A few weeks back we highlighted 5 “Made in Buffalo” Companies you need to know about. One of those companies was Ian Michael Co, a maker of Buffalo color-themed socks. I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Ian Michael Donnelly, the founder of IMC to talk about fashion, starting a business in Buffalo and of course, socks.
BD: Tell me how Ian Michael Co. came to be.
Ian: My mom has always been a really funky woman. She encouraged us to wear whatever we wanted so as a young kid I was always wearing plaids, polka dots… you know, things that never really went together. When comments were made like “you look like your Grandpa”, I was ok with that. Three or four years ago, she got me a pair of funky dress socks and I started wearing them to work. People liked them so I started buying more. They never matched anything and my socks sort of became my “thing”. After having many conversations with co-workers and friends I came up with a question: “What if I created a sock company with the Buffalo Community in mind”? I found that being a Bills and Sabres fan, there really wasn’t a sock that you could wear into a boardroom or a meeting with a suit that allowed you to support your team. That began the adventure of reaching out to suppliers, checking out American producers vs. overseas and it actually took some time to find someone who would entertain my inquiry. Most companies required large orders, contracts, etc., and for a not-for-profit professional with little capital, I heard a lot of “not interested, but good luck” comments. Then I found a small, family owned operation in the Carolina’s and someone who was interested! The owner mentored me through the process; teaching me the components of a sock, the different compositions, how much spandex each sock should have and so on. I put a couple of designs together on my computer, changing up the Buffalo graphic on the sock a couple of times with the final one actually being drawn by my girlfriend. We did that so there would be no problems with the copyright from the Bills or Sabres. I put my first shipment in late last October, which were all pre-ordered by friends and family and started from there. We haven’t really done any advertising or anything yet. It’s all been word of mouth but the response has been so positive that Ian Michael Co. socks are already available in stores all over Buffalo! You can currently find them in Blue Collar, Bureau, Her Story, Sarah Danielle and Diamond Concierge (Gary Williams the “Shoe Shine Guy” in Key Tower).
BD: Tell me more about how your company gives back to the community.
Ian: What’s really great about buying our socks is you know you’re supporting a local business, supporting a local entrepreneur, and a dollar from every pair sold is going to the United Way of Buffalo & Erie County. Through working at the United Way I’ve learned so much about how companies should, in terms of social responsibility, give back to the community. This led to us starting our “Walking Proud Series” where we invite customers, retailers and people who appreciate the mission/the story/the product and join us for volunteer projects throughout the year. For our first event we volunteered with Westside Ministries and worked on the home re-hab at 307 14th Street. We scraped plaster off the walls, waxed the floors, and even dry-walled a room.
BD: What does the future hold for Ian Michael Co.?
Ian: We really want to create a brand here locally and then try to branch out to other markets similar to the makeup of the Buffalo community. We’re also going to start working on some Youtube commercials, add a “where to find the socks” map on our website to show all the stores which carry our socks and develop future sock designs.
Ian Michael Co. was kind enough to give Buffalo Dandy a couple pairs of their socks and we haven’t been able to stop wearing them. Being a long time fan of pop color socks, these truly are the prefect socks for the Buffalo fan. The socks are lightweight enough to work as dress socks, but not so thin that you can’t wear them with boots or heavier shoes. They have a nice high rise to them so you don’t have to worry about pulling them up all the time and they look just as good with shoes on as they do without. These are socks that you’ll want to show off.
Lastly, Ian Michael Co. has partnered with Buffalo Dandy for a special giveaway contest. One lucky reader will win a pair of Shout and Blade socks! To enter simply follow the instructions below:
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Share the image at the top of the post on social media with the hashtag #IMCDandyGiveaway. A random winner will be selected next week and be the proud owner of two new pairs of Ian Michael Co. socks. The more follows you do, the better your chances are of winning. Good luck!