World Bytes: Athletic Socks – a Case Study of Entrepreneurship

World Bytes: Athletic Socks – a Case Study of Entrepreneurship

BY Terrance Malkinson, Scott Peris and Josh White Posted: 15 Jun 2015

Gus Gaynor’s Doing Innovation IEEE-USA eBook series on includes the titles: Perspective on Innovation, Develop a Workable Innovation Process and Fostering an Innovative Culture. In his most recent and fourth eBook in the series, What It Takes to Be an Innovator, Gaynor describes important requirements that innovators must possess, including skills, attitude, knowledge base and ability to overcome challenges.

Doing innovation happens when freedom is allowed. With discipline, a formal but not rigid process exists for introducing new products and services, and when innovators meet the skills, characteristics, attitudes and knowledge to satisfy the requirements for potential innovation.

The optimal process for stimulating creativity, growing an original idea into new information, a new product, or a service of value is a fascinating topic on which many people have devoted considerable thought for many years.  We may never understand fully what the spark is that ignites the process.  It is clear however that success is facilitated by a prepared mind, a keen sense of observation, a belief in oneself, and the courage to persist in spite of seemingly insurmountable obstacles – all topics discussed by Gaynor in his innovation eBook series.  Following is a brief case study which describes, in the entrepreneurs’ own words, one success story that embodies these requirements.

Case Study: Ponos Apparel

The start-up, Ponos Apparel [www.ponosapparel.com], founded by Attila Nadori, Josh White and Scott Peris, brands high-performance athletic socks for high schools, club programs, colleges and universities. Scott Peris met Josh White during their playing days at SAIT Polytechnic (Calgary, Canada). Josh later went on the lead Mount Royal University to the CCAA National Basketball Finals and is now in his first year of Medical School at the University of Calgary. Attila Nadori and Scott Peris met as students at the University of Victoria. Attila is now completing the last semester of his master’s degree in sports management at NYU.

Athletics has experienced a paradigm shift recently, and athletes are increasingly concerned with their image. Our company, Ponos Apparel, uniquely brands teams with a consistent clothing professional appearance. Ponos was the Greek God for hard work and is a reflection of the product we provide. Our company believes in providing a durable garment. Very quickly we have achieved market success; working with NCAA, CIS and CCAA teams across Canada and the United States. We are aggressively expanding into new markets with athletic apparel innovations.

We courageously walked into Athletic Directors offices pitching our leading product idea ― branded socks. Once we gained interest, the next step was to move forward with a tangible sample that people could see. We located a manufacturer who shared our vision of a quality product and after several weeks had three samples. With these samples in hand we connected with former coaches, players, friends, and anyone who was involved in the athletics community ― face-time with coaches, athletic directors; in fact anyone who would sit down with us. This endless persistence has been the catalyst for a promising start.

Our company feels strongly about social welfare and giving back to the community. As our company grows we feel it is pertinent to our success to be entrepreneurial leaders giving back with a social emphasis to local communities. As a start-up we look forward to evolving our e-commerce platform to eventually enable a hassle free experience. During the next 18 months we are aggressively looking to explore new challenges to help evolve our company into a prominent sock apparel brand in the global economy.

The story of Scott, Josh and Attila is not unique in the sports world.  Many successful enterprises fulfill a need that retrospectively seems so obviously needed ― yet no one saw or pursued the gap.  There are many examples of people who saw a need and moved quickly to fill the need:

  • Jeff Bercovici describes how Anthony Katz, a small-town history teacher, started with an idea and created a sports recovery device that is now being used by nearly every major U.S. Sports star in “The Ice Man Cometh.” [Inc. 28-32. April, 2025. www.inc.com ].  Hyperice cryo-compression gear is being used by many athletic professionals to promote faster healing of athletic injuries. In 2014 the company did $1.5M in direct sales business; this year he is projecting sales of at least $5M. As is the case of the athletic socks, a critical factor for success was experience in the field of application (credibility of the innovator) and an understanding of the customer (the athlete). This knowledge was critical to success in the launch and marketing of the innovative products.
  • Craig Coulome, a geophysicist and a bicycle commuter got tired of pulling a wrinkled suit from his packsack so he created his own bicycle panniers using a borrowed sewing machine that could accommodate and offer protection; resulting in delivering a wrinkle-free business suit when the bicycle commuter reached their destination.  He teamed up with Ken MacLean an old friend and they created a company called Two Wheel Gear [www.twowheelgear.com]. After considerable success, an entrepreneurial business student became involved, bought the company now headquartered in Vancouver, Canada, and has grown it into a very successful international venture. 

