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Founder Carrie Atkinson will discuss the history of Sock It to Me and its business practices at the Ledding Cultural Forum at 7 p.m. on June 1

For those who wish to show their personal style in a public way, the Sock It to Me website says it all: "Be Awesome, Wear Awesome." The Milwaukie-based company supplies fun, kooky socks and matching underwear wholesale to retail outlets like Sock Dreams, New Seasons, Presents of Mind and Powell's Books; its products are also available directly to the public online at sockittome.com.

PHOTO BY ELLEN SPITALERI - Carrie Atkinson, founder of Sock It to Me, says this mural was painted to welcome guests to the company's open house in April 2016. Founder Carrie Atkinson will discuss the history of Sock It to Me and its innovative business practices at the Ledding Cultural Forum at 7 p.m. on June 1 at the Ledding Library Pond House, 2215 S.E. Harrison St., in Milwaukie.

The local designers at Sock It to Me pride themselves on "delivering unique designs as an avenue for people to express themselves," Atkinson said.

Socks with Bananas on skateboards? Check. Sasquatch rampant on underwear? Check. Socks with bowling pins, grizzly bears, adorable kittens clinging to pussywillows? PHOTO BY ELLEN SPITALERI - Carrie Atkinson, founder of Sock It to Me, checks out a rack of underwear that matches many of the patterns on the company's fun and funky socks. Check, check, check. And that barely scratches the surface of the styles available. As the website advises, make sure you have a big enough sock drawer before ordering.

"Socks kept rising to the surface," Atkinson said, describing her career search after graduating from college. After two years of looking for a meaningful job in Portland, she became an English teacher in South Korea.

"That's where I found the product; all our socks are imported from Korea," she noted.

Returning to Portland in 2004, she began selling socks at a stand at the Saturday Market. Her business gradually expanded to fill spare bedrooms and a garage, and she and her employees also outgrew several office spaces in Southeast Portland.

Milwaukie warehouse

Finally, a 30,000-square-foot warehouse space on Main Street in Milwaukie became available, and the company painted its distinctive logo on the building and moved there in April 2016.

Atkinson said she did not want to move by the airport or to the suburbs on the west side of Portland; instead the Milwaukie space manages to "keep the commute down" for the company's 50 full-time employees.

PHOTO BY ELLEN SPITALERI - Carrie Atkinson, founder of Sock It to Me, prepares a bag of six pairs of socks, destined for a retail outlet in Portland. The 30,000-square-foot space houses offices, customer service, distribution and marketing.She is taking part in the Ledding Cultural Forum to "interact with the community and give a voice to our brand," Atkinson said.

"We are the new kid in the neighborhood, and a lot of residents see our building. This is a community-oriented company, and [Milwaukie] is a good city for us to engage with the community, rather than just being a vendor," she added.

Business practices

What sets Sock It to Me, she said, is that "we really care about taking care of the people who work here. We treat everyone with kindness and respect."

She added, "We're doing a lot of special things for our team. We've played laser tag and we went to the Milwaukie Bowl and had pizza together."

The company establishes a sales goal every year and "we are very inclusive. We all come together and everyone knows the health" of the company, Atkinson said.

"Every quarter we tell people how we're doing and if we exceeded our sales goal," she noted.

Last year the company took many of its employees on an all-expenses-paid trip to Cabo San Lucas, in Mexico.

'There are so many benefits to doing this. People brought their significant others and I really loved this time together. We saw people from other departments and intermingled — it was a great vibe," Atkinson added.

Design team

PHOTO BY ELLEN SPITALERI - Carrie Atkinson, founder of Sock It to Me, restocks socks at the company's warehouse in Milwaukie.  Although all the socks are manufactured in South Korea, the design team is based in Milwaukie.

"They see what trends are out there; they go to huge fashion trade shows and look at boutiques in malls. We also sponsor a design contest to get ideas," Atkinson said.

"We store all the products here and do our photoshoots here and hire local printers to produce our catalogue," she said, adding that distribution, marketing and customer service are also based in the warehouse.

Although the company has an extensive inventory online, "90 percent of our sales is business to business," Atkinson said.

The socks and underwear are 75 percent cotton and 25 percent polyester/spandex, making them a lot more comfortable than many other socks, she noted.

As for her very favorite socks, she prefers them simple, like "pink ones with red hearts and an arrow."

Knock your socks off

What: The Ledding Cultural Forum presents Carrie Atkinson, founder of Sock It to Me

When: 7 p.m. Thursday, June 1

Where: Ledding Library Pond House, 2215 S.E. Harrison St., Milwaukie

More: Milwaukie-based Sock It to Me, 9592 S.E. Main St., employs 50 full-time workers, and sells colorful, zany socks and matching underwear for men, women and children. The company produces 400 original designs and services over 4,000 wholesale national and international accounts. In Portland, Sock It to Me products are available at: Sock Dreams, Buy Olympia, Presents of Mind, Powell's at the Airport, Powell's on Burnside, New Seasons, Gypsy Chic, Frock, Naked City and Buffalo Exchange, as well as online.

Website: sockittome.com

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