Sam Harper is one of the founders of Hippy Feet — a sock and apparel company on a mission to provide jobs to homeless youth. Sam launched Hippy Feet in 2016 alongside co-founder, Michael Mader. Since its launch, the company has been able to provide transitional jobs to over 120 young people affected by homelessness while producing all of its products in the United States using eco-friendly materials. Previously, Harper has held leadership positions across a number of technology organizations.
StarCentral Magazine recently caught up with Sam to discuss his journey as one of the founders of Hippy Feet and here’s what went down:
Could you please tell our readers a brief background about yourself and how you started your business?
I got my start in the world of cause-driven brands as a college student when a friend from high school started a hat company called “Love Your Melon”. I helped out with the company in any way I could as it was first starting out and it ended up growing quickly. By my junior year of college, we were generating 7 figures in revenue and I held a seat on the board of directors. More than anything, it was a great learning experience. After graduating with a business degree from St. John’s University, I came together with my co-founder, Michael Mader. 4 months later we launched Hippy Feet – a sock company on a mission to help the homeless. To date, we’ve been able to create employment opportunities for over 120 young people affected by homelessness.
What are you currently doing to maintain/grow your business?
We’re in a really exciting phase of growth as a business. We’ve gotten past some of the tedious basics that you have to deal with in your first couple of years of business, and we’re starting to build on that strong foundation. Simply, we’re trying to get our brand in front of as many eyes as we can. We want to share Hippy Feet’s story and mission with as many people as possible.
What social media platforms do you usually use to increase your brand’s awareness?
We try to be active across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. Paid ads on Instagram and Facebook are our most effective way of raising awareness though.
What is your main tactic when it comes to making more people aware of your brand and engaging your customers? How did your business stand out?
We always go back to why we exist as a business. The world may not need another sock company, but the world needs Hippy Feet. The homeless community needs Hippy Feet. We exist to be a support system and provide opportunities for people who may not have it outside of our business. There are young people who are no longer homeless because of Hippy Feet. Sharing the stories of the people we help is the best way for us to stand out.
What form of marketing has worked well for your business throughout the years?
Social media has been our most consistent form of marketing, but our biggest wins have actually come from referrals. We love it when somebody has such a great experience with our company that they tell someone else or advocate on our behalf.
What is the toughest decision you had to make in the last few months?
We had to figure out how to pivot our business during the pandemic. Through the spring and summer, most of our business comes from creating custom branded socks for other companies. When the lockdown started and businesses started canceling events, they began canceling sock orders as well. We adapted by introducing new products that we had never created before. It was a risk that could have really harmed us, but it paid off and helped us make it through that difficult time.
What money mistakes have you made along the way that others can learn from (or something you’d do differently)?
We’ve always had to be careful with money. We’ve never pursued funding, so Hippy Feet has grown through hard work and a little bit of luck. The biggest money mistakes we’ve made are when we waited too long to make decisions. It’s better to make a decision with 70% of the information you need rather than waiting until you know everything and letting an opportunity slip by.
What new business would you love to start?
I don’t have one specific idea, but I’d love to start something in the food industry someday. A shift in the way we eat is crucial to helping people live longer and healthier, but we also need a change in the way our food and agriculture systems work in order to protect the planet and fight climate change.
If you could go back in a time machine to the time when you were just getting started, what would you do differently?
I would tell my younger self to be more patient. Good things will happen, they just take a bit longer than you might want sometimes.
What is the best advice you have ever been given?
Getting your idea out quickly is more important than perfecting it. I’ve watched a lot of people get hung up on minutia rather than simply putting their idea out into the world. Chances are you’re going to be wrong, so it’s better to get things out fast and fail small.
What advice would you give to a newbie Entrepreneur setting up their first business?
Find something that consumes you. Starting your business will be one of the hardest things you ever do. You need to solve a problem that keeps you up and night and fuels you to keep going no matter what.