No small feet
Freaker USA brings sock manufacturing back to North CarolinaBy Emily Cameron Walker
Freaker founder Zach Crain, shown here with Mister Pete, has drawn attention with a zany marketing style.
Where you spend your money matters,” says Freaker USA founder Zach Crain. That’s why he has worked hard to ensure his product is made here in the South. From cotton picked in Georgia and Louisiana to nylon and spandex manufactured in North Carolina, every component is made or grown locally. Crain says that by rooting his business here, he is “backing America.”
And America is backing Freaker USA. Crain launched his company after a successful crowdfunding campaign netted $62,770 in capital. That money made the Freaker — a colorful, one-size-fits-all beverage sweater — a reality. A television appearance, eccentric marketing videos, and a traveling grilled-cheese party introduced the Freaker to the masses, and they liked what they saw. Freakers are now carried in over 2,000 boutiques, online and at major retailers such as Nordstrom and Whole Foods. The product line is full of clever, cheeky designs that speak to a carefree lifestyle and a love of a good time.
That pretty much sums up Zach Crain as well. A cheerful, charismatic fellow in short shorts and an impressive beard, he is the ultimate ambassador for his brand. His antics lend the Freaker USA videos their surreal sparkle and strangeness, and are the reason ABC-TV invited him to appear on the pitch-your-business-idea show “Shark Tank.” Though he got no deal, the appearance helped introduce the Freaker USA brand to a wide audience. To sell his product, Crain wanted to connect the Freaker with a certain playfulness. “To get people to enjoy this new thing,” he says, “you have to act crazy.”
Apparently, crazy sells. His latest crowdfunding campaign was a success, raising $255,264 for Freaker Feet, an impressive line of 127 novelty sock designs, from state flags and collegiate sports logos to plays-on-words like “Lance Tiny-Arms Strong” (featuring a T-Rex on a bicycle).
Although Crain believes Freaker USA is a “meeting ground for everyone just to smile and have a good time,” his company is doing much more than spreading cheer; it is creating jobs right here in the Tar Heel State.
Freaker USA sources materials from all over the state. The cotton is picked in the American South, then brought to North Carolina to be spun in Thomasville and dyed in Belmont. The nylon is manufactured in Greensboro and spandex is made in Burlington. Fibers are knit in Troy and washed in Haw River, packaging material is produced in Clayton and Conover, and the products are distributed from Wilmington. Crain believes making his product locally is a benefit rather than a sacrifice.
“Everyone is complaining about the economy and how there are no jobs, but where we spend our money is the action of our complaints,” he says, meaning that we can create jobs by buying American made products. He explains that being locally-made means creating good jobs for friends and neighbors. It’s also faster and easier to get the product to market, as local companies provide quick turnaround times and fewer mistakes in translation. Plus, he adds, there is no need to book a flight halfway around the world to check on production.
Production is in full swing. The new line of Freaker Feet will be available in August at FreakerUSA.com