1009 Sargent Street
Cincinnati, OH 45203

Shelby McKee of Keysocks

How did you come up the idea for your business?
My best friend lives in San Francisco. She always sends me shoes – we have the same size foot – but I never wore them because Cincinnati gets cold and I hate being uncomfortable.

In 2009, I was going to an October Bengals game. My friend sent me the cutest flats and I just thought, “You know what, I’m wearing these with my jeans!”  The irony is that I don’t even own socks. I raided my husband’s drawer and I pulled his dress socks. I had cute skinny jeans, gold flats and these navy socks. I grabbed a pair of scissors and cut them so they didn’t show, then pulled the socks up to my knee.  And when I went to the game, and I was warm.

How did you start your business?
It took me three years. My dad was just retired; he had been in sales and the business world for years and was ready to help me. I researched for months, thought for sure there’d be something like this on the market, but we couldn’t find a no-show knee high sock anywhere.

What resources here did you take advantage of and how did they help?
My dad’s friend, Mike Crotty, has been in the textile business for years. He lives in China and was able to source out and help us find the right factory. We probably had 45 prototypes made in all, and all the factories were puzzled, wondering, “What do you mean? A sock with a hole in it?”

Lindsey Dugan, our creative director, also worked with me for two-and-a-half years on this project before the company launched. She designed our logo and now does all our artistic, creative work.

What does a typical day in your business look like?
It’s crazy. My husband owns a shipping company – he does our shipping to and from China. I have two sisters in the business with me also. My younger sister, Christy Parry, is doing marketing for retail, and her husband Beau Parry is doing behind-the-scenes computer work and social media. Stephanie Neal, my older sister, does most of the shipping for us.

What’s next for you and your company?
We’re coming out with a new fabric at the end of this month for spring and summer. It’s a thinner fabric made from 30 percent coffee, antimicrobial and cools your foot 1-2 degrees. The fabric’s never been introduced to the US before. Our importer found it – he did research and found it. The fabric we use now has CoolMax. We wanted to introduce more of a green fabric and he found it and did all the research on it.
Interview by Robin Donovan