The Sole of Hiking
Local Entrepreneur Turned Blisters Into Business
BY CHRISTINA OLSON HENDRICKSON
You could say it was Mt. Pilchuck that started it all.
Nearly two decades ago, a third-grader from Lake Stevens hiked 2,300 feet to the mountain’s summit, where he could see Mt. Baker, Mt. Rainier, and the Olympic mountains stretching out all around him. That moment of exhilaration hooked little Rami Nasr on both the mountain and on hiking. That’s why when he started performance sock company From The Ground Up (FTGU) years later, his very first design featured the silhouette of the Mt. Pilchuck fire lookout.
Nasr didn’t intend to build a sock empire. He was a casual hiker until college, when his buddies at the University of Washington encouraged him to join them on more intense weekend backpacking trips. On one of these adventures, Nasr packed the wrong socks and ended up with painful blisters and bleeding feet. He promised himself that after he hobbled home, he’d buy proper hiking socks for future trips.
But there was a problem. After conducting some research, Nasr realized there weren’t socks available that would meet his needs. He decided to work with a manufacturer on a single batch of high quality Merino wool socks. The plan was to keep some for himself and sell the others to see if there was a demand.
There was. Nasr began selling his socks at the Lake Stevens Farmers Market, where he got direct feedback from customers that he incorporated into subsequent production runs.
FTGU is now three years old, and Nasr’s socks have been worn by through-hikers on the Appalachian and Pacific Crest Trails, as well as runners traversing the length of the United States.
They’ve shared their stories — and their love of FTGU socks — with other outdoor enthusiasts, which has resulted in steady growth over the past year. That growth has allowed Nasr to branch out into apparel and other types of purpose-made socks, like compression socks for skiers and low cut socks for runners. FTGU products are now sold at 30+ local retailers, including all PCC Market locations (and the Lake Stevens Farmers Market). But Nasr isn’t done yet. For him, part of what it means to run a successful company is to give back.
“Companies are indebted to the communities that support them,” he explained. “What good are you doing in the community? The way I see FTGU is that we’re a sock company, but we’re a social cause company first.”
Nasr has focused his company’s efforts on protecting Washington’s 3,500+ hiking trails. FTGU partners with the Washington Trails Association (WTA), donating 5% of all sales to the nonprofit.
“WTA is the number one resource in Washington for trail maintenance and getting people outdoors,” he said. “Over the last 10 years, hiking has boomed — and with that growth, there’s a need to protect and preserve our trails.”
In addition to supporting WTA, FTGU often organizes trail and beach cleanup days, encouraging their customers to pitch in and make a difference. These cleanup days result in better trails — and a more invested and connected community.
“This industry is really special, because our customers are people obsessed with the outdoors and who want to steward the land,” Nasr said. “It’s great seeing younger people especially get involved, because they’re the ones who will be inhabiting the planet in the decades to come.”
These days, it’s less likely you’ll see Nasr out on a hike himself. “I used to be outdoorsy, but then I started a company,” he joked. More often, he’s working on new products for the business or manning the FTGU booth at the Lake Stevens Farmers Market.
But on an early Saturday morning, there’s still a chance you may bump into him on the trail up Mt. Pilchuck. You might recognize him by his hiking socks.
Rami Nasr, founder of From The Ground Up, shares three tips to help you get the most out of your time on the trails.
CHECK OUT TRAIL REPORTS
The Washington Trail Association (WTA) website provides updated reports and news on trail closures, conditions and weather. Knowing what you’ll be facing means you can come prepared with the right clothing and sufficient food and water. It will also help you decide if you have enough time (and desire!) to hike longer or more difficult trails.
INVEST IN QUALITY HIKING GEAR (ESPECIALLY SOCKS!)
If you plan to hike often, it pays to purchase high quality gear that will last for years. Socks are often overlooked when shopping for performance wear, but your feet take a lot of abuse on a trail. Make it a little easier on them with socks that offer compression to support the arch of your foot, and breathable, antimicrobial wool for comfort and hygiene.
LEAVE NO TRACE
If you packed it in, pack it out. Don’t leave any trash behind, even if it’s compostable — people are hiking to see the beauty of nature, not decomposing coffee cups. Our trails are only as good as our stewardship of them.
From The Ground Up