Q&A with Baylor alum and Shark Tank competitor Matt McClard

By Helena Hunt, Staff Writer

ABC’s reality competition “Shark Tank” will welcome a Bear to the show this Friday night at 8 p.m.

Baylor alumnus Matt McClard and his business partners will bring their subscription sock service, Foot Cardigan, to the titular Sharks to compete for a coveted business deal.

McClard sat down with the “Baylor Lariat” to talk about what he’s been up to since college and how you could start selling socks online—and competing for money on TV.

How did the idea for Foot Cardigan first arise?

I’ll have to appropriate my business partner’s story. Basically my business partner Bryan DeLuca went to Europe with his wife and forgot to bring socks. He decided he needed to purchase some and bought all these crazy socks in Europe three and half or four years ago. He liked what he found, came back to the States, and saw a new trend in fashion.

Later as a group I think we all saw independently the Dollar Shave Club ads come out. We thought it was amazing, and we liked the idea of doing a subscription service for something that you needed. The idea was born out of those two things.

We hit the ground running close after that. Maybe two or three months after that we had a website up and had started selling sock subscriptions. That’s kind of where everything came from.

What is your role in the company?

I am the CTO [Chief Technology Officer]. I graduated with a BFA in graphic design at Baylor, so i come from a design background. Even though the internet was not something we really learned in school, I learned how to develop webpages, websites after school and really concentrated on that. I’d been working for a branding company for about ten years basically just building websites for customers or for clients.

At Foot Cardigan I have two major roles. My first role is everything that revolves around the website or e-mail marketing. Anything from a design and internet side of things I put together. And then also, with my design background in branding, I do a lot of design. That entails everything from advertising to marketing materials.

Then I also design about half of the socks that we have. We do hire freelancers for some stuff and they have obviously done an amazing job. I think all of the artists are interested in creating fun pieces on a very interesting canvas.

My main role at Foot Cardigan is as a technical advisor from the website point of view but then also as a designer.

How did Baylor prepare you for that role in the company?

I was an art major at Baylor. It was 15 years ago when I graduated, so I graduated in 2000. From what I studied at school and from my professors I think I really did learn a lot about aesthetics and the ability to create things that are engaging to an audience, which I think you can learn from fine arts and also from a graphic design standpoint. I think that was the tool that I was given as far as a scholarly standpoint at Baylor.

I think much more than that, from a growing up standpoint I feel like I really came into my own as a person at Baylor. Baylor was always a second home for me and in some ways even my home. I think being at Baylor and making friends, as silly as that sounds, being able to grow up and become an adult at some place like Baylor is invaluable.

I was a [Kappa Omega Tau] as well. I learned a lot of pretty awesome service skills there. I think that learning more than just service but learning to work with a team, and learning to achieve goals was something that KOT taught me and also something I learned going through college. Setting a goal, graduating, and meeting that goal.

How did you manage to get an appearance on Shark Tank?

We applied in the way that everyone applies, so we don’t have a special insider’s awesome tricks to getting on the show. They have a very specific, very boring application process that you go through [Laughs]. You go through paperwork and you fill out a bunch of paperwork. We made a funny video to submit along with that explaining our business and who we were and what we needed an investment for.

Most of us being able to get on the show was our ability to stand out from the crowd in an interesting business venture and as an interesting company to go on TV. I think those are the two big pieces that “Shark Tank” as a TV show looks for. I think what “Shark Tank” is looking for is a company that is going to be fun and engaging on a TV show. First and foremost they’re a TV show, so they’re meant to entertain.

But I think what they’re also looking for is a barrier of entry for the Sharks who are investing. They’re pre-vetting these companies to a certain extent and making sure that their product is worth putting to a national audience. That and a whole bunch of luck was how we got on the show, I think.

As a last question, what advice do you have for Baylor students with big ideas like Foot Cardigan?

I guess I can speak from just my experience. I graduated with a degree and went and got a job with that degree. I was lucky to get a job. I think it was probably easier to get a job then than it is now. I think that pre-Internet bubble breaking and pre-9/11, the economy was just in a much better place.

But I think if you have big ideas and there’s somewhere that you want to go I think that the best advice is to just make those things a priority. I think that can kind of be a mixed bag as far as what that means for each individual. I think for me it meant go and get a job, be able to pay rent, be able to have a family, and do all those simple things. But at night I was going to work my butt off doing what I wanted to do.

I had a nice job to fall back on. Baylor prepared me for that in a great way. I was able to go and get a really great job right out the gate. I worked for whatever the minimum salary was when I graduated. I’ve been lucky all the way through, so there’s always that piece as well.

I think that there is something to be said for the difference between people who do what they want to do or do something they’re interested in or do something that they love and the people who wish that they were doing that. I think a lot of it comes down to just doing the thing that you want to do.

I think in a lot of ways it’s scary to somebody graduating from college who needs to pay their rent and needs to live their life and be self-supportive. When I graduated, the thing that I didn’t want to do was go live with my parents. That was terrifying. No matter what I wanted to do as far as a career, that was a priority. I [didn’t] want to go live with my parents. I think that’s probably the case for a lot of kids, or a lot of adults at that point, right? You’re graduating from college, you’re an adult.

That was my number one priority, so as soon as I took care of that I started digging into, “Well, what is it I want to accomplish? What is it I want to do?” I think I learned relatively quickly that I wanted to be my own boss and I wanted to be an entrepreneur.

All that being said, it is 15 years later and I am finally getting to do that. It’s not an overnight process. That doesn’t mean it can’t be, but it’s a lot of figuring out what you really want to do. I think I accidentally figured out that I wanted to sell socks online. So I don’t think I have all these answers, but I think you should do what you can do and do your best at it. If you really, really like something, maybe it’s not important that you make a living doing it. Maybe it’s just enough to do it and you enjoy doing it.