Q: "How’d you end up as Dir. of Sales & Marketing at Socksmith?"
SJ: "My long time friend and former sales rep, Henry 'Hank the Tank' Tushar, who had called on me when I was a retailer nearly 20 years ago, knew I was looking to move on from the job I had. I was in a funky place. I enjoyed what I was doing, loved the brand and the people I was working for and with, but was struggling daily with the way we were competing (and often winning) against our retailers. And in my lifestyle channel in particular, I was going into sales calls, or presenting the line at a tradeshow, and I was getting my ass kicked by the owners and buyers asking what the F we were doing? Why were we always on sale? Did we know how difficult we were making things for them? I knew what being a retailer was all about, what types of struggles they were up against, and how hard you have to work to make a buck, and it took its toll. I didn’t want to come up with excuses anymore as to why we were off-price and they weren’t. It sucked and I like to be trusted, not ignored or thought of as being some douchebag who wasn’t honest. So, since Henry and I were so close and I knew he was in front of a lot of people, I asked him to keep an eye open for me. He did just that and one day he called me and said, 'I have a great opportunity for you, with this small brand out of Santa Cruz. They’re on fire and are growing faster than they expected and could use some help managing it. If I wasn’t so deep in my own deal, I’d jump on this in a second!' When he said that, I knew it was legit.
A couple of days later I was in Santa Cruz, meeting with the Gils. I took a tour of their retail store (their Mother Ship store, Sockshop & Shoe Co.), had some lunch, talked for a long time and began to put a plan together. They were some of the nicest people I had ever met. It took some time to exit my current gig, but a couple of months later I started at Socksmith. Of course, they were actually hoping to hire Henry for my job, but the timing just wasn’t right for him so they settled for me :). Another year or so later, after Henry retired from being on the road, they brought him on board as Director of Operations, so it all worked out."
Q: "What are the key events which have influenced where you are today?"
SJ: "I loved being a retailer and owning my own business. When I was growing up, I actually wanted to open a bar. I was the only 6-year-old I knew who actually thought it would be cool to one day pour drinks, shoot the shit with locals, and call it work. I just loved that idea. So did my brother. We grew up in a time when cocktail parties and two-martini lunches were a thing, so seeing my parents entertain state legislators and lobbyists, and having cocktail parties at the house, was cool to me (my dad was in politics when I was young). So, liking the interaction with people, I think I just found myself gravitating towards jobs that put me there. That’s not to say all jobs were great. Painting houses in Sacramento in the summer wasn’t fun, neither was pulling carpet or sheetrock, but bungee jumping as a job, while in college? Come on. That was great. Every step leads you closer to something, even if that step is leaping off a metal basket 200 feet in the air."
Q: "Who is the real Sean Jimenez?"
SJ: "Is this blog PG? Probably. I’ll keep it PG because I have a horrible potty-mouth, something I’m trying to fix. That’s an interesting question… any time you’re forced to look at yourself from the outside, it’s always challenging and a bit scary I think, because I can be a real f**ker at times. Some people would tell you I’m intense. Others would say I’m crazy. Most would say I work hard and don’t take a lot of crap but am very supportive. Many would say I’m a bit dry, but hopefully funny. Several would say I’m too trusting. That might be as much a fault as it is a quality. I’ve probably trusted a few too many people in my day because I’ve definitely been burned and got my ass kicked as a result.
A few of my closest friends and colleagues would say I’m incredibly loyal and that’s one of the more important things to me. If I work with someone, whether we agree on things or not, if we’re on the same 'team' and someone’s coming after you, I’m the one standing in front of them every time. No questions. Colleagues, owners, brand. Always protect the brand. If we’re colleagues, friends, or whatever, I’ll do anything I possibly can to help you if you ever ask. And if I can’t, I’ll try my hardest to find someone who can."
Q: "Where would we find you on a Saturday night?"
SJ: "If my son’s home, maybe smoking a cigar in the backyard, a habit I’ve recently introduced him to as he’s gotten older. My wife’s thrilled about this by the way. If my daughter’s home, well, I certainly can’t smoke around her, so we’re hanging out, watching a movie or driving around in the country. Or, she could be home and ignoring us because she’s on Tik Tok, Instagram or whatever and she’s a teenager. If it’s just me and my wife, we’re most likely looking at each other saying, 'holy shit, I’m tired. Let’s go to bed.' Even though our kids are older and can do their own thing, it’s still exhausting trying to raise them!
But, now that things have opened up, I’m happy to say you can soon find me at our local dive bar, busting out some serious karaoke. And since my band broke up recently, after 11 years, you’ll probably have to tear me away from the damn machine. Oh, and I WILL lead with some serious George Michael, so be prepared."
