by GABRIELLA DEPINHO, News Editor
Senior finance major Matt Gresia always had an interest in starting his own business, but in April 2016, the inspiration and motivation finally hit.
Gresia was inspired to start Canswer Sock Co., a clothing line that supports cancer research, because April 2016 was, “a time in my [his] life that was seemingly plagued by loved ones who were suffering with the effects of cancer or had passed because of the disease.”
Striving to give people a high quality product they could feel good about investing in, Gresia started Canswer Sock Co. The company started with socks because Gresia wanted to “differentiate [himself] more,” but has expanded to hats, T-shirts, long sleeved shirts and popsockets, among other products. Gresia’s company donates 10 percent of all profits annually to cancer research.
“I just had this idea to combine these two passions: one for donating and trying to help with finding an answer to cancer [and the other for starting a business]. I was like ‘oh, I can combine these and make this a thing,’” said Gresia.
Starting the company was more work than Gresia originally anticipated, but a process he really enjoyed.
Gresia said, “It was fun. It was difficult, especially feeling like you have no idea where to start. I feel like that was the hardest thing for me, figuring out … like I had this idea but okay, where do I start? How do you actually start a business? A lot of hours online, a lot of consulting with my dad, I figured it out.”
Gresia was able to get the company up and running in about five months, but then he faced another challenge: spreading the word. Gresia knew that he needed to get his brand out there to as many people as possible or else his venture would fail; selling to only family and friends would not cut it.
“I was super interested in how people and companies are able to generate money online … My first step was social media and just reaching out to people and seeing who would be down to be part of it. I guess I got lucky with reaching out to people. I would make lists of people – I would run across somebody, say it was on YouTube, and … I’d like what they were doing, I’d be down to work with them. Then I would write down their email address. I made lists of people to reach out to and reach out to sometimes hundreds of people a day. A few got back but the ones that did get back helped me a lot,” said Gresia.
Through a series of connections, from a photographer to a manager to a DJ (Clock) who was a friend and longtime co-worker of now deceased, rapper Mac Miller, Gresia’s socks made it on stage and in social media posts on Miller’s feet. The socks even went on tour.
“That was definitely my craziest experience so far,” said Gresia.
“[Clock and I] met up for a photoshoot and we ended up not taking many photos. We ended up hitting it off, actually, and at the end we decided to make some socks together. They took them on tour, which was the craziest thing, being a young kid that just started, like a few months after I started … They took my socks on tour to like 26 countries. They allotted a certain amount of socks per show and it was crazy just getting a call every night saying they sold out,” said Gresia.
“Clock and Mac were close so he gave him some pairs of socks and Mac posted him wearing them on Instagram a few times which was surreal,” said Gresia.
After their tour, Gresia’s socks took off. Now that they’d travelled to 26 countries, anything and any place was possible.
Gresia said, “When you have a brick and mortar store, your audience is the people that live around your store but online, well the whole world is online, so they [his socks] can go pretty much everywhere.”
According to Gresia, there’s no secret formula to running his company.
“People that are interested in doing business are always looking for secrets but the secret is don’t take shortcuts. If you really go hard at it, this is something anybody can do,” said Gresia. “My plan is – well I have a website that is linked to my Instagram account – to make content that is good and use it to push whatever is out now.”
Before starting Canswer, Gresia only had to worry about classes but now he also has to manage his business in his off hours.
“It’s definitely more difficult than just going to class but if you’re passionate about something you’re going to make the time for it. This is just something I wanted to do so I added it to my daily schedule,” said Gresia.
While Gresia continues to run his company as part of his daily schedule, the clock is counting down on graduation. As for his future plans, Gresia isn’t sure what will happen but he plans to continue with his brand for now.
“If I can expand and do this as much as I can and pushing as much as I can until graduation and then seeing where I’m at … It’s really difficult. I felt like when I was a freshman I thought I’d know what I’m doing as a senior but I don’t,” said Gresia.
On top of what Gresia donates annually, Gresia has also worked on special projects where all of the profits go to different causes. For example, Gresia is working on one of those projects right now.
“Just recently, I did these t-shirts with this girl named Alexandria … she’s nine years old and she’s hiking the Appalachian trail from Maine to Georgia, with her dad, in March to raise $3.1 million for St. Jude’s. When I saw that I knew I had to hop on it, so we ended up making t-shirts that she drew and we’re selling them and giving everything towards her goal,” said Gresia.
Before he started, Gresia had no clue where this company would go and if it would even take off, but for now, he’s taking it one day at a time.
“I initially started not thinking of this as something that could go on for a long time. I think that like everything on the internet, nothing lasts forever, which is sad but it’s true and things tend to trend so I think that this could last for a long time, but at the same time, I’m aware that I have to make the most out of it while it’s hot. I initially started because I wanted to learn more than I was in class. I didn’t think of it as a long term thing,” said Gresia.
His socks can be found at canswersockco.com and the company can be followed on Instagram at Instagram.com/canswer.