Entrepreneurs

This start-up sells socks that don't stink — and it's making millions

For Brian Berger, it all started with too many bad experiences shopping for men's basics.

"I was constantly frustrated every time I went out to buy underwear and socks," Berger recalled. "Everything was about airbrushed models, these huge lifestyle ad campaigns. None of that ever made sense to me."

Like a lot of guys, the idea of heading to the mall and sifting through products to find the right match was even less appealing to Berger. What spoke to him instead was the idea of more functional products that were easy to get — after all, that's what basics are meant to be.

It turns out a lot of other men felt the same way. Berger found this out when he and Michael Isaacman launched New York City-based Mack Weldon in August 2012. The e-commerce company sells men's essentials online, featuring upgraded design and fabrics. For example, it's taking a page from athletic brands with its Silver XT2 line, which weaves anti-microbial silver into premium fabrics so they won't smell at the end of the day.

Yes, that means stinky socks may be a thing of the past. It also designs t-shirts that are more closely tailored so they won't bunch up when tucked in.

"The big common denominator with Mack Weldon is that all of our products do something," said Isaacman, head of product and merchandising for the company. "We've taken the best of high-end workout gear and basically applied it to our everyday underwear that everyone wears underneath their suit or chino or jean on a daily basis."

Mack Weldon co-founders Brian Berger and Michael Isaacman pose for a photo at the Noble Biomaterials factory in Scranton, Pa.
Jeff Morganteen | CNBC
Mack Weldon co-founders Brian Berger and Michael Isaacman pose for a photo at the Noble Biomaterials factory in Scranton, Pa.

Berger, the CEO, who previously worked in consumer technology, and Isaacman, who came from the fashion world with roles at Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren, were introduced by a mutual friend. The duo built out their platform and conducted consumer research before quitting their jobs in 2011, 10 months ahead of launch. They purchased a six-figure sum of product and sold out within 90 days, thanks to online marketing and digital press.

"It was absolutely staggering," Berger said of selling out. "Once guys know their size, you should never really have to go to a store to buy the things we sell. We make it very easy for consumers to get over that first hurdle if they're not sure what to buy."

The products are also competing with premium brands like Michael Kors and Calvin Klein, so they're priced competitively at $24 for a pair for underwear, low $30s for t-shirts and $14 for a pair for socks. The brand has a global supply chain, but some products are made in America, including its Silver XT2 line, manufactured by Noble Biomaterials in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

Mack Weldon has raised a total of $12 million in funding from private and venture investors, including RiverPark Ventures and Lyrical Partners. Today, the start-up has 250,000 customers and is adding 10,000 new shoppers monthly. Mack Weldon recently sold its 1 millionth unit, and in 2016 the company said it is on track to hit "double-digit millions" in revenue. Its bestselling item is its navy blue boxer briefs.

It's also expanded its offerings into polos and sweats, but the items are still evergreen. Just like the basics it sells, Mack Weldon is sticking to its own basics in the highly competitive fashion industry.

"We don't have to get into the business of sales, seasonality or threading the needle on the fashion trend," Berger said. "We just focus on the basics, and really doing those things a lot better."