Alvaro Gomis Fernandez, MBA Class of 2014
Originally from Spain, Alvaro, Felipe and Guillermo worked together for an investment bank in Madrid for almost 3 years prior to separating their working paths. After working in different industries, they independently decided to pursue an MBA and ended up together again at NYU Stern, as part of the Summer Start program of the Class of 2014. From the very beginning the trio wanted to focus on entrepreneurship studies and take advantage of the great resources that Stern offered and started coming up with ideas to start up a business together.
In January 2013, the team was having one of their weekly brainstorming sessions at the Stern meeting rooms when they started to discuss about the fashion sector. Reviewing men and women clothing they noticed that socks have been generally neglected by the fashion industry. As the founders argue “design socks are an elegant and discrete way to show someone’s personality in a business or casual environment however the number of options available in the market is very small compared to other accessories such as ties, belts or purses”. They started to analyze the market and the competitive landscape and realized that there wasn’t any brand that offered high quality design socks at an affordable price.
When analyzing the market, they were shocked to find out that premium quality socks were between $25 and $50 a pair! Cheaper alternatives are manufactured with low quality materials, using mass production processes. They were convinced they could find a way to make a great product for a better price. They also discovered that the size of the socks market in the US was bigger than expected and growing at double digits. Since then, their main goal has been to create a product that had the highest quality and durability for an affordable price while offering a great shopping experience.
When Alvaro, Felipe and Guillermo presented their business idea in the Marketing for Entrepreneurs class in the spring of 2013, they were certain that their project would become a reality someday. After a few months of further market research, Jimmy Lion, the new high quality design sock company was born in NYC. The trio realized that it was the perfect moment to start up a business, while pursuing an MBA, in the right place, while living in NYC, the fashion capital of the world, and with the optimal team members, who could each of them put interesting and valuable experiences on the table.
And, what do the founders have in common? A long term friendship, a passion for entrepreneurship, an obsession for cool designs and high quality products, an eagerness for growing and learning… and the enthusiasm for doing things the right way.
The three co-founders decided to distribute their responsibilities in Jimmy Lion based on their previous working experiences. Felipe, who is responsible for strategy & marketing, worked for his family wine business prior to joining Stern, where he gained valuable marketing knowledge while leading the business development activities. Alvaro is in charge of product development and operations, backed by the extensive experience he gained on process management and logistics during his tenure at a global infrastructure company. Finally Guillermo, who has a strong banking background and is an investor in a tech start-up app, is in charge of the legal and financial aspects.
Jimmy Lion offers premium quality socks for $14 compared to high-end fashion brands average price of $30. We want to provide our customers with a great shopping experience by selling individual pairs and packs. While other brands include their less popular designs in their packs, we offer customizable packs of four pairs where customers can pick the socks they like the most and we send them in a cool packaging. We also offer recommended packs dedicated to our friends and inspired on their personalities. By selling packs of 4 pairs we reduce packaging, handling and shipping costs per unit and thus we are able to give our customers 1 pair for free. In addition, we offer free shipping in the US for all orders of more than one pair and for all of our packs.
Getting the right product has been their biggest, although extremely rewarding challenge. As Guillermo puts it “with no previous experience in the fashion world, we knew that we would struggle creating clothing from scratch. Socks however are pretty standard in shape; it is more about the quality of the materials and the production process, and a great graphic design”. They spent five months visiting over 30 factories in four different countries in Europe seeking for the finest socks. They got samples produced from all of them and analyzed and compared their quality, design, durability and cost. In the summer’13, they finally found a factory in Portugal, which manufactured a product that met all their requirements.
At Jimmy Lion they are obsessed with quality and design. As Felipe tells it, “our socks are manufactured using the softest yarns and following a strict quality control process. We use 200-needle knitting machines and the softest combed cotton to create exceptional comfort and durability. We have reinforced the cuff to prevent socks falling down around the ankles. Also, our socks toes are carefully hand linked one by one providing supreme softness.”
In terms of design and as Alvaro describes “we offer an alternative to boring and uninspiring socks. We design our socks in NYC inspired by the energy of the city. We carefully develop each design to let our customers express their personality, bringing out the lion side we all have inside of us!” Their first production is composed of 36 designs available in men and women sizes and has been financed via founders’ savings.
As they say, Stern has helped them to develop their project in many ways. First of all, they gained ground in the entrepreneurship sector by taking the marketing for entrepreneurs, digital marketing and new venture financing courses, among others. They have also received tons of advices from the faculty and students on specific aspects such as research, pricing, marketing and strategy that have helped them refine their business plan. Finally, they have contacted many entrepreneurs and fashion industry experts through the Berkley Center, the EEX Club and the Industry Captains in residence program who have shared their experience and their do’s and don’ts.
When asked to give for advice to other Sternies the founders suggested “Don’t be afraid to share your idea with other people and especially don’t be shy to ask questions. In every meeting that we have had we have received very valuable advice and we have always been put in touch with someone else! And by all means, starting up a company is challenging, but the moment is now, with a time horizon of two years ahead, and the place is here. Take advantage of Stern’s so valuable resources and what NYC has to offer”.