It is not a method that he would recommend to everyone, but Ryan Roff ’09 flipped a coin to decide between Calvin College and Hope College.
“My best friend was planning to go to Hope and my brother was already at Calvin. There were pros and cons to both choices,” he said.
He’s glad the coin flip went Calvin’s way.
Coming into Calvin, Roff hoped to major in business and communications and supplement his passion for creativity with a course load of art classes and self-taught design tutorials knowing both disciplines would be necessary for a career in marketing and design.
His first exposure to entrepreneurship came as a junior when the Calvin’s business department offered the inaugural Business Plan Competition. His idea for an adaptable salsa container finished second and set him on a course of innovation and imagination.
Enrolling in the Chicago Semester program as a senior, Roff’s internship at Marketing Werks led to a full-time job before he graduated.
“I had to work things out with the semester director to do the classwork on the side so I could accept the offer and start work before the semester was over,” he said.
Roff gained valuable marketing experience and later took a position back in Grand Rapids as a packaging coordinator for all the privately branded products at Gordon Food Service (GFS).
“It was a lot of fun and a real growth time for me,” said Roff. “To re-architect four brands takes creativity, strategy and teamwork. I enjoyed learning about consumer behavior and creating designs that assisted consumers at the point of purchase.”
During the transition, however, he never lost touch with a few co-workers from GFS who also went to his church; they founded a company called boldSOCKS and needed creative help to grow the business.
The bright colors and, yes, bold nature of the socks has been successful for the online company that now feature over 25 brands and over 600 distinctively bold socks from around the world.
“You always have opportunities in life,” said Roff. “God has provided some exciting challenges, and I’m grateful for the mentors who have helped provide guidance along the way.”
But Roff and his partners believed they could do more by partnering with 20 Liters, an organization that provides sustainable clean water solutions in Rwanda, Africa.
“We wondered if our experience selling socks could make a difference in the world,” he said.
And so began Statement Sockwear.
The sock mavens worked hard to create a sock brand that featured unique color and pattern combinations, based on much research into consumer preferences and web behavior.
In addition to designing the socks for Statement Sockwear, Roff also created the web design, photography, packaging and graphic design for the brand.
“Launching the brand was an awesome opportunity to utilize my creativity and business acumen, but what was most encouraging was seeing people’s excitement to get behind the story of the brand” he said.
“We’re offering our customers the opportunity to make a statement and make a difference with our socks,” Roff said. “Participating in a purchase with us does more than provide a quality product. Each pair provides clean water for one person for 100 days. So many of us want to know how we can make a difference in the world. A venture like Statement Sockwear begins to make that tangible for the seller and the buyer.”
In the first month, the brand has provided more than 227,700 days of clean water.
“We’re humbled how God has been pushing and leading us,” he said. “This is what he has called us to do: design and sell socks that lead to something that goes far beyond us.”