Sunny Israni on Putting His Best Foot Forward
We had the opportunity to catch Sunny Israni—sock connoisseur and co-founder of Zoraab.com—to get the scoop on his transition from the suit and tie world of finance to teaming up with his sister Tina Israni and launching a line of socks that raises the bar on this oft overlooked men’s accessory.
Sunny and Tina founded Zoraab.com in 2011, offering a variety of artfully selected fashion socks online. The entrepreneurial sibling duo’s latest venture is to develop their own bold line of street art inspired foot fashion for guys under the fresh new label Mint Socks. They’ve taken their colorful cause to Kickstarter to help launch their line and are offering Mints to backers for almost half the retail value.
Sunny explains, “In the past, fashion had a few gatekeepers who basically determined what you wore and how you wore it. But the world’s headed in a different direction. Now the masses are deciding what we like, with crowdsourcing platforms like KickStarter and social media, it makes this all possible. We’re living in an era where we’re seeing a revival of men’s fashion, yet within a modern day interpretation.”
Sunny’s a tough one to pin down as he’s fully immersed in building momentum for the new line but he took a few moments out for an exclusive Q & A with Sholay:
Working on a trading floor for nearly 5 years has definetely shown me where fashion goes to die, but the one bright spot (pun intended) was socks. I was fascinated with how far men were willing to go with their sock drawers. Generally I think socks can serve as the perfect gateway into a way more intentionally styled wardrobe. With increased popularity of shows like MadMen and movies like Gatsby, men have shown that they definitely have a desire for style, but may be a bit overwhelmed by the possibilities. Socks can be the perfect first step!
What are the challenges and advantages of working on a start up with close family?
My sister and I have always been very close and we’ve constantly talked about every single thing that has been going on in our lives. So when starting our business we definitely had to actively maintain a balance so that we were still checked in to how we both were feeling emotionally to ultimately make sure that our discussions were not completely monopolized by business talk. I cannot stress the importance enough of being on the same page emotionally, as well as intellectually. Working with family can be difficult, but it can also be substantially rewarding. In terms of our partnership, we’ve grown considerably and we’re really in sync now which is very important, especially during the inevitably volatile months that exist in the early stages of a startup.
What’s the inspiration for your designs?
I still remember when we blocked out multiple weekends just for brainstorming the brand and ultimately decide on the designs. We knew that we wanted something bold and out there, but something that was truly edgy and not the usual stripes and solids you see in the market. So we came up with the idea of fusing together the old and the new. The old being Asian elements (be it paisely or moroccan geometric designs) that are vibrant in color. The new being the bold and powerful graffit art that we see from the likes of Banksy & Ox amongst the backdrop of our current day distressed urban setting, a setting that most of the world lives in.
How were you able to transition from your background in finance to developing your own sock line? Share a bit about the journey you and Tina went through.
Career transitions can always be a bit difficult, but with the right amount of determination anything is possible. We started our first company (Zoraab) while we were both working in Finance—side businesses are certainly a good test of determination. This forced us to really see if we were committed to the idea, and not just talking about it or planning for it, but rather actually doing it—giving up weekends, evenings, sleep!
Also it was a great opportunity to see what skills we were lacking in, which was basically everything! While we both had a ton of Finance skills, the fact that we weren’t able to successfully build out a beautiful website ourselves was paralyzing and frustrating, which is why we’ve committed the past 8 months to building out that skillset.
Transitions like these happen glacially and yet at the blink of the eye. It will feel like you have a ways to go before you’re out of your old career, but before you know it you pick your head up from your work and look around and realize that you have transitioned!
When you launched Zoraab.com last year your model was based on buying designers socks wholesale. How did you decide to pivot the business model to developing your own sock line?
Being a retailer in this space has been a great vantage point for us and as a result we’ve been able to see where the market is really lacking. We saw an opportunity with Mint where we could offer some interesting patterns, each of which has a unique story. Generally though we feel fashion is headed into a way more niche structure. Joe Kraus, one of the pioneers of the internet, has gone on to say we’re transitioning from an era where we have dozens of markets that have millions of consumers into a time where we have millions of markets that have dozens of consumers. Mint Socks is a product of just that.
Any plans for a Bollywood inspired sock design?
Oh yes! We have a few super Bollywood inspired designs in the pipeline to be produced early-mid next year! Think paisley with splashes of color—Holi style!
To find out more, check out Sunny and Tina’s inspiring video on Kickstarter.