A: Alex Miles
I: Ini Weston
A: 26 Oct 1989
I: 30 Jan 1989
A: Stockwell, London
A: Sock Baron
I: Part time Sock Baron, part time fund manager
A: Quiet Rebellion
Did you go to university?
A: Yeah, we’re actually both friends from university
I: We both studied history together at Cambridge and our interested in curious historical events and characters actually ended up forming quite a lot of what Quiet Rebellion is about. All of our products celebrate an eccentric and interesting historical figure that went against the grain to do something to make the world a more interesting, unique place.
Was it a clear-cut path after you left in terms of what you wanted to do?
A: Not at all. After uni I went straight into finance and then management consultancy and ended up here by default rather than design
I: I have always wanted to run my own company and setting something up was on the agenda pretty soon after I left uni. I dabbled with a few other ideas but it was Quiet Rebellion that really got me excited and it’s been a great journey building it with my best mate.
What is Quiet Rebellion?
A: Quiet Rebellion is about doing things differently for your own self-amusment. It’s about quirky and uplifting twists on traditional products. It’s about light-hearted fun. Or, put simply, it’s about selling socks.
How did the idea for Quiet Rebellion come about?
A: We met for a drink after work and laughed about how boring and ordinary we both looked in our suits. We were certainly unrecognisable from the more fun-loving university days. Anyway, we decided that just because we had to look boring didn’t mean we had to feel boring – and so we decided to design socks with hidden patterns that only we would know about, purely for our own self-amusement
I: The history part was then added soon after – we wanted to put our degrees to good use at last and trawled through our old history notes finding curious historical figures which we could name our socks after and try and imbue a bit of their rebellious spirit into the wearers of our socks.
What risks did you initially take in order to start it up?
A: There was an element of financial risk, although we bootstrapped it pretty well so this was largely contained. When I quit my job I suppose there could have been some perceived career risk, although I feel that was offset by the experience and learning I’ve had from QR.
I: There is also a sort of time-risk, or opportunity cost, of investing a lot of free time into building the company. But ultimately, as well as the skills mentioned by Alex, the journey has also been enjoyable. You give up a lot of your social time but we’ve also found you gain a whole new community of friends and interesting people who are somehow connected to Quiet Rebellion or doing something similar. This can be from manufacturers in Turkey, to artists in New Zealand or postmen in Stockwell.
Having taken those risks what were the first steps you took in order to get the ball rolling for Quiet Rebellion?
A: We designed our first pair, got 300 pairs manufactured, and sent them to everyone we knew asking for feedback.
I: It’s amazing how aware you become of how helpful and supportive friends can be. Many went out of their way to try and do what they could to help.
Who did you seek advice from and who really helped you in the early stages?
A: The great thing about our product is that all our mates are the perfect target audience (buying both for themselves or gifts) and so all of their feedback was extremely formative
What pressures do you think many twenty-somethings are faced with?
A: I think it’s not so much pressure but rather a lack of encouragement to do something different
I: I completely agree. I’m amazed at how many of my friends complain about their mind-numbing jobs but feel they have to follow corporate careers. I think there is a fairly profound issue with how the big corporates, mainly professional and financial services firms, are able to take the brightest minds and contain them in set straight-jackets in return for perceived financial stability.
Did either of you ever doubt yourselves that you could do it?
A: Yes, still doubting myself now. Complete faith in Ini though…
How do you market yourselves?
A: I suppose we’re the “face” of the brand, so we try and market ourselves as naturally as possible
What do you wish you had known then that you know now?
A: We could have reaslied we needed investment to grow earlier and that would have sped up the process considerably
Any personality traits that either of you have discovered about yourselves along the way?
A: I’ve realised I’m perhaps overly structured in the way I think. In contrast, I’m always impressed by Ini’s creativity
I: Alex is very good at lining up all the ducks and making sure things can actually be achieved. I’m a dreamer who needs reigning in and bringing back down to earth. I’ve really enjoyed the free-thinking element to it all though; nothing exists until you create it, and everything is possible, there are no rules and doing things differently is an advantage – I find that incredibly liberating.
Any mishaps along the way?
A: Plenty. But at every mishap we say to each other most people would give up now, and so we have a laugh about it and move on
What has been your best moment so far?
A: The first time we were on TV we suddenly saw sales come pouring in and that was really exciting knowing we were starting to get traction
I: Since then, we’ve had a few good milestones: coverage in pretty much all the national papers, appearing on the coming series of Dragons Den and then both sharing a spot in The Progress 1000 awards for Most Influential Londoners in 2016.
What advice would you give other twenty-something’s who are thinking of pursuing a career in the same industry as you?
A: Do it with someone else, it makes it a lot more fun.
I: Absolutely agree. Most importantly: Do it.
What do you think the next steps are for you?
A: Creating more sock designs, growing the business and diversifying our product range. We are bringing out a beautiful range of weekend bags, handmade in Hackney and celebrating the Age of Travel and Adventure.
What’s the dream?
A: Everyone in the world to own a pair of QR socks.
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