From horsemanship to entrepreneurship
We recently interviewed Jeffi Girgenti, the entrepreneur behind Foot Huggies brand, to learn how she developed her line of tall boot socks designed for equestrians. Jeffi runs her sock business from Southern California, where she has been a manicurist for 34 years and nail salon owner for 20 years. Her 100% Made in the USA socks are manufactured using COOLMAX® technology and LYCRA® fiber, and can be found on the feet of everyone from Pony Club riders (just learning horsemanship) to Olympic champions!
Jeffi, can you give us a brief history of FOOT HUGGIES?
I originally launched Foot Huggies in 2003 as a toeless sock to help my pedicure clients heal their cracked, dry feet. Ten years ago, I discovered horseback riding and jumping and absolutely fell in love with it! I was working with my riding coach one day when I mentioned I had a sock business on the side. He suggested I design a specialized sock for equestrians and I thought it was a great idea! I knew horse people were desperate for decent socks. Tall boot socks available at that time often slipped down around your ankles, didn’t protect your feet from blisters, corns and callouses, and were hot and uncomfortable causing you to sweat in them all day. I spent four years doing research and development before relaunching Foot Huggies equestrian socks in April 2017.
Which ingredients from The LYCRA Company do you use in Foot Huggies?
My socks are all 70% COOLMAX® EXTREME (PRO). I chose it for its moisture-wicking properties and breathability. I also use 3% LYCRA® fiber to provide a comfortable fit that keeps the socks from falling down. We are the only company using this level of COOLMAX® fiber and it really differentiates my socks—no one can match Foot Huggies for their quality and performance.
Why are moisture-wicking properties so important?
I learned so much about foot health in my research I should be a podiatrist [laughs]! Equestrians wear tall, tight-fitting boots. Whether they are riding or standing around, the boots’ design causes their feet to perspire. This moisture leads to blisters that become callouses if you don’t find a better sock. COOLMAX® technology wicks moisture away from the skin, which prevent painful blister or callouses from forming in the first place. When I was starting out, some people advised me to use natural fibers, but I was disappointed in the results. My sock manufacturer suggested I try COOLMAX® technology and I’m so grateful he did! In my experience, its wicking performance is superior to natural fibers and it helps make your feet feel cool.
Why did you choose COOLMAX® technology and LYCRA® fiber?
I have conducted in-depth investigation during the R&D process to develop high quality socks. All the learnings on fiber properties, sock construction and even podiatry help identify what were the best fibers, the best technology for socks available on the market. Many people suggested we use cotton or wool to make our socks, but I was disappointed by their performance. My sock manufacturer has over 30 years’ experience and he suggested I try COOLMAX® fiber instead. I knew I found the solution I needed! It’s the best technology for equestrian socks. As a small start-up, I truly appreciate the outstanding support I’ve received from The LYCRA Company. Jenifer Strong, my account manager, really helped me navigate the process and source the best technology for my needs. Her support continues to be invaluable. I know I wouldn’t be where I am now without The LYCRA Company. The equestrian market and tack stores are hard to break into. As a new sock brand, the LYCRA® and COOLMAX® brand names gave me instant credibility and opened doors for me. I also had my socks tested and certified and to take advantage of the free hangtags to help drive sales in-stores and I promote its use on my website and social media channels. Retailers and consumers recognize the brand name, associate it with quality, and are willing to try my product.
What makes Foot Huggies equestrian socks unique?
Our innovative sock construction and the quality of the fiber ingredients are a good place to start. A lot of my research focused on how to design a sock that prevented painful blisters and callouses from forming. Foot Huggies are the result of my research. Riders have a left and right foot, so we make a left and right sock for the best fit. We offer four sizing options for an optimal fit. A size 9-11 usually is a men’s general size and it doesn’t fit a ladies size 6. The extra fabric bunches, causing a poor fit creating long lasting issues: blisters becoming calluses and corns. Having size options, a 70% COOLMAX®, padded construction, a left and right sock, seamless toe box and the seam moved away from the toe joints, creates Structure allowing for great Performance. Equestrian boots are tight, so if there’s extra fabric around the little toe or thick seams that can lead to foot problems. Our seam closure is smooth and we also moved the toe seam back. I also incorporated padding into the sock’s design that covers the heel and extends across the sole and around the toes to provide extra protection. There’s also double-knit padding on the inner calf where the leg rubs against the horse. Foot Huggies also have a two-inch band at the top made with LYCRA® fiber that keeps our knee-high socks up all day, socks falling down around the ankles is a common complaint of riders. Foot Huggies are also 100% made in the USA and there isn’t an equestrian sock on the market that can match the quality, fit and performance of our socks.
Why did you choose to manufacture Foot Huggies in America?
It’s a point of differentiation for my brand, but as a small business owner in America, I think it’s important to support other businesses employing Americans. It also offers other advantages. We can offer custom logo socks for trainers, barns, retailers and other brands socks in micro minimum orders of 30 pairs in two sizes, which is a huge part of my business. Equestrians also appreciate this when they’re representing the United States in competition. Having Foot Huggies “Made in the USA” gives me an opportunity to make a bid to outfit our USA Equestrian athletes for the 2020 Summer Games.
As a small start-up, marketing is so important. How have you marketed Foot Huggies?
Our tall boot socks are made by riders, for riders and are rider tested and approved! I decided to build a following and gain brand loyalty through Instagram and do direct sales through my website. I used my Foot Huggies Instagram account to drive traffic to my website for online sales. My first Instagram post went viral around the world in a couple of weeks, which proved equestrians really do want high-quality performance socks. I usually do all of my own marketing, but in 2017 I hired a consulting firm that increased my Instagram followers to over 18,000. This made me eligible for an Instagram business account and it serves as my storefront. I also use Twitter, Snapchat and Facebook to promote my brand—they’re all interconnected. I also participate in equestrian events as a vendor, leverage brand ambassadors and customer testimonials to drive sales.
What are the next sock trends and what’s next for Foot Huggies?
I’m considering creating a line of Western socks for cowboy boots. I also have a lot of ideas for new specialized, high-tech performance socks including ski socks, athletic socks, and workout socks. I am launching my Fitness Line, Crew Line and re-launching my toeless sock lines. These lines are launching this week. I have two trademarks: One for socks and one for my beauty line of products. I am currently market testing and re-launching my Shea Butter Roll-up and adding a new product, Shea Butter sugar scrub, to be added to my fitness sock and toeless sock as a “Pedicure In A Box To GO.” This brings me full circle back to my roots as a manicurist/pedicurist. This is a project I have been wanting to do for 13 years. I am extremely excited to incorporate the The LYCRA Company family of COOLMAX® and LYCRA® into my dream product!
What has been the best part of your Foot Huggies journey?
I’m grateful for the wonderful, close friendships I’ve formed as a result of this business. I’m thrilled that I’m satisfying an unmet need in a world I’m so passionate about (equestrian sports). To own and manage a business rooted in my passion for horses is simply amazing. I get to travel to horse shows and be around horses and the people who love them all day. This isn’t work to me. Being in my salon is work.
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Senior Strategic Account Manager (Legwear) – North America - USA
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