A high-end sock maker headquartered in San Clemente has opened its first U.S. manufacturing and research operation in Oceanside with more to come.
FutureStitch has leased a 9,000 square-foot industrial building, where it makes knitwear and specialty socks for such companies as Stance, TOMS, Crocs and Everlane to create specialized and durable sock designs, according to CEO Taylor Shupe.
“We work with a lot of premium performance and fashion labels,” Shupe said.
With a current Oceanside workforce of 13, Shupe said he expects to max out with about 65 employees and hit more than $50 million in revenue in 2022.
The company spent about $500,000 outfitting its Oceanside operation, Shupe said.
That includes outfitting a 3,000 square-foot gated outdoor yard as a play area for the children of employees and as an exercise area.
“We do yoga at lunch, we do meditation,” Shupe said.
About 6,000 square feet of the Oceanside plant is for manufacturing, 2,000 square feet for research and development with the remaining 1,000 square feet used as office space.
The manufacturing space is filled with giant knitting machines while the research and development space has a variety of machines that do things such as testing socks to see how many rubs it will take for someone’s foot to wear through the material.
“I have a machine back here in the lab that rubs day and night,” Shupe said.
When it comes to actually making the socks, Shupe said that “knitting itself is a very challenging manufacturing technique. 99.9% of people have no idea what a sock machine looks like.”
When people see one in action, Shupe said “they appreciate the amount of engineering” that goes into making a durable sock.
“It’s as close to rocket science as you can get in manufacturing,” Shupe said, adding that the company works with podiatrists to see how the foot moves, athletes to see how a sock feels when they hit the ground, and with heat experts in how heat is dispersed.
“It’s more of a mechanical engineering mindset,” Shupe said.
Design and Ingenuity
The socks FutureStitch makes are a step above what’s found in discount department stores and typically sell for about $15 a pair, Shupe said.
“The vast majority of consumers who buy our brands are millennials,” Shupe added – people in the 30-40 year-old age bracket.
Shupe said he decided to open a U.S. manufacturing plant because “we knew that the consumer and the market were ready for U.S. manufacturing. He said that he hopes to harness “American design and ingenuity and build products on the machines that we can’t build elsewhere.”
That includes things like compression socks to help with blood circulation and prevent blood from clotting.
The company also makes embellished socks to mark special events, such as the World Series and the Kentucky Derby.
In addition to Oceanside, the company has plants in China and Turkey. The Oceanside plant will serve the U.S. market, the China plant is the company’s biggest and will switch over to serve the Chinese market. The plant in Turkey serves European customers, Shupe said.
Immediate plans are to open second U.S. manufacturing plant in Dallas.
Shupe said that he chose Oceanside for the first U.S. manufacturing plant verses the company’s Orange County base because rental costs were lower and the city has a strong labor pool.
“We were able to invest with greater effect here and the yields will be higher,” he said.
Making a Point
In an unusual twist, Shupe said that he is making a point of hiring people who were incarcerated to work in Oceanside, especially mothers with children, in what he hopes will be a model for other companies to follow, working with San Diego Workforce Partners and North County Lifeline.
“If we can prove that the system that we’re developing here leads to people staying out of the (correctional) system, then we’re doing something pretty powerful here,” Shupe said. “With the labor market the way it is, we can attract this labor pool that has a 30% unemployment rate and offer to get them out of the run they’re in. If we prove this out, this is where we reduce crime, this is something that lowers the taxpayers’ burden, it’s quite frankly very good.”
Before moving to Californian, Shupe said that he and his wife became interested in working with people who were incarcerated after watching a documentary that showed that children were more likely to get into trouble with the law if a parent was incarcerated. He said they worked with a charitable group in Detroit that arranged visits between children and their incarcerated parent.
As a business owner, Shupe said he can expand on that by offering work to people when they’re released.
Even if they can find a job, keeping it can be difficult what with drug testing, meeting with parole officers, and other requirements, Shupe said.
“Women have it especially hard,” Shupe said, because much of the available work is manual labor.
“I don’t know if I’m going to be successful, but I have a lot of hope,” Shupe said.
CEO and Founder: Taylor Shupe
Headquarters: San Clemente
Business: Sock manufacturing
Social impact: FutureStitch hires and trains people who have been incarcerated and supports North County Lifeline.
Notable: the company plans to base more of its manufacturing in the U.S.