The inspiration for a new product or company can come at any time or place. For David Heath, co-founder, and CEO of e-commerce apparel brand Bombas, the time was 2011, the place was New York City, and the inspiration was socks. As Heath explained it to Forbes in a 2020 interview, he’d read a quote on Facebook that socks were the most requested clothing item at homeless shelters, and he “wanted to do something about it.”
Inspired by brands like Toms and Warby Parker, which adopted business models based on giving back to the community, Heath and co-founder Randy Goldberg figured they could use a similar model to help solve the problem of socks for the homeless and needy. Their mission would be simple: donate one pair of socks for every pair purchased.
“We knew that in order to donate a lot of socks we’d have to sell a lot of socks and to do that, we’d have to create something better than anything else on the market,” Heath said. “We spent two years on research and development to create the most comfortable socks in the history of feet.”
Bombas, which opened for business in 2013 following an Indiegogo fundraising campaign, has more than held up its end of the bargain. Seven years after its founding, the New York-based company has more than 100 employees and manufactures its products all over the world, including the U.S., Taiwan, China, and Peru.
Although Heath studied entrepreneurship in college and had started three previous companies, neither he nor Goldberg had prior experience with retail or apparel.
“We approached product design from a customer perspective, which we think helped contribute to the brand’s overall success and popularity,” Heath told Forbes in a March interview.
Bombas’ obsession with quality is such that each item it creates is “rigorously tested for comfort and durability,” according to its website. The company is always on the lookout for ways to innovate and improve its products. It analyzes issues that consistently arise with socks and T-shirts, such as painful toe seams or “annoying pilling,” then tweaks its design and manufacturing processes until they reach “total perfection.”
Bombas is so confident in the quality of its products that they are all “100% happiness guaranteed.” The company even has a Customer Happiness Team that’s available for customers who need recommendations, refunds, or “just a reason to smile.” This focus on quality and customer service has helped Bombas consistently beat its internal sales targets through the years – even during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Sales are up,” Goldberg, who serves as chief brand officer, said on a Glossy Podcast in September 2020. “There’s that response to comfort and a response to community. And people are looking for these little moments for themselves.”
Bombas has also been as good as its word when it comes to giving back to the community. The brand has already donated more than 40 million items to more than 3,500 community organizations.
“Those are anything from a small shelter in a small town to big organizations like the VA [Department of Veterans Affairs] and the Special Olympics,” Goldberg said on the Glossy podcast. “We’re in all 50 states.”
Even the name “Bombas,” from the Latin word for bumblebee, is a nod to the brand’s aim to “Bee Better.”
“Bees live in a hive and work together to make their world a better place,” the company’s website says. “They’re small, but have a big effect on things. When we say Bee Better, we mean it as a mantra, a way of approaching every day. It’s stitched into the inside of every pair of Bombas for a reason. It’s a reminder to push yourself harder to be better at your athletic pursuits. A reminder that these socks are engineered and designed with thought to better.”
Bombas’s charitable work goes beyond just matching donations with sales. The company has teamed up with other brands such as Cotopaxi, Cleancult, and Brooklinen to provide resources to those affected by COVID-19.
As part of that effort, Bombas gave 35,000 pairs of socks to outreach workers with the New York City Department of Homeless Services. Brooklinen, a seller of direct-to-consumer bedding, donated more than 300 sheets to the Bowery Mission, a Bombas giving partner. Outdoor gear brand Cotopaxi donated 500 hygiene kits through NYC Relief, while plant-based cleaning products brand Cleancult donated 10,000 bars of soap to homeless shelters and other care facilities.