The Inspiration of Adding Fish Designs to Flip Flops Was The Easy Part- Taking Them to Market Would Require Effort
Even if 15 year old Madison Robinson had been 30 instead of only 8 years old when she conceived the idea of Fish Flops, I would still think it was a fantastic story of how a person can use innovation and thinking, to make money and create wealth.
Madison “Maddie” Robinson describes her-self as having always loved flip flops, particularly growing up in Galveston Island Texas. Madison was only 8 years old when she began to think about combining her love of flip flops with her love of the sea, fish, and drawing.
Madison approached her father, who had worked in banking before stepping out to design T-shirts, with her idea of starting a business. No doubt Madison got some inspiration from her father’s foray into T-shirt design, but the idea of adorning flip flops with images of fish was all Madison’s.
Madison soon produced drawings of her fish- flip flop idea and came up with the name “Fish Flops” on the spot. Dan Robinson was so impressed he immediately logged onto the computer and bought the domain name fishflops.com. Madison asked her father to help her turn her drawings into a product they could sell.
Dan Robinson admits that he initially let the idea fade away until Madison asked him about their progress a few months later. It was at that time Dan made a decision to move forward with the business idea and help Madison develop her fish flop idea. After all, Dan had originally been very inspired by the idea and believed it was a good way to make extra money for Madison.
Madison continued to create fish flop designs, while her father honed his business skills and began putting a company together. It took several years to reach a launching point, but that came in 2011 when Dan and Madison Robinson attended their first trade show with product samples in hand.
When the trade show ended Dan and Madison had over 30 orders in hand from stores who had agreed to carry their Fish Flops. An overseas manufacturer was secured and shipments began in May of 2011.
Jump ahead a couple of years and Fish Flops have just hit the $1 million mark in retail sales. In 2012 over 60,000 pairs were sold at an average price of $20 a pair for total of $1.2 million. Dan and Madison Robinson have also succeeded in getting their Fish Flops on the shelves of Nordstrom’s and Macys along with a number of independent retailers.
While her father runs most of the day to day business operations Madison Robinson continues to design all Fish Flops herself and uses social media to promote their company. Madison was able to garner a lot of attention via Twitter when Nancy O’Dell of Entertainment Tonight discovered them through one of her tweets.
Dan Madison is already working hard to expand the brand by adding hats, T-shirts, children’s books (written by Madison) and a soon to be released video game/app called Fish Flops Virtual World. Dan Robinson believes the brand is “just getting started” and sees the potential for huge growth in the future.
While neither Dan nor Madison Robinson are millionaires just yet, Madison’s college tuition has been completely funded and all indications are that the company will continue to grow.
Reaching $1 million in retail sales is a significant accomplishment and to do it in two years shows that you can still make money fast by starting and running your own company.
Simple ideas such as turning flip flops into fish flops often have wide appeal in the marketplace. It is often the simple ideas that go on to make millions of dollars. A good example is the Life is Good Apparel Company started by brothers Bert and John Jacobs. Their design of a simple stick figure/person enjoying life has grown into a $100 million company. How is that for a way to make extra money?
Ways to make money- Talking points
Many in the media who reported this story did it in a way that made it look like 15 year old Madison Robinson’s success was all her own, with barely a mention of her father’s help. This prompted many negative comments from readers who pointed out the fact that Madison obviously got help from her father.
But here is the real point. Anyone who starts a new business or company, or who develops a new product is going to need help from others. It is very rare that a person can start and grow a company 100% on their own. There are entire books written on how to assemble the right team of people around you, to best take your concept or company forward.
So of course Madison got help from her father; who cares? It is expected. Leaving out Dan Robinson’s role in starting and growing the business just made for better headlines, that’s all.
Which brings up the final point; at the age of 8 Madison was not in the business of manufacturing or designing flip flops, and she was not on the payroll of a shoe design company. Yet somehow she thought up the idea of putting fish designs on flip flops; an utterly simple and novel idea that has proven to be a million dollar inspiration.