Rachel Smith learned the importance of sharing at an early age.
Growing up in a family of seven on a tight budget, Rachel and her siblings shared pretty much everything – especially socks. “Socks were a hot commodity in our home,” Rachel said. “It didn’t matter if they had holes or didn’t match. In the Smith house, if you found a good pair of socks you held onto them.”
As a child of Deaf parents, Rachel often acted as an interpreter for her mom and dad – bridging the gap between them and the hearing world. “We were literally their voice,” Rachel explained.
Rachel Smith signs with her parents Linda and Dennis Smith.
As a family, that meant she and her siblings had different experiences than their classmates, but her parents always taught them to be humble, help each other and others. As a result of that experience, Rachel knew she wanted to make a difference in life, so after college, she became a special education teacher at her high school, while waiting tables for extra cash.
At the time her brother, Ivan, was running a sock company and selling on eBay. Rachel asked to join him to help bolster her teaching salary.
After about two years of nudging him, Ivan finally said, “Rachel, leave me alone and start your own sock company,” Rachel said. He also gave her some invaluable advice – start by selling on eBay. Which is exactly what she did. “My brother challenged me and I was like, okay, I’m going to do this!” Rachel said.
Now, 11 years later, Rachel is the proud owner of Pride Socks, which she runs full time. Her mission is to empower people to realize their self-worth, to be proud of who they are and to accomplish their dreams.
Starting in 2010 with just three types of sock designs, today Rachel and her team also sell hats, T-shirts, tank tops and collaborate with artists and nonprofits to help the LGBTQ+ community.
“We want to help people recognize and acknowledge their accomplishments,” she said. “Pride means taking ownership and being proud of who you are. Using that inner power to live your best life so you become a catalyst for creating a positive impact on yourself and the community.”
She points to a specific moment in her high school years that would eventually inspire the name of her business.
When she was 14, Rachel began running cross country at her high school. But without formal training, guidance or any real understanding of how to compete, she quickly grew frustrated.
“The gun went off, and I had no idea what to do,” Rachel recalled. “I was angry. I didn’t understand the running strategy.”
After her first race, Rachel was feeling particularly discouraged and her coach noticed.
The next Saturday, as Rachel boarded the bus with her teammates, her coach handed her a note that read “I am proud of you.” And that changed everything.
“I was very painfully shy, and my heart was racing. It was the first time that word was introduced to my life – or anyone had said that to me,” Rachel said. “That is why Pride Socks is what it is – I wanted to build a brand to help build that sense of pride to help people chase and live their dreams.”
Today, Rachel includes a “Proudest Moment” card with each purchase. Customers share their proudest moment with Rachel, who posts it on her blog. In this way, Pride Socks doesn’t just celebrate pride for the LBGQT+ community, nor do they limit Pride to just one month a year.
Rachel Smith with her wife Melissa Young and daughter Moxie.
“We celebrate pride 365 days a year,” Rachel said with a smile. And of course, she couldn’t be prouder.