often pull patterns and color blends from ties or dress shirts and use them as inspiration to design something to my liking that can be done on a sock. My favorite section in most menswear stores is the tie section, not the sock section. I pull more inspiration from ties because there’s a lot more freedom in what designs you can knit into a tie than you can a sock. If I find a tie I love, and know a similar pattern can’t be done on a sock, I spend the rest of the day trying to design a sock based on the inspiration of that tie rather than trying to mimic it.
How do you find customers?
Word of mouth and social media have been my biggest acquisition successes. However, we recently began experimenting with paid advertising.
What is the most difficult part of running a subscription box business?
Acquiring customers is by far our biggest challenge. Some months are great but some are terrible. Finding a way to drive conversions during non-peak times (such as holidays) is going to be the game-changer for us.
What do you enjoy most about running your business?
Designing the socks is my favorite task, but receiving positive feedback from customers on a design or the quality/fit of the sock puts the biggest smile on my face and pushes me to keep going.
What do customers love most about your box?
We take great pride in the quality of our product as well as the unboxing experience they get to enjoy each month. We use unique and original packaging that gets great feedback.
What advice would you give to someone just starting out in subscription commerce?
Focus on consistency and quality among all else. Even if you’re growing at 100 customers a month, it’s not doing you much good if you’re only retaining 50% of them month over month. Consistent quality will get your customers talking about you and coming back.
Anything we missed you’d like to share?
Don’t be afraid to enter a market that already has big players. Just make sure you find something recognizably different or do something recognizably better. We were far from the first in our market.
Want to see more from Southern Scholar?
Follow them on Instagram!