For most people, wet socks would be a major nuisance. For Jaspreet Singh, they are a business.
Singh was running late to a public speaking class at the University of Michigan where he was supposed to pitch a business idea. To make matters worse, he had forgotten to come up with an idea.
“I grabbed my backpack, ran through the street and ran through a puddle,” he said. “When I got to class, the teacher said I was up next. I had wet socks on, so I pitched about water-resistant socks.”
It wasn’t until after class that he realized his split-second idea was actually a pretty good one.
A year and a half later, after much research, testing and development, he’s created the 5 Water Socks brand, gotten a working prototype for hydrophobic athletic socks and launched a successful Kickstarter campaign that blew past its goal within two days.
“I didn’t really know what to expect,” said the 23-year-old, who is now studying law at Wayne State University while developing his product. “It’s the first time I have ever done anything like this.”
Singh’s socks seem to have legs.
The Kickstarter campaign that sought to raise $10,000 brought in a total of more than $21,300. The first of the socks will be produced in a facility in North Carolina in August and September and should be shipped out by October. They will be available on his website, although he hopes to get them in stores quickly. Right now, he’s listing the retail price as $22 per pair.
After that, Singh hopes to launch even more styles and designs, including customization.
Although Singh will have many competitors, including big name brands like Nike and Under Armour, he believes he has a unique product that nobody else carries.
Singh’s socks feel like any regular pair of athletic socks, but when they come into contact with liquids, the fibers, which have been fused with water-resistant particles, cause the liquid to bead up and run off. When submerged, they will get wet, but not as quickly and they will dry faster, he says.
On the Kickstarter, Singh shows demonstrations of the technology by pouring things like honey, coffee and Cool Blue Gatorade on them. When not in contact with liquids, they are just like any other pair of soft, breathable socks.
“There are socks that are completely waterproof, but it’s a different market,” he said. “They aren’t breathable, they don’t feel soft. These are for everyday use.”
Singh’s path to becoming an entrepreneur wasn’t direct. He was originally going to medical school but changed course after he took the MCAT. He used the chemistry and biology he had studied to help come up with the technology that makes the socks work. He partners with his brother, 19-year-old Michigan State University student Amanpreet Singh, to market and improve the product.
Singh is a proud Sikh who was born in Detroit and grew up in Canton and Northville. His family is from Punjab, an area in the Northwest part of India that he says faces many of the same socioeconomic struggles as Detroit.
In fact, the company name, 5 Water Socks, was inspired by both places. Five for the Great Lakes and because Punjab means ‘the land of five rivers.” He hopes to raise awareness of the challenges both areas face through his business.
“Detroit is the comeback story, but it’s going to take entrepreneurs to make that comeback happen,” he said. “Obviously Dan Gilbert is doing a lot and (Mike) Ilitch is building here too, but unless Detroit can get younger players, I don’t know if the city can make it.”