Social socks helping the homeless

Two Cass graduates are using socks to help improve the everyday lives of homeless people.

Joey Li and Thuta Khin's (MSc Marketing, Strategy and Innovation, 2019) social good startup, Leiho, donate a pair of warm socks to a homeless shelter for every pair that they sell.

Figures published by homeless charity, Shelter say that there are 320,000 homeless people in the UK and 170,000 in London. Clean socks are the most requested item of clothing from homeless shelters and charities however they are the least donated.

Putting their best foot forward, Leiho has partnered with Highway House, a homeless shelter in Tottenham and donated over 100 pairs of socks this December, but both Joey and Thuta say there is more work to be done.

“Socks are the most requested item of clothing for homeless people, as charities do not accept second hand socks for hygiene reasons.

Thuta Khin (MSc Marketing, Strategy and Innovation, 2019)

“What seems like something so basic to us is not for people who are sleeping rough as they often do not have any shoes or wear the same pair of socks every day.”

Joey added that: “It is easy to take our clean socks for granted, but not everyone is so lucky.

“Our business takes something that we use every day, like socks and gives our customers an opportunity to offer a small bit of help to someone who needs it.”

Social, sustainable socks

Using bamboo instead of cotton, Leiho challenges fast fashion by combining their social enterprise with a greener option for footwear.

Thuta said: “The socks that our customers buy are different to the pairs that we donate to the homeless shelters. 

"Homeless people often walk several miles a day so we design those socks for hiking – making them more durable and warmer.”

“We use bamboo when making our customers’ socks as it is compostable and creates a more sustainable fabric, requiring a third of the amount of water needed when producing cotton. Also, bamboo is quicker to grow, requiring less land. As a fibre it is naturally antibacterial, antifungal and odor resistant – meaning your feet won’t smell!”

Joey Li (MSc Marketing, Strategy and Innovation, 2019

Socks are just the beginning

Since graduating last year, the two entrepreneurs have attended a variety of homeless festivals including The Streets Fest and more recently The Fair Christmas Fayre hosted by The Salvation Army where they sold and donated 60 pairs of socks.

Now officially open for business online, Joey and Thuta both hand-deliver the socks directly to Highway House.Thuta said: “We like to go in person to the shelter as we can here directly from them what they need and see how useful our socks can be.

“We chose to start with a smaller shelter so that we can see the positive effect that our business is making to a local community. It wouldn’t feel like we were making an impact if we could not see it for ourselves.”

Having already scooped a number of CityVentures awards and funding from ‘Google for Startups’, the two former international students agree that socks is only the beginning.

"We chose to start with something basic like socks, but as the business grows we want to move into providing underwear, backpacks and period products to the homeless.

Joey Li  (MSc Marketing, Strategy and Innovation, 2019)

“Hopefully if we can get people to change their spending habits on their daily essentials, we can then provide these items to others and help improve their everyday lives.”

For more information on Leiho and their products see their website here.