When Brock Sykes launched Odd Pears from the garage of his parents’ Queensland home in 2013, he was just 21. The business has a firm focus on fun, selling quirky patterned socks in threes – two matching and one in the reverse colour of the pair’s pattern – providing all the ingredients you need to mix and match. Plus, if you manage to lose one in the washing machine sock vortex, it’s not such a big deal.
There was a time three years ago [when] we might go two or three days without an order. I look back now and think about how far we’ve come.
Over the past four years, the business has experienced consistent growth and is now selling its mismatched wares around the world – all the more impressive for being, more or less, a one-man band.
Since you launched, what have you learnt about running a business?
I wouldn’t know where to begin! Nothing happens overnight, especially for a 21-year-old. You read stories of people starting businesses and selling them two years later for millions and changing the world. [But in reality] you start it, and over the course of 10 years you might make a little bit of money. Not everyone understands that you’re working on something day in, day out; you’re involving all your friends and family. The biggest learning is persistence and be calm [because] it will never stop.
What are your biggest challenges right now?
Growth. We want to desperately do athletic socks and to have a space in a shopping centre so we can introduce the product to people as [more than just] an online business.
If it’s something you really want, you’ll learn and make it work.
Why do you donate one dollar from every ‘pear’ to charity?
We want to encourage individuality and help the planet. We like to think, in a small way, we’re doing that. The dream is to one day have a charity arm so we can tell the story of that dollar.
What’s the best thing about being an entrepreneur?
The quality of life. Being your own boss. Controlling your own destiny. Anyone working [on] their own business dictates their own success, with little pockets of luck on the way. We get to go as big or small as we want.
What one piece of advice would you give others?
Keep chipping away. Try to make it happen and just keep going. So many fail in that first two years – you get disheartened because it’s hard. There was a time three years ago [when] we might go two or three days without an order. I look back now and think about how far we’ve come. That wouldn’t have happened if we didn’t keep pushing through.
What are the essential skills for starting your own business?
Persistence and motivation to keep going. I couldn’t possibly reiterate that enough. I guess I just fumbled my way through. I had no accounting, invoicing, sales or retail experience. So I learnt. I fumbled initially and then it got easier, and it keeps getting easier. I just learnt. People find these small issues [like] ‘I could never start my own fashion label because I don’t know how to design a logo.’ That’s crazy; that’s just one thing. You’re not going to ever know everything to start a business. If it’s something you really want, you’ll learn and make it work.