Bright Ideas: Fish Flops

A trip to the beach several years ago inspired then-8-year-old Madison Robinson to come up with a million dollar idea: FishFlops, sea-themed flip-flops for kids.

She was too young to think about business or even know what that was, but she was old enough to know that she really wanted them. Madison sketched colorful flip-flops with ocean creatures, showed the drawings to her father, Dan Robinson, and asked him to make them for her.

“I just gave it to my dad and I was like look, ‘FishFlops,’” said Madison, now 15.

Robinson liked what he saw, so he went online and registered a web domain for $10. However, Madison’s idea remained just an idea for four years. Robinson was busy with his own fishing T-shirt business, which he sold to more than 75 shops in Texas.

“She would say, ‘Hey Daddy, make me FishFlops,’ but she didn’t understand that I couldn’t go down the street to get them,” Robinson said.

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Madison never gave up on her idea, and in 2010 Robinson gave in to his daughter’s requests.

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“She bugged me and bugged me to make her FishFlops,” he recalled. “I came to the realization that she’s only going to be a kid for so long, and so they needed to be launched while she was a kid.”

He got nine samples made overseas and went to a surf trade show in Orlando, where he wrote 37 orders.

“After that show I had to make a decision. I’ve got to make a commitment to inventory. I’m going to be in business or I’m not,” he said.

Robinson made the commitment to his daughter’s idea and ordered 36,000 pairs.

But success didn’t come instantly for the entrepreneurial father-and-daughter duo. They only wrote small orders, but a letter Madison wrote last year to a buyer at the high-end department store chain Nordstrom changed everything.

The buyer replied to Madison’s letter and showed interest in her flip-flop line.

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Today, FishFlops are sold in Nordstrom, where they have already sold out this season, and in mom-and-pop shops.

With the help of her dad, Madison has already sold over $1 million of the colorful kid flip-flops. Now she’s getting ready to launch 50 new designs, hoping to capture a broader market: young teens and their mothers.

However, she has even bigger goals for her company.

“I think it could become like a lifestyle brand,” she said. “You can make clothes out of the characters. You can make school supplies, lunchboxes, bathing suits, beach toys. I think you can pretty much make anything like you could possibly imagine.”

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