Samantha Tollworthy already had her dream job as a wildlife TV producer. But everywhere she traveled, she noticed one constant theme: the overwhelming impact of single use plastic on our planet. Determined to help fight climate change, she quit her job and started her eco-friendly line of socks, Teddy Locks. All the socks are ethically made in the USA from recycled plastic bottles and upcycled textile waste. The Troy, North Carolina-based entrepreneur sources the plastic bottles from the east coast, and to date has recycled more than 10,000 bottles and saved more than 1,500 pounds of waste from going into landfills. Today Tollworthy is focused on continuing to grow her revenue while also educating the public about waste management and finding enough balance with work to be able to spend time with her young family.
Tollworthy’s story, as told to The Story Exchange 1,000+ Stories Project:
What was your reason for starting your business?
As a wildlife TV producer I got to travel into jungles, up mountains and to remote islands – but no matter how far I went, single-use plastic was always there. So, determined to fight the global waste crisis, I left my dream job to build the most sustainable sock company possible. On average we each lose 15 socks a year, forcing us to dispose of another 15 lonely socks. In fact, socks are the most readily disposed of item in our wardrobe. But with so many of us wearing socks it can have a bigger and broader impact, helping not only to fight waste, but to also spread the sustainability message – with a gift that has meaning.
How do you define success?
I am looking to have the greatest positive impact on the planet. I set out to help stamp out single use plastic and to provide a product that allows others to lower their footprint. The more people that I can help and the more plastic we divert from the ocean – the better!
Tell us about your biggest success to date
I was 200% funded on kickstarter – this was a pivotal moment in establishing proof of concept but also in connecting with other conscious consumers.
What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?
I was nine months pregnant when I launched Teddy Locks online in January 2019. Navigating a new business with a new baby, while entering a global pandemic was extremely difficult. I have now found more balance between work and my personal life with the help of childcare and the support of my husband.
Have you experienced any significant personal situations that have affected your business decisions?
The biggest decisions and sacrifices have been centered around being a new mom. Dividing my time between Teddy Locks and parenting has meant missed opportunities, longer nights and slower growth.
What is your biggest tip for other startup entrepreneurs?
My best advice is to start your business with a co-founder. Build you product or service with somebody who compliments your own skill set but who is equally passionate. The workload will be divided and you will find motivation and structure in that efficiency.
How do you find inspiration on your darkest days?
I say out loud the positive impact I have already made. You need passion to build a business, and reminding yourself of it helps you to ride out the hard times.
Who is your most important role model?
My husband – seeing how hard he works for our family, and encouraging me to pursue Teddy Locks. It is fundamentally selfless and is allowing me to help look after our planet. ◼
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