Spotlight on Bombas
For every pair of socks Bombas sells, it donates a pair to the homeless
It’s hard to know whether David Heath and Randy Goldberg had profit or altruism in mind when they started their online sock company Bombas in New York in 2013. Most likely both.
As Heath recalls it, “I was struck by a Facebook quote about socks being the clothing item most requested at homeless shelters and a light bulb went off.” He and Goldberg proceeded to build a business on the sell-one-give-one model pioneered by TOMs (shoes) and Warby Parker (eyeglasses). For every pair of socks sold, they would donate a pair—primarily to homeless shelters throughout the country. “Everyone, no matter their circumstances, deserves to put on clean clothes that feel good,” notes the company’s website. “Our mission since day one has been to help those experiencing homelessness.”
To make that proposition work—and to make it work profitably—Heath and Goldberg knew they’d need to sell a lot of socks—high-end socks, priced accordingly. “If we built a better pair of socks, we could sell more socks,” Heath says. “And if we sold more socks, we could donate more socks.”
Work it has. At $18 a pair–$130 for a 12-pack—Bombas socks are not cheap. But the company was profitable within three years of start-up and now averages $100 million in annual revenue.
The socks the company donates are different from the ones it sells. They have to be. Street living is hard on socks, which get soiled and worn out quickly, often leading to blisters, frostbite, infections and worse. For that reason, Bombas socks earmarked for the homeless are made more durable than their commercial counterparts, with reinforced seams, blister tabs, cushioned footbeds and anti-bacterial treatment.
While socks remain Bombas flagship product, the company has diversified into t-shirts and they too are supplied to shelters. All told, the company has donated more than 44 million clothing items through more than 3,000 community giving partners and homeless shelters nationwide.
Not surprisingly, a disproportionate number of those living in shelters or on the streets are Black, accounting for 40% of a homeless population estimated at 568,000. As Black Lives Matter gained momentum in 2020, Bombas donated $50,000 to each of five organizations working to combat the root causes of systemic racial inequality, chosen by the company’s Black employees.
With the coronavirus outbreak, many companies retooled their product lines to manufacture masks and other protective gear. Heath and Goldberg stuck with what they know best, donating 15,000 pairs of socks to Founders Give, an organization that delivers vitally needed items to frontline healthcare workers in New York. Bombas also joined forces with Village Den, a Manhattan restaurant, to collect and distribute PPE for healthcare workers, and wipes, sanitizer and soap for homeless individuals.
Heath characterizes Bombas’ signature product “as the most innovative sock in the last 20 years.” From Carpenter Group’s perspective, the company’s brand promise—equal parts comfort and kindness—is no less bold.
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About Brand Acts of Kindness®
Brand Acts of Kindness® is a series from Carpenter Group that spotlights companies across industries that are living their brand values in addressing the unprecedented challenges facing the world today.
The series initially headlined companies assisting healthcare workers and first responders, as well as communities, businesses and families impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. We also highlight brands taking the lead in supporting social and racial justice, LGBTQ rights, sustainability and the environment. Their stories show how innovation, resolve and action, built on a solid value proposition, can both strengthen a brand and help create a better world.
About Carpenter Group
Carpenter Group is an independent, woman-owned strategic branding, messaging and marketing communications firm that has delivered results-driven solutions to financial, professional services and technology firms for 30+ years.
Our broad cross-discipline experience enables us to craft brand messaging and carry it through to the channels that most effectively connect with our clients’ target audience, from editorial content to advertising to event marketing and more.