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Getting to Know…Matt McClard ’00 of Foot Cardigan (and successful contestant on ABC’s Shark Tank)

Matt McClard Sock CardiganThe goal is simple for Matt McClard ’00: Own the sock drawer.

The management team at Dallas-based Foot Cardigan, which sends subscribers a pair of colorful, boldly patterned socks every month, took a huge step toward that goal when it hit the jackpot on an episode of ABC’s Shark Tank that aired October 9.  McClard — a co-founder and Chief Technology Officer/Senior Art Director — and CEO Bryan Deluca went in asking for $250,000 in exchange for 10% of the company and walked out with an investment from Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and guest judge Troy Carter for $250,000 for 20% of the company.

“We were scared that we would not come across as good guys or normal human beings,” McClard says of facing six billionaire investors and entrepreneurs known for being – well, let’s call it “direct” with their feedback.  “Lori (Greiner, a Shark Tank investor) backed out right away and we thought, ‘OK, here we go.’  But then we got four offers and we could not have hoped for a better outcome.”

Foot Cardigan had $900,000 in sales over the past 12 months and projects $1.5 million in 2015.  For McClard, the question was simple:  “What can these partners bring to the table that will take us to the next level?”

“Our walkaway (whether the team would accept an offer) depended on the investor’s approach,” McClard said, explaining that both Cuban and Carter bring an ability to help with branding, with telling Foot Cardigan’s story.  Mark Cuban is, well Mark Cuban, and Carter is a music-industry icon from Philadelphia who has managed John Legend, Meghan Trainor, and Lady Gaga and made early-stage investments in companies like Lyft and Warby Parker.

The show was taped close to Father’s Day, and the 15-minute segment was edited from more than 75 minutes in front of the five judges.  “It’s one thing to get the commitment,” McClard said.  “Then you have to go through the process of making the deal – there are lots of term sheets and lawyers and back and forth.  It took a long time.”

McClard says Foot Cardigan will use the money for customer acquisition and inventory – “they’re not exciting things, but it’s the lifeblood of the company.  We want to build a cult following and be able to deliver the product.”

In the few days since the show aired, Foot Cardigan has seen “an incredible increase in traffic and a jump in sales.”  And with the holiday season just around the corner, McClard says “we super lucked out with our airtime.”

So why did McClard and Deluca hit a home run when many others end up with no offers and a lot of criticism from the judges?

“Shark Tank is a TV show for entertainment – so the extension of our combined goofiness (the pair wore tearaway pants to show off the socks) translated well to the show – and you have to prove you’re a company worth investing in,” McClard said.  “You have to know your numbers backwards and forwards.  The judges may not agree with your business model but they will respect you.”

When Line Notes caught up to McClard, who received his degree from Baylor in graphic design, and asked what’s he’d been up to, he responded: “Not too much, just hanging out. A typical day here at Foot Cardigan Central is just designing socks and working on the website. Oh, and hi-fiving, lots and lots of hi-fiving.”

  • How did your Baylor Experience shape your life? Like most freshman, I remember heading to Baylor having no idea what life would be like there. By the end of Welcome Week though, I had made too many friends to count. Many of which would become pledge brothers. Kappa Omega Tau showed me how to be a strong member of a team while still having a great time. Something I cherish getting to do every day.  I was able to study art and graphic design all of which has been invaluable to get to where I am today. Being around creative people every day, all day, was so good for me as an individual. I think being in that environment really shaped what kind of career I wanted to have.  Most of all I met my smart and beautiful wife at Baylor ( Karen Barker McClard ’01). The perfect marriage of a KOT and Pi Phi. Karen has worked to become the best pediatrician in Dallas, not to mention putting up with me on a daily basis.
  • Which Baylor professor had the greatest impact on you and why? I was so blessed to be in the Lewis Art building when I was. There were so many talented professors.  Michael Johnson was the real standout for me though. He inspired a confidence in me I never knew I had. The work I did in his class won an award in the Student Art show. I was so surprised and proud. I’m not sure I would have even submitted a piece if not for Professor Johnson. He was the best teacher I have ever had.
  • The most memorable thing that happened to me at Baylor was…Ok, this one is easy. My senior year I was a float chairman for KOT. Not only did my co-chairs and I make the best float the Baylor Homecoming parade has ever seen, but we also took the first step toward the Triple Crown KOT would win later that year.
  • What’s your superpower? Uni-tasking, or the ability to only concentrate on only one thing at a time. Like all superpowers though, this might be my greatest weakness.
  • You obviously get lots of requests for your time.  How do you decide which ones to do and what’s your approach to saying no? Lists are the gateway drug to productivity. Get a list of things you need to do. Order that list by priority and start checking things off. Nothing feels better than marking things as done.  I almost always start with saying no, then work my way towards saying yes. And while this is not always the most popular response it does give you time to think things through. Under-promise, over-deliver. However, sometimes you just have to say yes. Be generous, but protective with your time.
  • My creative process begins with… Joking around with my co-founders. When you embrace the absurdity of running a sock subscription company, one idea just sparks another. We’ve had a ton of ideas by just laughing and saying, “you know what would be funny?”
  • My daily reading includes: In the morning I’ve got to digest all the latest video game news. At night I fall asleep reading science fiction. Somewhere in between I try and stay up on current events, but that’s more YouTube than anything else.
  • Who’s your role model and why? Neil Degrasse Tyson. I love the way he takes super complicated concepts and boils them down. Not only in a way we can understand, but in a way that makes them special and personal.
  • One cool thing that’s on my bucket list… I really want to visit Iceland. I did a project on Iceland in 5th grade and have wanted to go ever since.
  • If I could have one meal from the road again: The breakfast Fried Rice Moco from Aloha Mixed Plate in Maui, Hawaii.

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