By Princess B. Williams The Times and Democrat, Orangeburg, S.C.
Local businesswoman Joanna Godwin received national recognition as a finalist in the Canon MAXIFY Contest for Small Business Owners.
The contest was judged by "Shark" investor on ABC's Shark Tank and founder of New York's largest real estate company Barbara Corcoran.
Godwin's sock business, JoJoSox, was acknowledged for innovation. To participate in the contest, Godwin had to write an essay explaining how she started her business, and what her biggest challenge was.
"Because my business is growing, we need to deepen our inventory and add new products. The challenge is how to keep a positive cash flow while you're expanding," she said.
Four mentors narrowed down the participants' stories for Barbara Corcoran to read. Two of the four mentors chose Godwin's story.
As a finalist in the contest, Godwin received a Canon camera and printer, iPad Mini, and a year's subscription to LegalZoom, an online legal technology company that provides legal advice to growing businesses.
She established her sock business more than five years ago during the recession. The recession had greatly affected her husband Kenny's business.
"I thought to myself, 'if he can start a business, so can I,' Godwin said.
Godwin says she chose socks because she knew it would be an item that would sell during the recession.
"There was not a sock on the market to wear with short boots. I wanted it to protect your ankle," she said.
One of Godwin's biggest pet peeves was a sock sliding off her heel and down into her boot.
Goodwin initially began her business with four designs and a $1,000 sock order. Those four designs have grown into more than 50.
Her daughter Jessica is the chief designer of the business.
The entrepreneur said JoJoSox was a business born out of prayer.
"I promised I would have those socks sold to pay that invoice before 30 days was over. I got in my car and started calling stores. I had those socks sold within two weeks. If that's not motivation, I don't know what is," she said.
Godwin says the socks were so well received because people loved the quality and the fit of the sock.
They range from $12 to $20 a pair, depending on the style of the socks.
Store owners bought them. Customers kept returning for more.
"I all of a sudden came back with a full-time job," Godwin said. "We are constantly having stores wanting to carry our socks."
The JoJoSox products are sold in more than 800 stores across the United States and in a few stores in Canada and Europe.
"We ship out between 2,500-3,000 pairs of socks each month, and the numbers continue to grow," she said.
The Godwins have a 2,100-square-foot warehouse with offices beside their home on Farnum Road.
Learning to devote lots of attention to her business is one of Godwin's most valuable lessons.
"To really get your product out there and grow your business, you should be prepared to work overtime at it. If you make it just a hobby, it doesn't really turn into a business," she said.
A typical day for Godwin consists of spending time on social media, communicating through emails and faxes, taking phone calls and collaborating with her in-house web and graphic designer.
We get stores calling us and placing orders. Every day my number one thought is, 'How can I increase sales today?' Godwin said.
Her life as an entrepreneur requires lots of traveling. "I put a lot of time into researching ways to grow the business," she said.
You have to keep an eye on inventory and getting orders in. As socks go out, you need to make sure that you stay ahead of that, Godwin said.
She credits her husband for assisting her with monitoring the business' inventory.
"We try to build our business reputation on service, service and service, Godwin said. "I've always made connections. It's all about networking."
In retrospect, the businesswoman has made mistakes while running her business, but she is grateful for each of them.
"I wouldn't trade those for anything, because you always learn lessons. You have to take those as learning, and keep moving forward."
Godwin engaged in several trade shows across the country when she began her business. "I had to find out which ones were going to work and which ones wouldn't. There was no magic formula."
Godwin says she wishes she had started her business with a fundraiser as she embarked upon her journey to entrepreneurship.
"If I research something, and it looks like it could be a smart step to take, I'm going to do it," Godwin said.
She recently began crowdfunding for her business. Crowdfunding is the creation of a funding campaign to raise funds for her establishment.
Contributors may donate to JoJoSox by visiting www.gofundme.com/jojosox
Godwin says totes would be the perfect item to take JoJoSox to the next step in business.
"We did a test run with totes, and they were very well received."
The totes are made from leather scraps of furniture. Godwin desires to put encouraging messages on the tags of the totes.
"We may look like everything's been scrapped or cut apart, but we need to be fighters and watch God put us back together again. Your situation may look impossible, but with God, all things are possible," she said.
Godwin says several doors were opened for her that she could not have opened on her own.
"I know it was God's favor and God's doing," she said.
For instance, when Godwin created JoJoSox, she started by targeting the equestrian market. The 2010 World Equestrian Games ended up being Godwin's first customer for which she did custom work.
"I'd only been in business for about six months. That's a huge international event. I got the contract to do that. At the very beginning, I was putting JoJoSox into the hands of people from Australia, Switzerland, etc."
Godwin sold out by selling 1,500 pairs of socks at that event.
"Nobody knew me. I was a brand new company. Only God can give that kind of success," she said.
Godwin's plan for JoJoSox is to continue to expand. Failure is not an option, she said.