Other Bytes

  • Effectively giving and receiving advice is a fundamental skill for everyone.  In ʺThe Art of Giving and Receiving Advice,” [Harvard Business Review, 93(1/2): 60-71. January-February 2015, www.hbr.org] David Garvin and Joshua Margolis discuss how this practical skill can be learned and applied to increase effectiveness. Garvin and Margolis identify the most common obstacles to effectively seeking and giving advice and offer strategies to get past them.  They identify four types of advice and desired outcomes and provide guidelines for each of the five stages of advising, including suggestions for advice seekers and advisers for each stage.
  • “The Truly Personal Computer” [The Economist, Vol. 414 (#8927):19-22, 28 February 2015] looks at how the smartphone, with more than 2 billion people around the world using it, is the defining technology of our age. By the year 2020, it is believed that 80 percent of all adults will own a smartphone.  Youth usage will likely be even more ubiquitous.
  • In many organizations, communication only occurs from the top-down. Subordinates for a variety of reasons are hesitant to speak up to their superiors.  More often than not, however, employees on the frontline have the best intelligence on business conditions, business processes and customer needs.  In ʺGet the Boss to Buy-In” [Harvard Business Review, 93(1/2): 72-79, January-February 2015, www.hbr.org], Susan Ashford and James Detert discuss the issues related to this dysfunctional communication flow and suggest strategies that everyone can use to promote open, two-way communication.
  • In ʺThe Eight Essentials of Innovationʺ [McKinsey Quarterly, April 2015, www.mckinsey.com/insights/mckinsey_quarterly], Marc de Jong, Nathan Marston, and Erik Roth continue the discussion on strategic and organizational factors that facilitate success. The authors share their experience and discuss eight crosscutting practices and processes to structure, organize and encourage innovation.
  • The Hadron Collider, the world’s largest particle accelerator, is ready for action following a two-year shutdown for upgrading. Thousands of scientists, engineers and technicians have spent decades designing and building the particle accelerator, located in a tunnel between Lake Geneva and the Jura mountain range. At the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), physicists and engineers are probing the fundamental structure of the universe; the basic constituents of matter – the fundamental particles. The project’s purpose is to recreate the conditions that existed moments after the "Big Bang." Scientists hope to uncover how the universe evolved. The collider cost about $3.3 billion and was financed by 21 member countries of CERN and contributions by non-member nations.
  • FORTUNE magazine’s second annual listing of extraordinary men and women who are transforming business, government, philanthropy and other sectors are provided in “The World’s 50 Greatest Leaders”  [FORTUNE, 171(5):59-95,  April 2015, www.fortune.com]. Profiles of each of the 50 leaders provide valuable insights into what they have learned and how they apply their education and experience to achieve personal and business success. 
  • In “Business and Society in the Coming Decades” [McKinsey Quarterly, April 2015], Kathleen McLaughlin and Doug McMillon discuss how, in the long-term, corporate and societal interests converge and provide the opportunity to use scale and expertise to reshape global systems and mitigate complex problems.
  • In “Conquer Yourself, Conquer the World” [Scientific American, 312(4):60-65, April 2015, www.scientificamerican.com] Roy Baumeister discusses the importance of self-control in attaining personal and business success. Says Baumeister, “People with good control over their thought processes, emotions and behaviors not only flourish in school and in their jobs but are also healthier, wealthier and more popular.”                               
  • “The Founders 40” [Inc., April 2015, www.inc.com] profiles forty companies that have gone public but are still running like start-ups. The articles describe their strategies for continued success – especially staying true to their founding principles. 

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