It’s been nine years since Michael Elyash was in Mr. Keeler’s Spanish class at Glenbrook North, and a lot has changed since then.
Elyash, 27, is the co-founder of Living Royal
, a novelty sock business. The Northbrook resident and his now-wife Mariya started the company just one year after graduating Glenbrook North in 2008.
“I went to the University of Illinois at Chicago to study finance and math, and my wife was going to Loyola to study psychology and pre-med,” Elyash said. “We started an online business and would travel to Los Angeles to buy apparel. It started out as a novelty gifts and accessories business.”
Elyash had an internship at the Chicago Board of Trade with Goldman Sachs, but much of his focus was on his online business.
“My phone would be ringing from online customers during my college lectures,” he said.
That’s when the business really took off. In between buying trips and photo shoots, Michael and Mariya were working tirelessly to fill online orders. They soon outgrew their space in Michael’s parents’ basement and had to establish a small, local office. Their focus shifted from headwear and sweatshirts to strictly socks in 2012.
“No one was producing novelty socks at the time – especially for women and children,” Elyash said. “We bought some more equipment and started ramping up production. People were starting to catch on quickly from social media. We were getting celebrity endorsements on Instagram.”
Living Royal’s celebrity fans include Miley Cyrus, Khloe Kardashian, Hilary Duff and Ben Zobrist.
Today, Living Royal employs a team of 40 – everyone from designers to production specialists – and has offices in Wheeling and the West Loop. They produce about 10,000 pairs of socks every day.
“We produce all of our socks here in Chicago,” Elyash said. “We’re very proud of that.”
While at Glenbrook North, Elyash never imagined his products would be stocking the shelves of Neiman Marcus, Top Shop and Forever 21.
“I took a few entrepreneurial and business classes, but there weren’t many offerings at the time,” Elyash said, noting how fortunate current students are.
“I started our company when I was 19 years old,” he said. “It’s important that kids pursue their passions at a young age because they’ll have time to work hard and execute. We started out with no money and no business connections, but we had grit and learned how to network; we built everything from the ground up.”
Keeler recently received an email from Elyash:
“You wrote me a letter when I finished your class nine years ago… You wrote that you saw something special in me and that you knew my future would be bright! …. Every time I look around at what I have built, I remember the people who believed in me.”
Keeler said Elyash was “bright and strong academically like many Glenbrook North students,” but it was his unique personality that really made him stand out.
“He was determined and detached, in a healthy way, from the opinions of others,” Keeler said. “Having been in sales and the private sector myself, I always respected this in students whom I observe this quality. I am floored and delighted by his entrepreneurial success. He is absolutely what it means to be a Spartan and an inspiration.”