Shoes have always seduced women – and emptied their wallets. A study by the Consumer Report’s ShopSmart magazine says that women on average own 17 pairs of shoes.
But given the weak economy and tight budgets, we can’t all afford to buy new shoes all the time. So wouldn’t it be great to have the option of dressing up your footwear to create different looks? With this approach, you can just have 1 shoe, yet you can create different looks to make it appear that you’ve got a closetful of new shoes!
In 2000, then 16-year old Lindsay Phillips stumbled on this simple yet brilliant idea in her high school’s art design project. She created a ceramic flip flop where she put fun and funky buttons on the straps. Her creation got positive response from those who’ve seen it, with one guest at their home even trying it for size thinking that the flip flops were real. She knew that she was on to something.
Phillips then decided to create a functional prototype of her ceramic flip flops with Velcro for straps. Called SwitchFlops, Phillips created wearable flip flop sandals with interchangeable straps. With just one sandal, straps can be interchanged to give the flip flop a totally different look.
The idea was a hit among Phillips’ family friends. With the full support of her family, Phillips decided to look into the potential of her invention as a business idea.
She embarked on patenting her flip flop idea, and it took 4 years for her to get the patent. During that time period, she continued with her studies and enrolled in Rollins College in Winter Park, FL. She also worked summers at Polo Ralph Lauren to learn about merchandising and manufacturing.
In May 2004, her patent application was granted. With the patent secured, Phillips partnered with her mom to look for a manufacturer for her Switch Flops. Alas, she couldn’t find a manufacturer in the United States willing to gamble on her idea. In August 2005, she went to her first sourcing trip to China, and found a factory willing to work with her startup company. She placed her first order of 5,000 shoes. She then rented a storage shed, which served as her first office and warehouse.
The first retail appearance of SwitchFlops was in January 2007 at the Surf Expo Trade Show in Orlando. She picked up her first retail accounts during the trade show. She set up her website www.switchflops.com in April 2007, and in June of that year, she received her college diploma.
The rest, as they say, is history. Phillips’s company, which bears her name Lindsay Phillips, has grown into a $30 million business. SwitchFlops has branched out to offer customization and personalization not just of flip flops but also ballet flats, kitten-heel shoes, wedges, peep toe sandals and other footwear. There is also a version of Switchflops for kids. Her company also sells bags, scarves and gift items such as Pedi-Set-Go Pedicure Kit.
She hired a professional CEO, Jeffrey Davidson, in March 2008 to steer and handle the growth of her company. Today, her interchangeable shoe and flip flop business is sold in more than 4,000 retail locations, including Canada and United Kingdom, with international expansion continuing to be a focus for the company.
Phillips’ SwitchFlops idea was a surefire way to make a wardrobe budget stretch. With the tag line “Change you look, not your sole,” she reinvented flip flops and footwear. Switchflops also appeal to consumers looking for products that are unique and customized for their tastes. Women have also found Lindsay Phillips’ interchangeable shoes suitable for travel, when you don’t want to bring many pairs of shoes in your luggage, but needs to switch off your look. Best of all, the flip flops are chic yet solidly made and comfortable to wear.