Debbie Lefkowitz created Hocsocx out of her passion as a sports mom and her concern for her daughters. After noticing the reoccurring painful leg rashes her daughter suffered from her shin guards, Debbie decided to take matters into her own hands and provide the solution. Her solution, Hocsocx, became a success, and eventually the USA National Field Hockey team made her invention the national teams’ official rash guard sock.
On Thanksgiving Day 2012, Debbie Lefkowitz saw her invention make its public debut during the USA Field Hockey Festival held in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. They became a smash hit. Since 2013, the USA Women’s National Field Hockey Team has worn Hocsocx, while the USA Men’s National Team started wearing them in 2015.
Initially, Debbie Lefkowitz created Hocsocx for hockey and soccer players. However, the socks soon expanded to other sports, such as skiing, skating, and ice hockey.
Debbie Lefkowitz designed Hocsocx to protect athletes’ legs from painful and itchy rashes. They are thin but durable liner socks worn under shin guards, which protect against shin guard rashes. Because they don’t ride up or slip down, Hocsocx are also a better fit for athletes than shin guard sleeves.
Currently, Debbie Lefkowitz has expanded her Hocsocx offering to girls, boys, women, and men. They also come in different sizes, and different types, such as leg sleeves, compression socks and compression sleeves.
Jerome Knyszewski: What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Debbie Lefkowitz: As I briefly mentioned earlier, Hocsocx are the only performance liner socks on the market to have a full foot. We do offer a sleeve option due to requests. However, we find the original fans of the brand tend to stay faithful to the full-footed version. Hocsocx are also made of a much thinner material without the bulk factor, yet still durable in its structure- unlike other options available on the market. We also have a great selection of styles, prints and colors. We truthfully believe Hocsocx has a design to suit every personality. They’re a practical sock, but so much fun to wear. When we’re at tournaments, we hear so many stories from our customers of how Hocsocx has helped them.
Jerome Knyszewski: Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them thrive and not “burn out”?
Debbie Lefkowitz: If I had to make a recommendation to colleagues within my industry to help them not “burn out,” I would suggest “work smarter, not harder.” I think as entrepreneurs we’re always thinking we need to go a million miles per hour in order to receive the most success. However, if you’ve established a committed customer base, and a product that is benefiting them in all the ways they need it, then there’s no need to overdue things. I think it’s very important to allow others to help where they can. It takes a village. Also, take a bit of time to refresh — whether it’s reading a book or going for a run. With determination and focus, your company will continue its growth and success!
Jerome Knyszewski: None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Debbie Lefkowitz: I am definitely grateful for my friend David. He’s an entrepreneur, landlord, and also owns a clothing company. He’s been my go-to person every step of the way. He helped me find affordable office space so that I could move Hocsocx out of my living room after a year. He’s given me sound financial advice, product advice, personal advice, and the list goes on. The most significant advice he gave me was helping me with my search for a factory to manufacture my ideal sock. He showed up in my office one day and told me to “Run, not walk, to the Magic Manufacturing and Sourcing conference in Las Vegas. It will change your life and by the way it starts in 3 days.” I was able to make it to Vegas from the East Coast to this conference, which is where I found my current manufacturer. It was amazing, and it did change my life. I was finally going to have my ideal sock, and I was able to go full steam ahead with promoting MY Hocsocx.
Jerome Knyszewski: Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. The Pandemic has changed many aspects of all our lives. One of them is the fact that so many of us have gotten used to shopping almost exclusively online. Can you share a few examples of different ideas that eCommerce businesses are implementing to adapt to the new realities created by the Pandemic?
Debbie Lefkowitz: The pandemic definitely forced many businesses to take a good hard look at how they do business online, and to upgrade their eCommerce capabilities. In the beginning, a lot of companies weren’t quite sure what the future would hold in terms of being able to do in-person shopping. For us, exhibiting at tournaments was a big part of our business. Many companies needed to adjust their services and selling strategies, and even had to completely change their product offering to reflect new consumer demands. For some luxury companies I’ve noticed, the eCommerce approach just doesn’t work for them, but on the contrary I’ve seen other businesses continue to flourish when adjusting the right way. Some examples of this include embracing new sales channels such as adding an Amazon Store or eBay Store, updating websites to be more buyer-friendly, and most importantly, collecting data on new consumer behaviors during the pandemic to meet changing customer needs.
For us, we’ve continued to increase our marketing (especially through social media — according to our analytics and customer data), and we’ve continued to work on keeping our inventory up to date. We’ve held sales and had contests to keep people interested in the brand. We also added a product line, and donated over a thousand pairs of compression socks to frontline healthcare workers.
Jerome Knyszewski: Amazon, and even Walmart are going to exert pressure on all of retail for the foreseeable future. New Direct-To-Consumer companies based in China are emerging that offer prices that are much cheaper than US and European brands. What would you advise retail companies and eCommerce companies, for them to be successful in the face of such strong competition?
