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JoJoSox

Orangeburg’s JoJoSox products will be on display at two international equestrian events this year. The sox have been worn by world-renowned riders.

GENE ZALESKI, T&D

Former teacher and stay-at-home mom Joanna Godwin hadn't really thought of entering the business world.

But during the height of the Great Recession about a decade ago, the Orangeburg resident decided to do just that when her husband's business experienced some challenges.

In researching a possible business venture, Godwin, an avid equestrian, knew there was not a sock on the market to wear with short boots and she knew socks would be a great item to sell during the recession.

It was then that JoJoSox was born.

Beginning with four designs and a $1,000 sock order, business has continued to blossom as store owners bought them and customers kept returning for more.

The business has now grown to include products sold in more than 800 stores across the United States and in a few stores in Canada and Europe. The socks have also made it across the world to Australia.

The business has achieved name recognition especially in the equestrian world with the socks having become a much sought after item.

This year, JoJoSox will once again be on the international stage with its showing at two international equestrian events.

The first event is the "Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event," held in Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky at the end of April.

The annual event, which draws approximately 80,000 spectators, annually attracts the world’s best horses and riders to compete for their share of $400,000 in prize money as well as other prestigious awards.

JoJoSox has designed both paddock and tall socks for the event complete with the event logo in the past selling about 500 pairs of socks each time she goes.

"This is a big deal," Godwin said, noting she personally goes to each event to meet the customers.

"People have gotten to know me and they love the quality of the socks," Godwin said.

In the past, she has sold about 500 pairs of socks at the event.

It was her work at the Land Rover (formerly known as the Rolex event) eight years ago when she was introduced to the even larger International Federation for Equestrian Sports World Equestrian Games (WEG).

"God has opened doors that I know I could not have opened myself," she said, noting she was at the Rolex event selling items in 2010 when she saw a WEG merchandising tent.

"I poked my head in there and said, "Well, you have every logo item in there except socks," Godwin said. 

She and a gentleman in the tent started talking and little did she know that she was talking to the president of the marketing of the WEG.

"When he looked, he was interested," Godwin said. "It is not being afraid to ask. I just made a pretty bold statement. I told him I was so confident that my socks will sell that I will produce them for you and I will come and sell them for you."

And so Godwin took here wares to the 2010 15-day international WEG event where she made 1,500 pairs of socks that ended up selling out three days before the event was over.

After attending the event, many discouraged her from working another WEG.

But two months ago, the email came asking her to bring her socks to the 2018 event.

"It just happened that the person doing the marketing for this world games is the same one who did marketing for the 2010 world games," she said. "It is a huge event. The numbers are staggering. They are expecting 500,000 spectators."

The event will be held at the Tryon International Equestrian Center in North Carolina from Sept. 11-23.

The games, held every four years, are touted as a major international championship event for the eight core equestrian disciplines of show jumping, dressage and para-equestrian dressage, eventing, driving, endurance, vaulting and reining.

This time about 2,000 socks will be made for the 13-day event. The designs for the socks have not yet been produced.

"When I made the 1,500 pairs nobody had head of JoJoSox," she said.

That is no longer the case as now the business is a sponsor of the biggest and most famous riders in the horse Eventing world including the likes of Canadian rider Selena O'Hanlon, Allison Springer and Hawley Bennett.

Godwin is excited about the ability to attend the WEG.

"It is exciting to see what contacts I make this time," she said.

From Orangeburg to Australia

JoJoSox has come a long way over a relatively short period of time.

In order to handle the increased sales, the Godwins have a 2,100-square-foot warehouse with offices beside their home on Farnum Road.

The socks are milled in North Carolina and are produced on a massive scale over about a 6-week to 8-week period of time.

The company makes tall or Bambootz socks, paddock socks and ankle socks.

There are between 8-12 designs of the paddock sock, six ankle sock designs and four Bamboo or tall sock designs, said Godwin.

Her daughter Jessica serves as the chief designer. Orangeburg artist Margaret Wienges does the drawings for the socks.

Without a logo, the tall socks sell for $20 and the paddock socks sell for $16.

With a logo, the paddock socks sell for $20 and the large socks sell for $25 each.

"People buy them hand over fist now," she said.

Locally, the socks are sold at the Regional Medical Center gift shop and European Skin Care. The socks are also sold in boutiques.

About 2,000 socks are shipped out on a monthly basis during the busiest months in the fall and winter though equestrian riders need socks in the summer as well making for a steady stream of business year-round.

More than socks

About three years ago, the business expanded beyond socks to also include leather luggage, totes, cross body bags, and wallets. 

These products continue to grow now making up about 40 percent of the business sales.

Currently, there are five tote designs, three wallet and cross-body bag designs and two luggage designs.

"Leather totes are doing well," Godwin said. "This has taken the market by storm."

"How we got the luggage is also an amazing God story," Godwin continued, noting she tested the market in order to sell a product with a larger price point than socks.

She says the most they have ever sold in socks in a year was about $300,000 which is about 37,500 pairs of socks.

She attended a market in Raleigh, North Carolina and tried to see how the totes would sell.

It was then a man walked into her booth and told her he would like to make leather products for companies.

The door was once again opened.

"It was God," Godwin said. "They are a Christian company. We chatted and met with them and they said we would love to work with you."

"They treated us like royalty and we are peanuts to them," she continued. "They have helped us add to that line."

Unlike the socks which are full of color, Godwin said the leather products are more of a "classic timeless look."

"You have to switch with the tide," she said, noting being successful is all about meeting customer demand and fashion trends.

Now entering into the eighth year of sales, when asked what advice she would give to a fledgling business entrepreneur, Godwin said, "You can make it if you pray and work hard and don't give up.'

"It is fun to see what making a good product, making it well, being consistent and serving your customers and to see what that does," she said.

For more information about JoJoSox, visit the website at www.jojosox.com

Contact the writer: gzaleski@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5551. Check out Zaleski on Twitter at @ZaleskiTD.

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Business Reporter

Gene Zaleski is a reporter/staff writer with The Times and Democrat.

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