As a veteran of the sports apparel industry, Cindi Busenhart knew there had to be a solution when her son started blowing through socks on a weekly basis while playing sports. But several fruitless shopping trips revealed a gap in the market for tough, durable and stylish socks. In 2017, Busenhart launched MERGE4, a certified B-Corporation, to sell them herself. The company makes eco-friendly socks and donates portions of each sale to organizations such as children’s hospitals and addiction recovery centers. The Soquel, California, founder has also sought out collaborations with artists, athletes and musicians for her socks’ designs, and is proud to be able to empower them by offering royalties on every pair sold.
Here’s our lightly edited Q&A, from The Story Exchange 1,000+ Stories Project.
How is your business different from others in your industry?
I am using my previous professional experience to create socks that can withstand the test of time – and sports – and look good the whole time! And for every pair of socks sold, we give back to causes that are near and dear to my team and myself.
Tell us about your biggest success so far.
What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?
Funding a startup as a female entrepreneur. We’ve addressed this by putting multiple fundraising irons in the fire at all times, because we hear “no” so much more often than we hear “yes.”
Have you experienced any significant personal situations that have affected your business decisions?
I donated a kidney to my brother in 2016. The experience influenced my desire to give back to the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital through MERGE4.
What is your biggest tip for other startup entrepreneurs?
Resilience. I always say that “persistence trumps brilliance” when it comes to entrepreneurship.
How do you find inspiration on your darkest days?
I read. I also try to put things in perspective. Often, challenging situations can bring about growth, by way of a shift in strategy and renewed inspiration.
What is your go-to song to get motivated on tough days?
“Thunder” by AC/DC.
Who is your most important role model?
I don’t have a singular role model. I think multiple heads are better than one. As such, I admire and respect many people’s opinions on everything from parenting to business. ◼