August 4, 2023

From Socks to Social Change: The Inspiring Journey of Hippy Feet and its Founder, Michael Mader

Discover the Inspiring Story of Hippy Feet and its Commitment to Ending Youth Homelessness

Get ready to be inspired by the incredible journey of Michael Mader, the visionary force behind Hippy Feet. Based in Minneapolis, Hippy Feet is not your average socks and apparel company. With a profound dedication to eradicating youth homelessness, Mader's mission goes beyond fashion, aiming to create a lasting impact on society. In this exclusive interview, Mader shares the origins of his entrepreneurial venture, the transformative evolution of his mission, and the hurdles he has overcome along the way. Join us as we explore the captivating story of one entrepreneur's unwavering commitment to uplifting the lives of homeless youth and reshaping their futures.

Michael Mader, The Founder and CEO of Hippy Feet

Chris Choi: Hi Michael, it's great to meet you. How have you been?

Michael Mader: I'm doing well, thank you. Nice to meet you too.

Chris Choi: Awesome! I'm excited to learn more about your journey and the incredible work you've been doing with Hippy Feet. To start off, Can you share a brief introduction about your brand's history, mission, and values?

Michael Mader: Absolutely. I'm Michael, the founder and CEO of Hippy Feet. We're a Minneapolis-based socks and apparel company dedicated to donating 50% of our profits to charities that work to end youth homelessness. Our mission has been at the core of our company since its inception seven years ago in September 2016. We've donated $67,000 to charities in 2022 alone, and we strive to expand our mission as our company grows.

The inspiration to start Hippy Feet came to me during my college years. Initially, I was more focused on the social aspect of college rather than academics. However, things changed when I suffered a traumatic brain injury from a longboarding accident in October 2015. During my three-month recovery period, I realized how dependent I was on my support system. Without them, homelessness could have been my likely outcome.

This experience made me feel fortunate for the loving support I had and motivated me to pay it forward. I wanted to create a company that could act as a support system for others facing homelessness. Thus, the idea for Hippy Feet was born. With the help of my professors and advisors, I launched the company immediately after graduating from school. 

Initially, we followed a buy one, give one model, donating a pair of socks to a local homeless shelter for every pair sold. However, we soon realized that this approach didn't effectively address the underlying issues of homelessness. From 2018 to 2021, we shifted our mission to offer employment opportunities to youth experiencing homelessness. While it helped some individuals transition out of homelessness, it fell short of our expectations.

In 2021, we analyzed our employment model and recognized the importance of core social services like housing, income, and healthcare in helping individuals escape homelessness. As a for-profit company, we simply couldn't provide all these services. So, we pivoted to our current mission model, donating 50% of our profits to nonprofit organizations specializing in addressing youth homelessness and offering comprehensive support services.

Chris Choi: Wow, that's an incredible journey and a powerful mission. I'm really impressed. Let's talk about your choice of socks as a product. What led you to focus on socks?

Michael Mader: While socks may not have a dramatic backstory, I've always had a love for them. During my bartending job in college, I had to wear a uniform, but I used socks as a way to express my personality. It allowed me to showcase who I truly was beyond the uniform. So, socks became a natural choice for me. Additionally, since our initial mission was to donate socks, it made sense for us to sell them. Although our product offering has expanded over the years, socks remain our best-selling item.

Chris Choi: I see that you have a variety of products on your website. Do you have a designer for all those products?

Michael Mader: Yes, I personally design all the socks you see on our website. I still handle the sock design process myself.

Chris Choi: That's impressive. How large is your team?

Michael Mader: We have a small internal team consisting of just two people – myself and a marketing strategist and content creator. However, we also leverage virtual assistants for various tasks, including media buying and sales support. Our agency manages our ad platforms, and we have VAs from different countries assisting us with sales and other projects.

Chris Choi: That's a smart way to optimize your resources. Speaking of marketing, what tactics have been most effective in reaching your target audience?

Michael Mader: Traditional advertising through Facebook and Instagram has been a consistent and effective way for us to reach our customers. However, with the changing landscape of data privacy and reduced ad targeting capabilities due to iOS 14, customer acquisition has become more challenging and costly. To adapt, we have found success in collaborations, particularly with artists and illustrators on platforms like Instagram. These collaborations have allowed us to reach new audiences and generate immediate revenue. We have also collaborated with NFL players, leveraging their platforms and fan base to promote our products. These collaborations have been impactful marketing efforts for us.

Chris Choi: That sounds like a creative and effective approach. Now, let's talk about motivation. What keeps you motivated as an entrepreneur?

Michael Mader: The mission of our company is my main source of motivation. Seeing the positive change Hippy Feet creates in the world, whether it's through the donations we make or the stories we hear from the nonprofits we support, keeps me passionate about what we do. I also find motivation in seeing people wearing and enjoying our products. When I spot someone wearing Hippy Feet socks or apparel out in the world, it energizes me and reinforces the impact we are making.

Chris Choi: That's wonderful. Lastly, what are your goals for this year and the long term, say, the next five years?

Michael Mader: This year, my goal is to maintain growth for our company. We are currently on a similar pace to last year, so I want to see an increase in revenue in the remaining months. Looking ahead, my long-term goals involve expanding our presence in retail locations. We aim to establish partnerships with medium-sized stores and explore collaborations with retailers such as Free People, Anthropologie, and Urban Outfitters. Later this year, we will be launching into a handful of Scheels Outfitters stores and a local REI location. By getting our products into more stores, we can drive both resale revenue and increased brand exposure.

Chris Choi: That's impressive. What advice would you give to someone starting their own business?

Michael Mader: My number one advice would be to start your business when you're young. Take the leap and pursue your idea while you have the least to lose. Starting a business at a young age allows you to be more risk-averse, and even if it fails, the experience you gain will be invaluable. Running your own business is like getting an MBA through hands-on learning. It's an education that cannot be replicated in a classroom. So, if you have an idea, don't hesitate, pursue it now.

Chris Choi: I love that advice. Thank you, Michael. I'm excited to share your story with our subscribers. Best of luck with all your future endeavors. We look forward to seeing your continued growth and success.

Michael Mader: hank you for the opportunity, Chris.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Mission-driven entrepreneurship: Hippy Feet demonstrates the power of businesses in driving positive social change.

  2. Adaptability and evolution: Hippy Feet's strategic pivots highlight the importance of adapting to maximize impact.

  3. Collaborative marketing: Collaborations have been instrumental in expanding brand exposure and reaching new audiences.

  4. Embracing risk: Starting young and fearlessly pursuing ideas can lead to invaluable entrepreneurial experiences.

In summary, Michael Mader's journey with Hippy Feet showcases the significance of mission-driven entrepreneurship, adaptability, collaborative marketing, and embracing risk in creating a successful business with a lasting positive impact.

Stay updated with Hippy Feet's inspiring journey and their ongoing efforts to combat youth homelessness by following them on social media. Join their vibrant community and be a part of the positive change they are creating. Connect with them on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and Youtube to receive regular updates, stories of impact, and exciting collaborations.

Don't miss out on the chance to support a brand that's not only passionate about providing high-quality products but is also dedicated to making a meaningful difference in the lives of young people in need. Follow Hippy Feet today and become a part of a movement that believes in the power of business to drive social change. Together, we can create a brighter and more compassionate future for all.

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