On the heels of the recently released Gales® x Comrad compression socks collaboration, Rob Gregg, founder and CEO of Gales®, sat down with Andrew Ferenci, founder of Comrad Socks to discuss Comrad, entrepreneurship, and the collaboration!
Rob: I’m well versed with Comrad Socks and why they are the best compression socks on the planet, but for our audience, it would be great to understand a little about you, your story, and how Comrad came to be!
Andrew: Absolutely! I think the year was 2015––I was living in New York and had just finished some time at Salesforce working on their Marketing Cloud product, and I started traveling a bunch (I spent some time in Asia). I was taking better care of my body, training for triathlons, and then I was also on my feet all day.
Through all of those situations, my feet were either tired, achy, or sore; then I discovered medical compression socks through a friend of mine who developed a blood clot after a longhaul flight.
I picked up a pair of the beige, medical looking ones from your local pharmacy and I was surprised that my legs felt much better! When I looked into medical compression socks, they use something called graduated compression which has a bunch of medically and scientifically proven health benefits to increase circulation and reduce swelling. However, I was surprised there wasn’t anything out there that was stylish, comfortable, and designed for everyday wear and athletics.
The more I talked with the folks that are pavement pounders––my dad is a physician, my cousin is a chef, my sister is an attorney––and asked them if they wear compression socks and what brand they use, they said yes but they are all expensive, ugly, and uncomfortable. So that was the lightbulb moment.
After that, I spent 2 years traveling around the world trying to find manufacturers to create the most comfortable and versatile compression sock for everyday wear. I did over 200 prototypes and tested them on everyone from doctors and nurses to chefs and professional athletes. Then in 2018, we launched Comrad and our first product was The Companion, which is a knee-high compression sock made from premium sustainable fabrics, and a smart silver ionization––which is a new take on antimicrobial––that we developed.
We found the sweet spot of compression where you can get all of the health benefits, but they're also comfortable to wear. Ultimately, our goal is to create a wearable wellness company. We’re really big believers in “comrad” which means an ally, friend, companion; someone you bring to battle with you. That’s exactly how I look at compression socks! The easiest way to feel better, more energized, and take care of your body, is by changing what you wear. We’re starting with socks and we have a roadmap that goes into apparel; anything you might find in the dark corner of your local pharmacy.
Rob: I love that! So, in that product development discovery and roadmap cycle, I’m really curious as an entrepreneur, what are the areas that you’ve found to be most challenging in building Comrad to what it is today, and what are some of the areas that have been most rewarding?
Andrew: In terms of product development, you can find manufacturers that meet the requirements you need, but it’s really a different thing to get the execution right. So for us, we were taking what is a medical product, but we wanted to develop it as if it were an athleisure brand: how do you get comfort? How do you get the right materials? That took a significant amount of time (and I’m somewhat of a perfectionist) so finding the right manufacturer was a painstakingly slow process for me, so that was a challenge. Now, we’re in the sixth year of the company and I would say supply chain and things like that can still be an issue with COVID, but I think the biggest challenge is working capital. That’s one of the biggest unlocks for a consumer-facing brand.
Rob: Let’s talk about the mission! For Gales®, we have a superpower of finding good people from our employees, to our investors, to the consumers that we serve and that’s a big part of our mission; finding good people that do the right thing for the right reasons. Would love to hear on Comrad’s side, what is the mission, why you do what you do, and why is it so important to stand by your consumers?
Andrew: Our mission is really simple: it’s to help people feel their best everyday, and every step of the way. What that means for us and our consumers is, it doesn't matter if you have a pre-existing condition, are recovering from surgery, OR are someone who finds that the product simply makes you feel better if you’re on your feet all day––helping people feel their best is the thing that gets us up in the morning. The other thing that is really important to us is education. There’s a lot of misinformation out there and compression is largely misunderstood.
A lot of people think “oh, my grandparents wear these” or “I don’t have circulatory issues, so I don’t need this”, so we educate a lot on why your feet swell after you travel or why you get sore after a workout or why it’s hard to be on your feet all day. We're really all about answering the question: how can we help our customers as much as we can?We’re also looking at organizations that we can get behind to help support people in feeling their best. We donated 10,000 pairs during the height of COVID-19 to physicians who were getting blood clots from being on their feet for 20 hours a day and we recently did a big program with Feed the Street which helps food insecure children in LA.
Rob: Talking about next steps, by the time everyone sees this, our Gales® x Comrad Collaboration will be LIVE on the Gales® website. For Comrad as a company, I would love to know what’s next! What excites your team, and what are you looking forward to in the future?
Andrew: From a product perspective, we’ve really just been focused on compression socks for the last five years. Compression socks are a big category so we still have a lot of room to grow there, but this past year, we did our largest product launch and drops to date. Last year we launched two new categories: Casual and Performance. For the Casual collection, we took two of the most popular socks (which are the crew and no-show socks) and put a Comrad spin on them, added some compression in targeted areas, and created a staple for the sock drawer. For the Performance collection, we released this for high-performance activities, athletes, or weekend warriors as a knee-high, crew-ankle sock, and cap sleeve.
This year, we’re really excited about moving beyond socks which is a really thrilling roadmap for us. Then largely as a business, we kicked-off wholesale last year so you can find us on Nordstrom.com. We launched with QVC last year and will be launching with Macy’s this year, so, overall, we are looking to expand outside of digital and into mass market audiences. Lastly, we’re really excited to be aligning with brands like Gales® for the Gales® x Comrad collaboration; brands that serve a specific audience who serve others. Heading into this year, we’re confident that we’ll be able to continue doing what we love.
Rob: That’s amazing! Great founder, great team, incredible product. We’re so excited to be carrying it on our site. Thank you for sharing your time––we’re so excited to be bringing Comrad and Gales® to more folks that need them.
Andrew: Thank you so much Rob, we’re so excited too and hopefully this will be just the start of the Gales® x Comrad partnership!