The last two weeks I interviewed the founders of two different necktie companies, SkinnyFatTies as well as Tie Society. While I am always fascinated with ties, I am excited to be featuring a slightly different niche retailer for this week’s Menswear Insider Interview. This week I was able to meet with Dan Soha, a serial entrepreneur who lives right here in San Francisco. Dan has founded several companies in a wide range of industries, one of which is called Argoz – a stylish high-end sock brand featuring a signature Argyle pattern.
Tie-a-Tie: Hi Dan, thanks for joining me here for my new Menswear Insider series. You are a true entrepreneur, and have started several companies, one of which is Argoz, an online retailer selling socks. Running several businesses made me wonder how you manage your time? What is a normal weekday like for Dan Soha?
Dan:On the surface, managing several businesses sounds insane, but it’s really not quite as bad as it seems. I essentially work “The 4-Hour Workweek” ten times a week. Though the specifics of my day are never the same, my work days all look fairly similar. I wake up around 7 am and start handling important emails immediately. I workout from home and then get to my office by 9:30. Rather than go through a list of tasks, I keep my mind focused on end goals and my brain will keep me focused on whatever the most important task is – this took years to perfect because I feel that we naturally get compelled to what we enjoy doing rather than what is best for one’s business. I work until 6:30 pm with a 15 minute break for lunch. I then go out to meet up with friends, go to a show or anything fairly active. It’s hard for me to keep working hard if I’m not playing hard. I get home around 11:30 and work until 2am or sometimes as late as 4am, go to sleep and then repeat. I am most productive very late at night and so those are the work hours I cherish the most.
Tie-a-Tie: So what time did you go to bed last night?
Dan: I went to bed at 1:28am and woke up at 6:57am — I have a think for numbers and, for some reason, they get stuck in my memory… in this case, the time I went to sleep and woke up.
Tie-a-Tie: What makes Argoz different from your other businesses?
Dan: Almost every business I’ve launched is very different. I’ve started a service business, a SAAS product, a subscription product, and others. I’m more compelled by the type of the business, rather than the product itself. Argoz is a fashion product and sells physical goods… two things I’ve wanted to do. Beyond that, how I operate the business is very similar.
Tie-a-Tie: It was interesting to read that you actually have a background in Computer Science, what inspired the idea of starting a sock business?
Dan: I tried buying some argyle socks online and all the ones I found were terrible. I analyzed the market with some tools and algorithms that I built and that there was a growing market in terms of people looking for argyle and socks. So, it was a product that I enjoyed and there was a large opportunity, so I went for it. If anything I do is properly “calculated”, it never feels like a “risk.”
Tie-a-Tie: You decided to raise money for Argoz using Kickstarter, and you successfully raised over $20,000. What advice would you give an aspiring entrepreneur wanting to launch a campaign via a crowdsourcing platform? From your point of view, what are the biggest Dos and Don’ts for raising money this way?
Dan: Kickstarter should be used for very unique products where crowdfunding is necessary for its success. The only recommendation I would give is that it is necessary to get traction and traction is made by getting a lot of customers in a short time period. At that point, it’s all about word of mouth, press, and what other products are being features on the site. In other words, there’s a fair amount of luck involved and I don’t recommend crowdfunding unless you have no other options. I don’t regret doing it and we found a large market by doing so, but, if I could go back in time, I would have focused my efforts elsewhere.
Tie-a-Tie: Let’s assume you can indeed go back in time. How would you have spent your efforts and time instead then?
Dan: I would have maintained our focus on the product and marketing. I couldn’t have predicted that the Kickstarter campaign would coincide with such a heavy growth period for Argoz and managing the Kickstarter campaign was a “time suck.”
Tie-a-Tie: Over the years we have seen many other niche sites emerge that design and sell socks, what makes Argoz different?
Dan: The sock brands that we get compared against are often referred to as “novelty socks.” They are fun and often times funny. Our goal has been to make extremely high quality socks that take a “heritage” pattern, with a bold twist. It has always been absolutely necessary that we manufacture the highest quality sock on the market. In addition, they are the type of socks that you can wear with a suit and look like a fashion statement rather than a novelty statement.
Tie-a-Tie: You name your company Argoz and most of your designs feature the classic Argyle pattern. I assume this is not a co-incidence. What is it about the Argyle pattern for you? Are you planning to branch out into other patterns, or will the argyle always be your signature?
Dan: I just really like argyle and there was/is a great market. I really like the idea of taking an old pattern and giving it a modern twist. Sometimes I feel like an old man trapped in a 32 year old body. Argyle epitomizes that “heritage” style. We have recently branched out to modern twists on classic stripes, polka dots and paisley. We will have many more styles coming, but elements of argyle will always be around.
Tie-a-Tie: Your company has been growing steadily. How do you plan to continue this growth rate?
Dan: There really aren’t any clever tricks or marketing strategies. We’ve found that focusing on high quality socks with fresh new patterns keeps the business growing and our customers keep coming back. We will continue to make new patterns and refine our manufacturing. In doing so, I’m confident we will continue to grow. At this point, though not astronomical, growth has been steady and consistent and we expect it to continue to do so.
Tie-a-Tie: What was your biggest success with Argoz to date?
Dan: On paper, it would probably be appearing in GQ only a few months after we launch or WSJ more recently. Though to me, they don’t feel like successes. Every time we launch a new styles of socks, it feels like a bigger success. After we launch new styles, we email our customers, and they immediately buy our new styles. It really is the greatest compliment. It feels great to have customers that appreciate how much effort we make in creating quality socks and jump on buying them once they are available.
Tie-a-Tie: Congrats on landing the GQ and WSJ features. It would seem that those are hard to land placings. You must be doing something right. What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs in the menswear industry that are looking to get such placements? Got any tips to share?
Dan: Develop something unique that has a great story and make sure that you contact them when the time is right to display them. Often times, you only get one chance, so the first impression could, literally, be everything.
Tie-a-Tie: How about the biggest downfall or failure, and what did you learn from it?
Dan: From Kickstarter to Press Releases to testing new Marketing channels, we’ve seemed to try it all. I can’t pinpoint which was the greatest failure. But, if there’s anything I’ve learned is to focus on the core business. If anything feels like a “stunt” it’s probably a waste of time.
Tie-a-Tie: Finally, I often ask successful entrepreneurs for a final piece of advice to give to an aspiring entrepreneur. What does it take to be successful?
Dan: When people tell me that they are an aspiring entrepreneur, I always respond the same way “don’t do it.”. Being an entrepreneur shouldn’t be because you want to do it, it must be because you need to do it. If you look at the cost-benefit and the rewards from being an entrepreneur, it’s really not a rational decision. I love being an entrepreneur, but in many ways it’s not what I’ve chosen to be, it’s what I am. When I meet anyone who has started several businesses like I have, I always find that they agree with me on one major point: being an entrepreneur feels like an illness Being an entrepreneur is difficult in ways that are hard to imagine and I don’t recommend it to anyway, but I also would never consider doing anything else with my life. If watching The Social Network, made you want to be an entrepreneur, then you are probably doing it for the wrong reasons.
Tie-a-Tie: Interesting answer. This is actually not the first time I have heard entrepreneur say this. Thanks again for meeting with me and best of luck to you and Argoz.
Dan: Thank you. It was my pleasure.
Interviewed on Jan 17th, 2014 by Hendrik Pohl, founder of Tie-a-Tie.net