Switchflops: A high school art project turned big business

A foot model displaying one of Lindsay Phillips' Switchflops products.

Don't like your flops? Switch them out for the latest Switchflops model. (Photo Credit: CC BY-SA/SoCoolOnline)

As summer comes to rest beneath the first wave of autumn leaves, most casual footwear enthusiasts abandon their old vanilla flip flops. But Lindsay Phillips, 25, had a different, more fashionable idea. Back when she was 16 and in high school in Tampa, Fla., Phillips designed flip flops with interchangeable straps for fashionable flair as part of an art project. Just a few years later, Phillips’ Switchflops business was born. According to AOL Small Business, Switchflops is projected to generate $30 million in revenue in 2010 alone.

Switchflops: From a simple idea springs many options

Most Americans don’t have the money to fill their closets with an entire shoe store’s worth of casual fashion footwear, which is where Switchflops come in. Lindsay Phillips’ creation gives consumers many different fashion combinations from which to choose, thanks to a wide variety of available straps. From buttons to bangles and beads, it’s all there. The sandal itself costs $35, and extra straps are $12 each. Effectively, each new Switchflops strap makes for a new shoe, so the product is budget-conscious. Considering Switchflops’ success, it comes as no surprise that the company has expanded into other areas of fashion retail such as ballet shoes, children’s sandals and wedges and fashion accessories such as bags and scarves. Phillips’ fashion inventions are sold in more than 4,000 stores worldwide.

‘Everyone wore flip-flops to school, all the time’

Phillips saw the need and filled it, displaying a classic entrepreneurial sense. The kids at her high school loved to wear flip-flops to school (“Everyone wore them all the time,” she told AOL), but the casual shoes weren’t always the most fashionable footwear in and of themselves. Changing it up on a daily basis would have required buying multiple pairs, which wasn’t practical for everyone. With Switchflops, need and idea meshed perfectly. Phillips pursued a patent with the help of a patent attorney, and that patent was granted in 2004. By 2007, with the help of experienced CEO Jeffrey Davidson, Phillips got Switchflops off the ground. Now Phillips is looking to establish an overseas office for the company.

Customization is a popular sell

AOL Small Business cites studies indicating that companies that offer their customers the greatest customization options – whether those companies are in retail or a different sector – are more popular than ever. It’s a zeitgeist Phillips has tapped into with Switchflops.

“Everyone wants to be a little unique, and while we might have the same bag, we don’t want it to be exactly the same,” she said.


AOL Small Business

July 2010 interview with Switchflops creator Lindsay Phillips

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