Debbie Lefkowitz: I would suggest to other companies, both retail and eCommerce, to continue to create quality products. Although pricing may be less than some of the products created in the US or Europe, something that has always and will always remain crucial is the quality of your product. Adjusting to some of the factors at play around you are a must, but if your company has aligned with customers thus far, they will remain loyal to your product or service.
Jerome Knyszewski: What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start an eCommerce business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
Debbie Lefkowitz: Learning from your mistakes is definitely key to growing. Being an entrepreneur in the eCommerce business, at the beginning I definitely experienced mistakes and had to adjust things to make up for it. I believe the most common mistakes I’ve seen CEOs & founders make when they start an eCommerce business is over-spending on inventory. So often, the over-zealous entrepreneur makes the mistake of thinking their product will sell quickly, when in actuality the process is definitely a bit slower until your product is more known. Starting out, a larger and smarter marketing budget and plan have to be the main focus. Many new entrepreneurs, myself included, feel they cannot spend on frivolous marketing when indeed it’s where the money should be spent.
Jerome Knyszewski: In your experience, which aspect of running an eCommerce brand tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?
Debbie Lefkowitz: Inventory management may be the most underestimated and most arduous task in running an eCommerce business. One day you have 100 orders, the next day you have 30 orders, so it’s critical to know what you need. As you grow and increase your marketing, inventory management can be crucial to the future of your business. Increased sales with failure to keep good inventory control can trigger a sequence of events that can have a lasting negative effects on your business. Failing to adapt to changing needs in inventory can lead to longer shipping times to customers, inability to fulfill orders and dissatisfied customers.
Jerome Knyszewski: One of the main benefits of shopping online is the ability to read reviews. Consumers love it! While good reviews are of course positive for a brand, poor reviews can be very damaging. In your experience what are a few things a brand should do to properly and effectively respond to poor reviews? How about other unfair things said online about a brand?
Debbie Lefkowitz: Poor reviews can be hard to receive. However, it’s definitely the way you respond that can either continue a poor relationship or allow the remainder of the conversation to be civil, and can even bring back the customer! It’s key to respond to a review with an open mind, and not with a knee jerk reaction. Also, remember to not take it TOO personally. It’s easier for people to speak their mind online simply because they’re behind a screen. Try to remember they most likely wouldn’t say something like that in person. Fortunately, we have had very few poor reviews.
Jerome Knyszewski: Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a very successful e-commerce business? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Marketing — both email and social media. When I started Hocsocx, I was absolutely not a social media person (still am not the biggest!). However, my first employee was in charge of posting on our social media, which is where we found a HUGE portion of our target customers. Having social media, specifically Instagram and Facebook — as well as email campaigns, have been huge factors to keeping our customers intrigued and up to date on what’s happening with our brand. Prior to hiring my first employee, my social media marketing was very erratic. Once I had someone doing daily posts across social media, we had measurable increases in sales. Then we added social media advertising and promoting posts which increased our sales even further. We’re also able to track this through our analytics.
- Inventory Management– as we continued growing and developing throughout the years, it became crucial to have a solid supply of inventory. I believe when first starting out, you shouldn’t have an overflow of inventory, but rather have the ability to produce more product when you need it and buy in small bulks until your business starts making bigger, more consistent strides.
- Be prepared for ups & downs — as an eCommerce business, you have to remember you’re literally serving people that are ordering from you online! There are many different reasons why individuals may not be shopping, but being prepared to have slow times is definitely crucial. For example, for 10 out of 12 months of the year our business is crazy business, and then right around March and April we have a slow patch. This is typically a time where the sports we cater to are getting ready to get back into spring training, or just wrapped up their season. This is when we start transitioning to the summer months where we usually see sales start to rebound after that slump.
- Your ability to communicate timely and consistently with your customers will equate to their overall customer satisfaction — this is a HUGE factor in the success behind eCommerce. Nothing is more frustrating than shopping online, having a question or concern and not hearing back from the company for a week or never! Understanding the balance of where people are coming from with shopping online and not having the easy access of talking to someone face to face is definitely something eCommerce businesses need to understand. We’ve had many positive reviews that mentioned how quickly they received a response from us.
- Creating a solid customer base (repeat customers, etc.) — within eCommerce, as well as a strong following on social media and other online platforms is definitely important. Having the support from individuals who have not only purchased from you once or twice, but multiple times throughout the year not only helps with sales, but also with word-of-mouth marketing which brings referral traffic to your site/product. When Hocsocx first started, I luckily had my daughters to help encourage their teammates to try out our socks. As more of the team tried Hocsocx, our sales continued to grow thanks to their positive word-of-mouth endorsements of the product.
Jerome Knyszewski: This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!