I had the pleasure of interviewing Gavin Kamara, co-founder of Gorilla Socks, a company that produces bamboo socks that help protect endangered species, and Trans-Atlantic social entrepreneur.
Yitzi: Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
I come from a beautiful historic city called Durham in the north-east of England. After attending school in Durham, I moved to Birmingham, aged 18, to study at The University of Birmingham and that’s where I met Gianluca: my Gorilla Socks co-founder. After obtaining my undergraduate degree in European Studies with French and Spanish I studied a masters in Real Estate Finance and Investment at The University of Reading before moving to London and joining a major global real estate consultancy.
Whilst working in commercial real estate, I relocated to Buenos Aires in Argentina to work in a regional Latin America role for 3 years. It was during my life in Latin America where my passion to become a social entrepreneur really developed and during a working trip to New York I stopped in on my good friend Gianluca and after catching up on a bike ride along the Hudson River and a few too many beers we came up with Gorilla Socks as our maiden venture into social entrepreneurship. The rest, as they say, is history.
Yitzi: Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company
There’s no particular story that I’d highlight but I do seem to have developed an obsession with feet…I find myself striking up conversations with strangers in bars, on trains, waiting in line, anywhere…about their colourful socks and before I know it I’m getting lots of strange looks until I mention that I am the co-founder of a colourful sock company. Thankfully I’ve brushed up on my elevator pitch and open with “I run a colourful sock company” rather than starting with “nice socks mate”….
Yitzi: What makes your business stand out? Can you share a story?
We provide an awesome product (colourful bamboo socks) that support amazing causes. We truly believe that social enterprises are the way forward. In today’s society the average person does care about their contribution to the world and how their decisions on a day-to-day basis impact the environment, our fellow humans and animals.
At Gorilla Socks we match a passion for fashion with a love for endangered species. We believe you can look and feel great whilst supporting the conservation of endangered species. People are prepared to buy from a start-up knowing that they are actively supporting a greater cause.
Yitzi: How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
We try and do our bit, little-by-little. Since the outset, we have partnered with the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International on our launch collection of colourful bamboo socks, donating 10% of proceeds to the fund and their leading work in protecting and studying gorillas, while helping communities build their conservation capabilities.
We are now delighted to announce that as of June 2018 we will be launching a second collection of 6 new colourful sock styles that will support the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) under their Saving Animals From Extinction ® (SAFE) program, which works to conserve species threatened with extinction as well as their fragile habitats.
As we grow, we will be introducing more products and onboarding more charities and we can’t wait!
Yitzi: What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I Started my Business” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
This was our first entrepreneurial experience. We had little or no know-how when it came to building and growing an e-commerce business. These are the five things I wish someone had told us beforehand:
1. Understand the world of SEO. We knew little about the whole world behind SEO. We believed that we could build traffic simply through Instagram and ads. While that may be true to a certain extent, we have noticed that the majority of our traffic is organic, which increases as our ranking on Google improves.
2. A fulfillment center may not be your best option. From the outset we started collaborating with a fulfillment centre. That was wrong for many reasons. Fulfillment centers work on volumes, and we were a small fish in a big pond on day one. Our products were being sent with delays, which affected our customer satisfaction and reputation. On our website we pledge to send socks out within 2–3 business days. Also as a startup you want to be as lean as possible while you test the viability of your product. Having a fulfillment center meant we had fixed costs even if we had no sales.
3. Be careful where you spend advertising dollars. We paid for advertising in a renowned print magazine who contacted us. That was probably one of our worst mistakes. We got no traffic from the ad and it served no purpose from a SEO perspective. It was money down the drain.
4. Know the importance of your shipping costs Nail these down. Being able to provide a fast, reliable, and cost-effective way to deliver your product to the end customer is one of the building blocks for a successful e-commerce business.
5. Know your audience! Customer targeting is something we learned later down the line. At the start we just went out and pitched our product to anyone, with little success. Today we know who our customers are, and we have been more successful in reaching them. Of course, this is a moving feast and we are continually refining the process.
Yitzi: I have been blessed with the opportunity to interview and be in touch with some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this, or I might be able to introduce you.
Given our mutual love for the endangered gorilla species and support of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, I would have to say Ellen DeGeneres. For someone in the spotlight to truly leverage their fame and stardom to raise awareness of wildlife and conservation issues in such a huge way is immensely commendable. Celebrities are given a platform in the public eye to act as role models for society but rarely do they use this platform in such a positive manner as Ellen has done. She is an inspiration and a fine example for our children to look up to.
Yitzi: This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
If you would like to see the entire “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me” Series In Huffpost, ThriveGlobal, and Buzzfeed, click HERE.