Somehow it seems fitting that an upstart internet business that deals with socks in
all their forms—clean, dirty, hole-filled, missing, and, of course, new—would be launched
not from an office but from an apartment. After all, isn’t home where all good socks
go to disappear? The apartment is in Logan Circle, and it serves as headquarters for
Nice Laundry, an entrepreneurial venture from LivingSocial
Ricky Choi and
Phil Moldavski. Launched only a few weeks ago, the Web-only service aims to free you of your old
socks and, at an “affordable” price, keep you in a steady supply of snappy and colorful
Choi and Moldavski are both from the area. Choi, who is 27, is from Potomac, Maryland,
and attended high school at St. Albans before college at the University of Pennsylvania.
Moldavski, 25, and from Alexandria, Virginia, graduated from Georgetown University,
where he was involved in the creation of the Sweetgreen salad chain. They met at LivingSocial,
where Choi was head of social media and Moldavski ran the company’s brand marketing.
We caught up with them both during a phone conversation on Monday afternoon.
Where they got the idea for Nice Laundry:
Choi: The idea for Nice Laundry was born when Phil and I met at LivingSocial in early 2011.
The first thing I noticed is this guy dressed really well, day in and day out—dark
jeans, great shoes—but always with the same ratty white Adidas gym socks. It just
did not give him the look I think he was going for. I’ve always been a sock guy, with
anywhere from 100 to 150 pairs in rotation at any one time. As soon as I felt I knew
Phil well enough, I suggested he buy a pair of new socks, and I told him where to
Moldavski: He referred me to Zappos. I got a great pair of socks, but they were $20, including
Choi: The price was a bit painful. But he wore them to work and even I saw him get a few
compliments on his socks. He spent hundreds of dollars refreshing his sock drawer
with these awesome socks.
Moldavski: It was incredible. I had never worn socks like these before. There’s just something
about opening up the sock drawer in the morning and putting on some color and later
in the day getting some compliments. It’s the only time I ever really got compliments
on my outfit.
Choi: That’s an awesome experience. Socks are almost like drugs. You get that one pair
of nice socks, and you just want more and more and more. It’s like the new tie of
an older generation. You could be in a $200 shirt and a $300 pair of jeans and people
may not say anything, but you put on a new pair of socks and you get a lot of compliments,
a real bang for your buck.
How they took socks from a passion to a business plan:
Choi: We went back and forth on this idea. We both ended up leaving LivingSocial in July
2012. We moved to San Francisco and did a program called Dev Boot Camp to learn how
to code. We knew if we wanted to do any business it would be primarily online.
Moldavski: We came back to DC in December of 2012 and said, “Let’s launch this sock business.”
Choi: The sock industry is a $15 billion industry with very little brand loyalty and a
nonexistent shopping experience. We said, “Hey, let’s fix that. Let’s solve these
two big problems of lousy shopping experience and no brand loyalty.” We provide an
added value service, too, to sweeten the deal. What we do is a true fresh start when
you get your new socks. Every order is eligible for a prepaid shipping label. You
put your old socks in the mailer in which your new socks arrived, and those socks
will be shipped to one of the nation’s oldest and largest recyclers.
We will never sell you one pair of socks at a time. That’s inefficient. We’ll sell
you a whole drawer full, with essentially a quantity discount built into our pricing.
We price affordably in an ultra-inflated market. We cut out the middle man.
The best way to get started with Nice Laundry:
Choi: It is called the $99 Sock Drawer Makeover. You will get 18 pairs of socks. We sell
them in packs of six; you get to pick three packs. They have names—Chief, Dreamer,
Exec, Ladies’ Man, Visionary, Wild Child. The name of the pack is a descriptor of
how mild to wild the patterns are in the pack. Individual packs are each $39. The
socks are unisex and fit men’s shoe sizes 7 to 13 and women’s sizes 8 to 14. About
15 percent of our customers are women. The socks are manufactured in South Korea and
brought in through the Free Trade Agreement between South Korea and the US.
Moldavski: We can’t tell you figures, but we are doing well. We can tell that we have almost
sold out of our fall inventory.
Choi: You have a nice laundry experience with us.