Captain Paden Sickles is transitioning out of the Army after almost 10 years as a soldier to pursue her apparel business full-time. It all started with a ruck.
“I was finishing up Air Assault School and the last part was this 12-mile ruck," Sickles shared. "My feet were absolutely destroyed by the end of it. I was walking into graduation limping, my feet still bleeding and absolutely miserable. I made it but I could barely walk across the stage.”
With a background in engineering and economics and her MBA, Sickles' brain started trying to find solutions. It wasn't the boots that were killing her; it was her socks. Sickles started testing her initial products with Rangers and Green Berets. But eventually, it was everyone.
“The person who sits in an office all day to the person at Fort Drum whose feet are always cold. Even in Colorado, because it’s such a different climate, all of those factors matter in the kind of sock you need. I had to be meticulous to figure out what worked and didn’t,” Sickles explained. “I have one brother whose feet are always sweaty and another whose are always cold. Eventually, I was coming up with socks that worked for both. It really was about taking small things I knew as an engineer and applying them.”
Entrepreneurship and creativity is nothing new to Sickles; her mother had multiple businesses and her father is an architect.
"Us kids were out with him at 8 years old helping him do surveys,” she laughed.
The value of hard work was instilled early in Sickles and her siblings. She worked her way through college as a physical trainer before securing an ROTC scholarship. Though it started off with the Air Force, she found her “people” in the Army.
“I just didn't have the relationships, the friendships that I had in the Air Force that I do in the Army. As soon as I transitioned to the Army it was like, wow, this is family and it feels connected,” she explained. “In the Air Force, I felt like I was always competing with somebody but in the Army, it was family. That's just been my experience.”
Her experiences in the Army, coupled with the lessons her parents taught her prepared her for pursuing SickFit, she added.
“I'm ready for it and the scalability is there. It's creating those relationships with those businesses and that wholesale piece where they elevate a business to the next level that’s the next step,” Sickles said.
The motto behind the business is to encourage conversation, excitement around fashion, comfort and empowerment.
In November 2023, Sickles took the stage at the Military Influencer Conference to pitch for the final Second Service Foundation Military Entrepreneur Challenge. Founded by United States Air Force veteran Mark L. Rockefeller, Second Service was launched in 2016 to support and inspire military business ownership in America.
Sickles came in 2nd place on the stage in Las Vegas and walked away with $6,000 in start-up capital from the Sam Adams Brewing the American Dream program, $25k in pro-bono legal services from Holland & Knight LLP and other prizes she’ll use to scale SickFit to the next level.
“I’m just really thankful to the Second Service Foundation for believing in me. Their executive coaching has helped me so much,” she said.
When asked what she would want people to know about the importance of socks specifically, Sickles was direct.
“People are really price conscious but it really is all about quality and it’s your feet. You can continue to purchase cheaper ones every month or two or you can buy socks that will last you two or three years,” she said. “We also donate a portion of the proceeds to local communities in need. I love inspiring people and it’s all about paying it forward.”
In between growing her business, she stays plenty busy. Sickles is a licensed drone pilot and actually turned down numerous six-figure offers to do it full-time. She’s also a shoe collector and sheepishly admitted to having over 200 pairs of sneakers in her closet.
While SickFit is currently headquartered in Georgia outside of Fort Stewart, Sickles has plans to move the operations to Texas in the future once she leaves the Army, officially.
“Man, I’m going to miss my brothers and sisters so much. That’s what is going to be the hardest part of leaving,” she admitted.
Despite the differences and challenges of pursuing a new business, Sickles is ready.
“Life is sick,” she smiled.
Learn more about SickFit by clicking here.