Here at The Grommet our mission is to put an end to nameless, faceless business and highlight the people and the stories behind the products we launch each day. And it's in that spirit that we're continuing this series to further share the stories of our Makers with you. Get to know them better, learn more about their journeys as Makers and entrepreneurs and learn how you, The Grommet Community, have changed their businesses for the better.
In this installment we're catching up with Gina Locklear the Maker behind Zkano. We recently caught up with Gina to learn more about her journey as an entrepreneur, what advice she has for other Makers, and what's next for her business.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
When I was a kid, I wanted to be an actress. In middle school and high school, I was almost always participating in a community play, it was my favorite thing to do. I played Alice from Alice in Wonderland in my senior play and have even been inspired by that character in some socks designs in the past.
Can you tell us more about your design inspiration?
It changes from season to season. Lately, bold is better. Our spring collection incorporates a lot of geometric shapes and patterns. Using unexpected color combinations is always a favorite of mine. I also love incorporating black and white stripes or designs into a sock pattern, a signature design detail for us that we use in some way each season.
How do you get around creative blocks?
I’ve found that simply taking a step away is most helpful for me when I get stuck. Usually, when this happens, I turn to something I enjoy doing to get my mind off the problem at hand. Once I do this, ideas start flowing freely again, almost every time.
What lessons have you learned over the years that might help other entrepreneurs who are just starting out?
My business turned five last fall and I still feel like I learn some kind of lesson on a daily basis. Currently, I'm learning that in order for my business to be stronger, I need to become comfortable with delegating certain tasks. When we started zkano, I was a one-woman show in many ways and handled most of the day-to-day tasks of the business. Because of this, the tendency is for me to feel like I still need to do these things on my own. We’re growing and I know that in order for zkano to be a success, I have to let go a bit and focus on other aspects of the business.
What has been the most rewarding part of business for you?
Watching it grow. When we launched Zkano in 2009, we only offered a few styles of basic athletic socks that came in natural and white. Though we still offer many of these styles, we have evolved into a full on fashion sock line and have over 150 styles in our fashion sock category alone. Seeing my business evolve into this over the years has been extremely rewarding for me, especially because fashion socks seemed like something we’d never be able to produce back in 2009.
Also, connecting with our customers. This is one of my favorite parts of doing what I do. We have seriously loyal customers. They call us, write letters, send emails and say hello at local events. Whether they are sharing some feedback about our socks or a story about how they personally identify with our mission, I love talking to each and every one of them. It truly warms my heart and overwhelms me with gratitude.
Our Community wants to know that their support of you and your product has made a difference. Please tell us if you were able to grow and in what way due to the sales, shares, and visibility you received from The Grommet and our community.
So many people now know who we are because of our friends at The Grommet. Partnering with The Grommet has greatly increased awareness about Zkano in ways that I would have never imagined. For instance, some fellow Alabamians stopped by our mill one day and wanted to buy socks. I automatically assumed they knew about us because we are an Alabama based business but no, they found out about us from The Grommet. They happened to be in the Fort Payne area when they read about us on our Grommet page and then stopped by our mill.
I honestly can’t count how many times I’ve heard from people that they discovered us from The Grommet. Whether it’s a buyer from a retail store, someone who I have chatted with at an event or even an acquaintance of mine, The Grommet has sent a lot of folks our way in the past four years. We’re grateful that The Grommet community feels inspired to share our story with others.
What's up next for Zkano?
We are always looking at ways to expand our current offerings with more styles, fresh designs, and colors. More specifically, we are introducing new members to our product development team who will help us to achieve this on a larger scale each season. Additionally, we are bringing in brand new technology to our manufacturing process this summer that will add some great features to our entire lineup of socks.
A long time goal of mine has been opening a small store front to sell our socks here at our mill. If all goes as planned, this will happen for us in the near future!
To learn more about Zkano, watch our video here.