Generosity often seems like something that can only be done in our personal realm. However, we have some friends over at Jollie’s who are flipping business as we know it upside down and making generosity the premise of their business! So, we thought we’d have a little chat with Jeff, who is the operations manager over at Jollie’s, and find out more…
How did Jollie’s come about?
Jollie’s was really started as a response to an issue in 2012. Before we were a company it was really the fevered project of our director while he was at university. The goal was fairly simple: provide charities with a steady supply of socks.
Ed (the director) noticed that socks always seemed to be in need for the homeless and, with an extra pair, men and women could have a higher prevention of foot infection. But beyond all the logistics was a deep frustration of whether the solutions Ed came up with were sustainable. So after 2 years in university and countless socks donated (this is where you imagine Ed in a dorm room crocheting socks), Ed decided to commit to a business model that would: create a steady donation supply, invite people into a fun solution for their community, and raise awareness for charities doing great work. So our beginning was really marked by the desire to combine fun and business-acumen.
What inspired you to give something back to the community?
I think there are so many different ways to answer this one. Maybe particular to us is that we realized giving back, while never shirking from the hard work it takes to run a business, could in fact be fun. I think all of us really enjoy the work we do and when done well, responsibly, and mindfully, there has always been room for jokes, play, and colourful socks. I don’t want to diminish how important the issues we are facing really are. There are many great organizations that approach it with the solemnity and seriousness you’d naturally expect. But we tend to think that importance can be expressed in priorities. And the way to execute those priorities is through good times with the people around you. So scaling this beyond our communities into others around us is really the “why” we come into the office in the mornings and stay late into the nights.
What does a day behind the scenes with Jollie’s look like?
This one really depends on the day! I think in business, abstract vision along with concrete execution is essential. So while our minds always know what we’re working for (fighting for fun solutions for men and women to be a part of communities) our day-to-day work really consists of a number of things that are pretty far from that. So: making sure our wholesale partners are fully stocked, managing the supply chain of our socks (a lot easier because our factory is in Leicester), keeping track of where the donation socks are going and making sure our sales continue in a wear-a-pair, share-a-pair model maintaining our standards of product-quality, and the other things that businesses need in order to properly function. Though on different days of the week we are privileged to visit our charity partners and meet with them, learn from them, and get feedback on how to best work with the community (definitely the highlight of my week).
How have you seen generosity impact your life?
There was a poet somewhere who said something like, “the duty of privilege is absolute integrity.” I remember being really impacted by that… What I didn’t expect though is how much this kind of integrity would cost. Generosity is usually something you have to go out of your natural way for. A huge part of my work is making sure that the socks donated are connected to the socks we sell, this isn’t an easy task by any means (in terms of logistics and costs) but in order for us to provide a steady supply of socks it’s essential. But what I especially didn’t expect is how little this cost is in comparison to the reward. It’s an odd feeling, to come into the office every morning, excited and fulfilled at the work you’re doing. I think that’s one of the beauties of Social Entrepreneurship, it combines the necessary hard work for a business with the direct benefit of another. So there is definitely mutuality in generosity. As much as what I have given I think I have been given more back. I don’t say this sarcastically or anything, but that is a genuine shock for me. Generosity has been without a doubt the most fulfilling aspect of my life.
Why does the world need generosity now?
I think there are different types of generosity. Maybe my best argument for why the generosity we at Jollie’s have really tried to emulate is needed is because of what it means if no one is generous, because if no one is generous then everyone loses. But if we work for the well-being of others in work-worth-doing then we are all benefited. There are so many expressions of how to do this, so it’s encouraging that our way is just another expression of that ethos. So I think the world needs generosity, and always more of it, but also it is definitely here. Our whole business is really about offering the option to our customer of buying a product that directly connects them to someone else. This may sound a bit crude but we don’t struggle with sales. People who know what we’re about really have always supported us, so in a way our existence as Jollie’s has depended on this existing generosity.
How can we get involved with Jollie’s?
I think maybe the better way to get involved is just being about the things we’re about. So raising awareness for charities, really being a part of your local community, and encouraging a culture that wants to invest in products that encourage responsible purchases. Also, go onto our website’s Giving section and see the local charities we partner with! We really take our time to harbor those relationships well and we’re so proud of the work they do. All of their websites are linked there too so hopefully it’ll be easy to get involved. Oh and make sure you have a pair of Jollie’s on…
We love Jollie’s here at 40acts and we can say from personal experience (and a drawer full of ridiculously comfy and colourful Jollie socks), that you really will not regret buying a pair and finding out more how your purchase helps someone in need. You can find out more and buy a pair here https://jolliesocks.com/
Jeff hails from Los Angeles, CA (aka La La Land, some call him the Ryan Gosling of his time). He studied in the U.K. for his undergraduate degree and realised that he had a natural gift for socks… So he joined the Jollie’s team about a year ago to run operations and has never looked back!