Switchflops: A Smart, Successful Fashion Startup

If you’re an entrepreneur, the Great Recession isn’t the time to stick your head in the sand. Take Switchflops‘ Lindsay Phillips, who turned her interchangeable flip-flop strap idea into a $30 million fashion company between 2007-today. AOL Small Business’ Jeff Williams has a fantastic story on Switchflops':

Now 25, Phillips came up with the idea for SwitchFlops at 16, as part of a high school art project. Today, her company — Lindsay Phillips — employs 35 full-time staffers and is projected to bring in $30 million in revenue this year.

The idea is simple — SwitchFlops are sandals with interchangeable straps. So instead of buying several pairs of sandals, customers can instead own one sandal with multiple straps. In the wake of the Great Recession, a 3-in-1 shoe (or, heck, 50-in-1) is tailor-made for shoppers on a budget.

The basic sandal itself costs $35, and additional straps are $12. Officially launched in 2007, SwitchFlops are now sold in more than 4,000 stores around the world, and Phillips’ line has evolved into other footwear like ballet flats, wedges and espadrilles. The company also makes shopping bags, scarves and sandals for children. Lindsay Phillips, the company, is currently building an overseas office.

When she launched the company two years ago, Phillips brought in an experienced 50-year-old CEO, writes Williams, a move that helped her company grow and prosper.

Why are Switchflops such a hit among fashion-conscious women? I think the business model hits on a Gen-Y mentality of being fashionable while avoiding waste (being green). Why have 12 different pairs of flip-flops when you can keep the same pair and change out the straps instead?

Switchflops, by virtue of its design, also produces instant brand loyalty. You’ve already paid $35 for the sole. The only place you can get different straps is at the Switchflops store, so, assuming you like the sole, you stick with the model. It’s Apple-esque, in a way.

I love seeing an innovative, practical product from a small company make it, the way Switchflops is. It’s encouraging and inspiring.

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