Could She Find Her Calling and Save the Family Business?

Could She Find Her Calling and Save the Family Business?

Gina Locklear lived and worked not far from the town where she grew up. Her parents owned a sock mill in Fort Payne, Alabama, which was formerly known as the Sock Capital of the World; but her parents' mill was struggling. The majority of mills in the town had closed their factories and outsourced their jobs. Gina was struggling too, trying to find work that felt meaningful. She wanted to move back to her hometown, but what could she do there?

One day when she was grocery shopping for healthy foods, she had an idea. Could her idea turn around the family business and help her find her purpose?

  • The former W.B. Davis hosiery mill, which now holds an antiques center and restaurant, in Fort Payne, Alabama

    As a teenager, Gina worked in her parents' mill after school, but after graduating from college in Birmingham, some 95 miles away, she remained there to begin a career in real estate.

  • Vance Veal, the longtime plant manager, lends his expertise to the organic sock line, called Zkano.

    Gina soon realized that real estate wasn't for her, though, and wondered what path might be the right one for her to follow. Family friend Vance Veal, the plant manager at her parents' mill, encouraged her to pray about the matter.

  • Gina Locklear oversees every step of sock manufacturing at the Emi-G Knitting mill

    Gina did as Vance suggested, praying, "Lord, show me your will for my life." Soon thereafter, Gina began to feel the tug of her hometown and her folks' sock mill, but how could she make her mark in an industry that was on the wane in the region? What could she do to put the family's now-struggling company back on its feet?

  • Socks are prepared to have the toe seam sewn.

    Gina, who follows a healthy diet, was shopping for organic produce one day when it struck her that, if avoiding harmful chemicals in one's food was advisable, might not the same be true of the clothing one wears? Why not, then, market socks made of organic cotton?

  • Gina with her proud parents

    Gina's folks were skeptical at first, but Veal was sold on the idea and Gina did her homework, coming up with marketing reports, trend analyses and cost calculations that indicated that the new approach could work.

  • A board of socks hangs in Gina's office. Gina has transformed her parents' sock business, at the Emi-G Knitting mill in Fort Payne, Alabama.

    Gina and her folks initially included only plain white socks in their organic offerings, but it wasn't long before Gina was designing colorful fashion socks under the brand name Little River Sock Mill. The company's more than 300 sock styles are now sold in stores in locations as far away as New York, Toronto and Hawaii. Martha Stewart selected the line to receive her 2015 American Made award, and The New York Times dubbed Gina the Sock Queen of Alabama.

    And it all began with simple but heartfelt prayer for God's guidance.

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