Leiho is a social enterprise where every purchase helps to fund impact driven projects and essentials items for those in need. From their range of smiley bamboo socks to organic cotton T-shirts, their mission is to inspire a more purposeful way of gifting and wearing socks whilst also improving the quality of life for vulnerable communities.
We caught up with Joey Li from Leiho to find out more about the business. Take a look below for the interview…
How did it all start?
We started Leiho when we found out that clean socks were one of the most requested items of clothing at homeless shelters. Alongside that, there are many essential items such as toiletries, clean underwear, clean water or even a hot meal that those without a home don’t have regular and easy access to. We want to build a brand with purpose that helps to fulfil the basic human needs of warmth, comfort, safety and health for those in need whether it’s through projects or donations.
The story behind the name…
Leiho means ‘hello’ or ‘how are you’ in Cantonese and sometimes, all we need is a bit of acknowledgement to show our compassion and care.
Where are you based?
Both my co-founder and I are based in London. I grew up mainly in Singapore and Hong Kong and Thuta grew up in Myanmar!
What inspires you?
Being able to create a brand that helps people has always inspired both Thuta and I. We feel extremely humbled to be able to work with different homeless charities and organisations to really support people in need and try to make a positive difference in their lives. The feeling you get when you do something good is quite fulfilling and to see so many brands creatively tackling social and environmental issues is very inspiring.
What is your creation process?
The most important thing for us is to have our products represent a ‘feel good’ aspect of giving and living. If you own a pair of Leiho socks, you are guaranteed to be walking around with literal smiles on your feet (our logo says it all) but we also want to design simple products that encourage others to do good. The product development process also means that we create things that genuinely stand for a brand looking to make a difference.
If you’re asking for our design secrets, it’s literally Google images, Microsoft word, Canva and our logo. We genuinely are so grateful for our suppliers for being so patient and understanding about our design briefs because we are no graphic designers which means we aren’t experts at creating cool templates of our products. If you have a look at each collection there is always a pair of socks for someone out there. From a funky pattern, funky colours to black and white socks – we design basically design sock personalities.
What makes you, your brand or products unique?
Our logo represents our brand perfectly. It’s all about being kind, caring and spreading joy.
We’ve built such an amazing relationship with our supplier who goes above and beyond for us because she truly believes in what we do. So our new product lines are always much more developed than the previous whether it’s being more sustainable or more durable, we are constantly evolving as a brand and that is literally all down to our supplier Sule (a.k.a our sock hero).
We do have other products that sit as a limited edition or test product. We like to spice things up sometimes and source products with suppliers who are constantly improving their methods of sustainable manufacturing too.
What is your next project?
Our next project is to start producing different types of socks. We get a lot of athletes request for sport socks so we think there is a really interesting market to tap into. After 2 years of patiently waiting, we recently launched kids socks too and we can’t wait for people to start gifting Leiho socks to kids! We want them to represent a future generation of changemakers. If people can gift socks to their 7-10 year old kids and tell them the story behind the socks, perhaps that might inspire them to make impactful decisions and even incorporate more acts of kindness into their everyday life.
What are your plans for the next 12 months?
It’s a secret but we hope to really grow our impact in the next year that will feed into the products we sell. We have plans to really work on more exclusive projects with local charities to help boost people’s confidence, morale’s, hope and self-worth even if they are going through a tough time in life.
We also want to be able to shift more towards the B2B side and be present in lots of events, corporate gifting as well as with consumers. I think socks make great gifts all year round and if we can spread a simple message through a pair of socks to people of different ages and backgrounds then we are happy.
What is your biggest achievement?
We’ve had a few big achievements for both the business and the impact. In terms of business, it would definitely be the fact that we’ve been bootstrapping for nearly 3 years, meaning everything we make is being reinvested back into the business and we’ve survived those 3 years somewhat comfortably with growth. The next 3 years is a different story but to come this far without seeking for investment is a challenge we wanted to accept and are really proud of.
We are also extremely grateful to have worked closely with Legacy Marketplace to secure Spotify as a co-brand client. There are currently 1040 exclusive Spotify x Leiho socks out there and we couldn’t be more grateful to have been able to produce socks for such an inspiring company.
In terms of the impact, our biggest achievement is working with SPEAR, a homeless charity in South West London – we’ve supported and worked with them in many ways from donating essentials to their residents, hosting cooking workshops for their clients and helping to support their health days with the NHS for people experiencing homelessness and refugees. The partnership is far from coming to an end and we can’t wait to continue supporting Nicky and her team at SPEAR.
What is your best-selling product/line?
Our hero products are 100% our bamboo socks. They make great and fun gifts, and we can’t wait for the socks to hit different shelves nationwide. The best-seller by far has been our Forest Green bamboo socks. We’ve done 2 shades of it now to get the right colour so that it’s a classy, fun but subtle. It could pass off as funky socks but you could also see it paired with a suit in a boardroom, so I’m not surprised as to why it’s the best seller!
What are you looking forward to the most about exhibiting at the Christmas Fair?
We are so extremely grateful to have even been considered for the Christmas Fair. A lot of our customers are Country Living fans too so it’s a great place to meet them in person and really get to know the other exhibitors. As we are starting to grow, the one thing we will never stop doing is pop ups, markets and fairs! I think the UK has such a big market for events like this and it’s just a very important thing to keep these events running. It genuinely brings a lot of people together and it’s really nice to see.
Also, Country Living Magazine is such a dream, so for me it is basically everything in the magazine coming to life in one place at the best time of the year – we are so excited!
Your three top tips for crafters and makers…
- Build something that people will like, use and benefit from. Do your research and ask people for opinions even if it’s choosing colours, designs or styles. People love to get involved and watch brands grow, so build loyalty and make them a part of your journey.
- Understand people’s needs and values when creating. If you can create something that makes someone think twice about their own lifestyle choices, their gifting behaviour and their purpose – then you truly are a great crafter!
- Don’t be afraid to try out different things, repeating what you know is safe and comfortable but it’s not as thrilling as experimenting and being innovative. You learn so much more by stepping out of your comfort zone.
Any advice for fledgling businesses…
Do it with passion, integrity and confidence. The industry now is full of new brands, products and the world is more innovative now than ever before. Nearly every problem has been solved by someone, somewhere but the greatest challenge is to really understand how you can do it better, how you can get your foot through the door and how you can survive the rollercoaster ride! Never compare yourself to other brands and businesses out there because what you’re doing is different and everyone has different ways of doing it. There will be lots of challenges thrown at you every single day but having the right mindset to get through the hard days knowing that tomorrow or next week will be better is very important.