“From the beginning, we knew how important it was to show up high on Google searches, and that's what we've aimed toward this whole time.”Gina Locklear
In its heyday during the mid-1990s, Fort Payne was known as the “Sock Capital of the World.” One in every eight pairs of socks worldwide came out of the Alabama city, which at the time was home to over 150 mills. Gina Locklear’s parents were part of the fabric of that success. They ran a mill of their own, manufacturing white athletic socks for a large distributor. Years later, as business began to move overseas, her parents worried that they would soon have to close their doors. “But then I thought, ‘What if we start our own brand and don’t have to rely on manufacturing socks for other companies?’” Gina recalls. In 2009, she launched Zkano Socks. The brand preserves the essence of the family business, but with some of Gina’s own twists—vibrant colors and playful patterns using organic cotton and low-impact dyes.
Zkano Socks went online shortly after their founding. “We didn’t have a lot of money, so instead of going to trade shows, we thought it’d be a better investment to spend our budget on digital marketing,” Gina explains. They began using AdWords, Google’s advertising program, to reach customers beyond state borders. “I love AdWords, because it helps us introduce ourselves to new markets and new customers that we would otherwise never be in front of,” says Gina. The company today sees a 325 percent return on investment from AdWords. They also use Google Analytics to optimize their ad campaigns, and YouTube provides a platform for sharing Zkano’s story. “YouTube really helps introduce a lot of people to our brand by telling our story, which has been the foundation of our business since we started,” she adds.
The Locklear family mill is one of seventeen that still stand in Fort Payne. With Zkano’s business nearly doubling every year, Gina is proud to be playing a role in the city’s rich history. “That’s what has kept me going over the years,” she shares. “Whenever I have low moments, I’m reminded of my love for this work, how I’m carrying on my family business, and how Zkano is helping to continue Fort Payne’s tradition in the textile industry.” When asked to share her hopes for the future, Gina’s response was simple: “Honestly, I want to reach more people with our socks. I wish I had something more profound to say, but the thing is, we make socks. That’s who we are. It’s what we know, and it will always be dear to our hearts.”