Bombas co-founder explains why the Buy-One-Give-One model isn’t for everyone

When David Heath started New York-based Bombas in 2013, he didn’t have a business in mind. Just one mission.

He saw a Facebook post from the Salvation Army saying socks were the most requested item at homeless shelters, and it immediately gave him a cause. He would soon have a hook too. At the time Bombas went live, Toms Shoes – now just Toms – pioneered the buy one, give one model in which the company donated a pair of shoes to a child in the developing world for each pair purchased. Heath realized he could apply the premise to socks and the homeless population.

“Here’s a piece of clothing I’ve never spent more than a few seconds a day thinking about,” said Heath, CEO and co-founder of Bombas, in a conversation with Diana Ransom of Inc. “And yet, it is an item that is perceived as a luxury item by more than 650,000 people living here in the United States”

When Heath and Bombas co-founder Randy Goldberg launched the campaign on online platform Indiegogo, they carried out their mission. The duo raised $25,000 in the first day and $150,000 in the first month. Although the one-to-one model has worked for them (the company recently donated its 65 millionth pair of socks), Heath knows he must adhere to the concepts of unit economics, especially for companies focused on the consumer.

Heath produces orders for charity and for profit at the same factory, allowing the company to buy on a large scale, driving down the price where Bombas can maximize profits. Naturally, such efficiencies can be difficult to replicate for more expensive and labor-intensive products, such as jewelry or cars. But again, if you can make the economy work, there are definitely some benefits to the model, such as customer loyalty, market differentiation, and a strong brand mission that can help retain talent and create a thriving corporate culture.

It’s also worth noting, Heath said, that the model continues to garner the company positive attention from potential employees, something any founder should consider when deciding whether or not to pursue the model a for a.

“Now you’ve gotten a bunch of people who care about you together and you’re putting them all in the same office,” Heath explains. “It’s no wonder they all like working together a lot, because they find they have the same values.”

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