Fighting Homelessness One Pair of Socks at a Time
New Orleans native Austin McCann launched a new business that will help put socks on the feet of homeless individuals in the United States. All you have to do is buy a pair of socks.
McCann recently launched Open Thread, a designer sock company that he came up with during a project for a marketing class at Loyola University three years ago.
At the time, McCann had become fascinated with designer socks and his passion was helping those less fortunate.
“During that season of my life I was also really involved with helping the homeless community, so I combined those passions to create the business plan,” he said. “I decided to mock up a business plan for a designer sock company where every pair purchased I donate a long thick pair to a homeless shelter.”
He says Open Thread is a glass half empty/half full type of name, which fits perfectly.
“An open thread represents the torn socks that most homeless individuals have, if any socks at all. An open thread also represents the beginning of a sock being created. My company is aware of the reality of torn socks, and want to provide a solution of warm thick socks for the homeless community.”
McCann’s passion to help the homeless began at an early age. Living in New Orleans, he talked about how he sees homeless folks all the time and how no one talks to them. In 8th grade during a project, he met a homeless man named David, who he said changed his life forever.
“Homeless people are regular people just like you and I, but their opportunities have been stripped away from them. We are all in a race called ‘Life’ and we all have a head start while the homeless community get no head start,” he said. “They can never win the race because they can never catch up to all of us with homes and opportunities.”
McCann wants to do his part in helping them due to a high demand for socks in the homeless community.
“Socks are the #1 need in the homeless community because socks provide warmth and protect them from germs that normally start from exposed feet,” he said. “With better health, they have a better chance to get back on their feet.”
Currently, Open Thread will donate socks each quarter to majors cities that include New Orleans, Atlanta, Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York, but McCann is just scratching the surface.
His long term and ultimate goal is not only to be the number one designer sock brand in the world, but he wants Open Thread to be the number one provider in socks for the homeless.
“After every homeless person in America has warm socks I want to move into every country in the world. I’ve spent time and volunteered with low income families in India, Jamaica, and Mexico,” he said. “Those experiences and individuals have touched my heart and I want to help them first. I won’t stop until I can help them and every homeless person in the world.”
With such a strong aspirations, McCann does have his sights set on the short term first. In 2018, he hopes to sell about 200 socks per month which will help provide over 600 socks for folks each quarter.
McCann described himself as a bit of a one-man show with the exception of his freelance designer, Ian Welch.
McCann is responsible for coming up with the designs, organize manufacturing, ship the product, market the product and handle all of the public relations such as social media.
“There is always something to do. I normally start the morning by going to the post office to ship off the orders from the day before. During the day, I post on social media and talk with my designer about future designs. In the evening, I engage with social media followers and come up with creative and innovative marketing strategies. Around 7pm each night, I package all orders from that day and get ready for another day of Open Thread fun,” he said.
Despite being a bit of a one man show, McCann noted a few people that deserve credit and recognition…
“Open Thread wouldn’t a success without the talented people who give me ideas and support. Janae’ Neely, Miranda Lionnet, other friends, and family definitely deserve recognition,” he said.
The process has been quite the journey and it is a process that began about a year and half ago before trying to make this business venture a reality.
“When I decided I was going to start this company, I had no idea where to start. Like any person would, I googled, ‘How to start a sock company?’ That didn’t help much,” he said. “I started backwards, and found a sock manufacturer located in North Carolina. I researched their capabilities, and determined the format needed for designs. I then went through the process of finding a designer. I found a designer on Craigslist believe it or not. Together my designer and I spent countless hours working on the designs until my vision came to light.”
The toughest part in all of it was coming up with the first collection of socks. He landed on the World Traveler collection (can’t wait for mine to arrive, they’re sick!). The idea for his first collection was inspired from his end goal and mission, to help the world. He figured what better way to represent that.
“I decided to focus on areas of the world and create a sock that highlights that area. I created a sock to represent the Americas, Australia, Africa, Europe, Asia, and a Unity sock,” he said. “The unity sock features a globe with a plane traveling around it. This represents the world traveler and the good work I hope to do around the world through this company.”
You can purchase your own pair of Open Thread socks on otsocks.com. You can purchase from the World Traveler collection today.
McCann is excited to release his next collection series sometime in the spring. The collection is called “controlled chaos.” He says the designs are already in the works.
This is only just the beginning for McCann and he says his biggest inspiration in all of this is Jesus Christ.
“My whole life I learned about a guy who’s the ultimate example of selflessness. Jesus even became friends and spent time with the people who most people would distance themselves from because he knew everyone mattered,” he said. “That is how I view the homeless community. People ignore the homeless, so I want to highlight them and serve them in any way I can.”
If you wish to support McCann and his cause, he said this is how…
“The number one way you can support Open Thread’s mission is by purchasing a pair of socks. Following us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (@openthreadsocks) is awesome, but without a purchase of socks we can’t donate a pair to the homeless communities across the country. Please shop at http://www.otsocks.com and help us make a difference in a world who’s desperate for our help.”
Comments from the Writer
As someone who loves socks and all the crazy designs you can get, I was excited to see someone I have known for a while launch a business selling them. Obviously, I purchased the World Traveler collection. I did so for two reasons…
1- I do my best to support friends who are trying to launch businesses because I know the importance of having advocates for business.
2- This is for such an amazing cause.
As much I love socks, I love the entire reasoning and message behind Open Thread. Although I am not nearly as noble as Austin when it comes to helping the homeless, I know how important it is. I, too, hate the way homeless people are treated as a general rule. You don’t know what someone has been through until you actually sit down and talk to them. For Austin to try and break that barrier and help those who need it more than you or I is a hell of an investment.
I cannot wait to see where this amazing business idea goes. I want to personally wish you the best of luck and you certainly have a huge supporter in me. Keep it up man!