Q: "Do you have a mentor, or someone who inspires you who has helped you get to where you’re at now?"
SJ: "I wouldn’t say I had a 'mentor' necessarily. The person who had that role in business, when I was learning, totally f**ked me and as a result, it set me on a path that took me a while to recover from. But I’ve had a lot of jobs and worked with a lot of good people and have learned something every time. If I died this very second, I would hope that in my eulogy, many people would know they were important to me. My parents were good parents. Strict father, caring mother who was home when we came home from school. Lots of values and we were spoiled growing up. That shit changed when we got a little older, lost everything and my brother and I were on our own. But, prior to that, it was good. Things like that force you to grow up fast and when you suffer, you learn. Let’s just say I learned a lot.
My wife’s inspiring to me and probably one of the smartest people I know, to a fault. She’s the type of person who figures things out really fast, gets it done and makes everyone better. She could have blown by me in her career, and I mean blown by me, but she gets bored quickly, simply because she’s no longer challenged. And the woman can work a damn room, she really should have been a politician's wife. Now I just laugh, but before I was like, 'What the hell, woman! Go get that corner office!'
Quite honestly, and this will sound like a major kiss-up but I don’t really care, the Gils are people I admire a great deal. They’ve worked incredibly hard to get where they are, made sacrifices, worked together, built an amazing business and I’ve truly learned a great deal from them. And Henry, my friend and colleague, he’d be in my eulogy as well. The man works hard and has incredible character. Nicole Chabot is like that too. She’s another person who I admire greatly and gets shit done.
I could go on, but I’m lucky to have met and worked with so many great people and I’m proud to say they’re all inspirational. Of course, that doesn’t mean they’d all go to my funeral."
Q: "What is your favorite thing about working for Socksmith?"
SJ: "Working in such a creative environment is incredible. I’m in sales and marketing, but I get to create and discuss ideas with the Gils, our Creative Director, Katie, and the rest of the team. It’s fun to be in the room and talk about product - what might work in what channel, what’s new and how we can challenge ourselves as a brand. Miles Davis said, 'If anyone wants to be about creating, they have to be about change.' As a brand, we’re never sitting still. We’re always creating. I really enjoy introducing new products to our team and getting them fired up about it. During COVID we kind of regrouped, and as a result will be introducing a number of really cool things this year and next. When I was hired, we had 3 sales reps and now I manage over 30. Convincing them all to tell the Socksmith story, and be passionate about it, is challenging but also very rewarding.
It’s also really cool to work with the accounts we have and I’ve made a lot of friends in my role. From buyers at giant companies, to small business owners, to marketing executives, and so on, it’s very rewarding to feel like it doesn’t always have to be about work, and there are true friendships that have developed over the years.
I’d also like to add that I really appreciate what we do as a company, on the philanthropic level. We’re not a brand that pats itself on the back every time we hand out a spoon, but we’ve donated tens of thousands of dollars over the years, and thousands upon thousands of pairs of socks for a ton of organizations. We’ve never been a brand that self promotes in that regard but I’m really proud of what we’ve done and the difference we’ve made."
Sean and longtime friend and colleague, Henry.
Q: "If you could go back in time and change one thing, what would it be?"
SJ: "I hate to look back at what could have been since there’s not much I can do about it regarding my career. But, if I could change any one thing, I’d have to say learn Spanish. I only speak it a little and not even that well, but it’s something that’s bothered me over the years. Not so much because I’ve needed it in the jobs I’ve had, but because when my grandmother had a stroke many years ago, before she passed, she only spoke Spanish when she was able to speak at all. English had totally abandoned her. Not being able to communicate with her very well in the end still breaks my heart."
Q: "Where do you see yourself in 15 years?"
SJ: "Wow. The darker side of me says probably dead, since I commute from Northern California to Santa Cruz, and people drive like friggin’ maniacs. It’s so much worse now, post-COVID, it’s unbelievable. But the lighter, more optimistic side of me says hopefully still standing upright with a whiskey and cigar in my hand, hanging out with my childhood friends and all our kids. Maybe there’s a grandkid or two in there, and if so I’ll probably be getting yelled at to get my cigar away from them so they don’t smell. Chances are there’s a guitar or two plugged in somewhere close so if there are grandkids around, you can bet they’ll know a power chord or two so we can make some serious noise. And if I’m really lucky, maybe I’ll be pouring drinks from behind the counter of my own bar, speaking Spanish to a customer, just because I can."