Tuesday, November 11, 2014

No Flip-flopping

On a warm spring day not many years ago, 8-year-old Madison came home from a trip to the beach with her family and went straight to her room, closing the door behind her.  A half hour later, she came out with a drawing to show her father:  it was of a pair of flip flop sandals with fish designs on them.  Madison looked at her father and said, “They’re fish flops!  Can you make them for me?”

At the time, Madison’s father Dan was a full-time bank employee who had a side business selling a line of fishing shirts he’d created.  It was more a hobby than anything else, but he had made a few connections in the clothing manufacturing world.  More importantly, he thought his daughter’s idea was ingenious in its simplicity.  That night, he went online and bought the fishflops.com domain name.

During the next several years, the father and daughter got serious about their business.  Madison's idea was to make flip flops that showed off her love for swimming, fishing and drawing.  When she wasn't in school, she worked on the designs, drawing them herself and choosing the color combinations digitally.  Dan threw himself into working on the brand, reaching out to his network of connections to find the right manufacturer and soliciting investments from family and friends. 

It took some time, but once they got some samples made, Madison and Dan went to a large clothing trade show to see what kind of interest they could get from retail stores.  The interest level was there, with the pair getting orders from several dozen stores who wanted to offer Fish Flops as part of their spring catalogs.  Convinced they had a worthwhile idea, Dan placed an order with their new manufacturer to get a huge quantity made by January.  However, they encountered their first speed bump when manufacturing was delayed dramatically.  The first shipment wasn’t delivered until May, and almost a quarter of their initial batch of orders was cancelled.

They were convinced they had a great product, but it took time and hard work.  With thousands of pairs of FishFlops sitting in a warehouse, Madison and Dan went to numerous trade shows.  At one point, they got a big order for 10,000 pairs, but the retailer needed them delivered in different packaging.  Every day for a month, Madison and Dan, along with the rest of their family and friends, unpacked cases of FishFlops and re-packed them according to the retailer’s request to fulfill the order.  Dan himself was in the warehouse until 6pm on Christmas Eve finishing the re-packing.

Meanwhile, Madison learned her way around everything from packing shipments and checking inventory to explaining their pricing at a trade show booth.  But the great thing about being a kid in business is that you don’t know how hard some things are, and not knowing means you’re not afraid to try them.  What they really needed was to get in the door with a big, recognizable retail brand.  While scanning through her Twitter feed, Madison saw a tweet from a Nordstrom buyer who was looking for new lines to add to the store's collections.  She wrote a letter to the buyer, and within just a few days, she got a response that they were interested. 

After six years of work between Madison and her father, Nordstrom’s began carrying FishFlops, and things really started to move.  Within a year, they were selling out all over the country, and Madison herself was getting noticed in the media for her entrepreneurial spirit.  As of this year, FishFlops are still selling well, and Madison, now 16, has her own clothing line for young girls.  Dan left the bank to dedicate himself to the business, and Madison has already put away enough of the profits to pay her own way through college.

Have you ever come up with an idea that you felt was great at first, but then you or someone else thought it might not work, so you gave up on it?  The story of Madison and Dan making FishFlops a reality is a great example of how important it is to follow through on your dreams.  In basketball, they say that you’ll always miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take, which means that if you never try, you’ll certainly never succeed!  Think about your big idea, and don’t let trying to be “realistic” stop you from figuring out how to take it to the next level!

Until Next Week…

Live Your Dreams!

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