If you do your research, seek lots of advice and work hard, you can make your business successful.
Hannah Lavon is a designer and creative sock maven living in Philadelphia via Brooklyn. Her mom loves to tell people “Hannah thinks so outside the box, she did not realize there was a box,” and this is 100% true. In a past life, she was an ad agency Art Director, designing ad campaigns, websites, logos and marketing collateral. Now as a creative business owner, Hannah is the designer and founder of Pals: mismatched socks for kids. Pals are colorful, funky socks of characters that don’t match, because they inspire kids to be friends with someone different. A few years after graduating from Syracuse University with no business experience, capital or connections, she started dabbling in selling novelty items she designed and printed at local markets. Some of these early products included toilet seat covers, quirky valentines, and vintage inspired greeting cards. This hobby evolved into designing and manufacturing mismatched animal mittens, Vs. Mittens. Predator and prey animal mittens. The mittens morphed into socks, and then rebranded to a message Hannah felt deeply about- that you can be friends with someone not just like you, you don’t have to go battle it out. Pals are in 400+ retailers in US and Canada, featured in numerous publications like Parents Magazine and the Washington Post, and have admirers in Ashton Kutcher and Neil Patrick Harris! Hannah currently resides in historic Philadelphia, PA with her wife, and her cat, Sweet Potato. When not working, Hannah enjoys traveling, exploring, and discovering new craft beers.
Where did the idea for Pals Socks come from?
I used to be an art director. I loved to concept fun ideas on the side to entertain myself. My first wearable product I designed were mismatching mittens that came as predator and prey, so your hands could “battle it out in the funnest way ever.” (Like a Wolf and Sheep or Lion and Gazelle). I did that for a few years, and it was fun, but realized it was super seasonal. You really have 2 months. So, mittens pivoted into socks, which can be sold when it’s not 30 degrees and under. However, I rebranded it from being battling characters, to being Pals. I felt it was more important to inspire kids to be friends with someone different instead of fighting.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
It varies day to day! I wear many socks (as they say)! Anything from social media planning and design, product design, managing sales reps, managing my intern, brainstorming marketing initiatives, taking orders from retailers, planning my trade show schedule, doing some light book keeping… it’s really a lot to handle. I really would love to hire some help soon!
How do you bring ideas to life?
I have a few different sketchbooks all my ideas live in. I create all my designs in Adobe illustrator and send my factories the art files. I have a few samples of different kinds of socks in my office, so I can tell them the materials I want the socks to be. After a few weeks. I receive samples in the mail! Which is super exciting. I give them feedback, I get another round of samples with edits, that’s pretty much it. Then it comes over on a boat and into my warehouse!
What’s one trend that really excites you?
The fact that mismatching socks is on-trend! FINALLY! YAY
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
The fire burning under my butt that no one else will do it, but me. I want to work for myself, and if I don’t do it, no one else will. Got bills to pay! As simple as that.
What advice would you give your younger self?
That if you do your research, seek lots of advice and work hard, you can make your business successful. It’s been a long road and I definitely learned a lot on my business journey. It might not happen overnight, it might take 10 years, but don’t give up. Be realistic.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Master of Disguise with Dana Carvey is one of the most underrated stupid amazing movies ever made!
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do
Make to do lists! Weekly, monthly, yearly. I am naturally all over the place and being able to visualize my goals and needs have drastically helped with my needs and necessary deadlines. This is a second thing, but don’t work alllll the time! I try to not work on the weekends unless absolutely necessary, I believe life should be about living, we have a short amount of time here on Earth, and life is not about being on your computer all day. Get some air! See friends! Be inspired! Listen to inspiring podcasts, business or not!
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Always growing, never staying stagnant. Pivot if need be. If I had only made mittens, I would have never created a concept I feel really has the potential for positive social change, not to mention I would still be freelancing today.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
My socks were super late this past holiday. 2.5 months late. I did a packaging redesign. I was super excited about Pals kicking butt this year. Factory issues piled into delays, I ended up getting my new socks in 2 different staggered shipments and it totally messed up my 3rd and 4th quarter. Sales reps didn’t have samples. Couldn’t send influencers any samples. No socks in stock, my retailers were not thrilled. I was very upset and stressed. The big lesson is to make a calendar, mark off deadlines, get designs EARLY! I also learned I can’t do everything, so make a priority list and stick to it.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Dog socks! Customers ask me if I make socks for dogs.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Buying food and drinks in Madrid and Lisbon! I love traveling, I loveeee this region, and the food/wine is very affordable and amazing.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
I want to say Quickbooks Intuit Online, but they have a lot of issues to work out with errors and being down. Looking for an easy replacement..
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I don’t read too many business books to be honest, they stress me out. I enjoy reading articles on Quicksprout and Shopify to learn and add new ideas to my gigantic to-do list. I will say that any book by David Sedaris makes me happy, and A Confederacy of Dunces is epic.
What is your favorite quote?
I am not a “quotes” person but I came upon this one recently and love it:
“The flower doesn’t dream of the bee. It blossoms and the bee comes.” – Mark Nepo
- Don’t be afraid to pivot
- Do your research
- Don’t be a workaholic, try to live your life
- Create something that is fulfilling and excites you every morning
- ABL, Always Be Learning
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Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.