Social enterprises can be highly productive and successful global businesses generating real social impact and benefit in communities. Stand4Socks, founded in Manchester by Josh Turner in 2015, is trading to change the world one pair of socks at a time.
Josh started the business in 2015 and Stand4Socks is now established as a global brand that supports the homeless, with business clients including Google, Oatly and Kellogg’s. Through a "buy one give one" model, for each pair of their premium quality and often brightly-coloured socks sold, another pair is donated to someone experiencing homelessness.
Initially the business supported a range of international charitable causes, with each sock designed to raise awareness of specific causes and a portion of sales donated to charitable causes - from funding a hospital in Gambia to conservation projects in Brazil.
The focus on homelessness came about in 2016, after Josh donated socks that were failing to sell to Manchester homeless shelters and quickly had three further requests for socks. He said: "We were trying to make a difference supporting fantastic charity work around the world, but we were ignoring people closer to home. I discovered socks are the most requested item of clothing from people experiencing homelessness - yet no one donates them."
Since refocusing, Stand4 Socks have donated just over 300,000 pairs of socks, partnering with over 600 organisations across the UK to help distribute the socks where they are most needed – to small volunteer and community groups to religious groups, food banks, and charities of all sizes. Despite a global customer base, the business continues to work closely with charities local to Greater Manchester, including Emmeline’s Pantry, Mustard Tree, Street Treats and FareShare GM. Looking forward there is an ambition to set up a foundation separate from the company to provide employment and training opportunities.
Seven years after setting up Stand4 Socks, Josh remains passionate about the potential for business as a force for social benefit. He added: "I don’t mind the term social entrepreneur, but really I think of it as being a modern entrepreneur. It’s such an interesting hybrid space to be in - harnessing the power of business as the greatest force for good. Social enterprise is truly the future of business."