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FlyingFlips.com: An Online Crowd Sourced Design Platform and Footwear E-Commerce Website with a Golden Heart

http://www.flyingflips.com

FlyingFlips is a crowd sourced design company that uses the designs that are most popular to print limited edition Havaianas-style FlipFlops.

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We had an interview with Mr. “Ivo Staiano“; Founder of the Canada (Vancouver, BC)-based start-up “http://www.FlyingFlips.com” regarding his Company.

FlyingFlips is a footwear (Flip-Flops to be precise) e-commerce start-up website with a brilliant and very innovative twist!

Below is the full interview that we have conducted with Mr. Staiano regarding his very cool start-up “FlyingFlips.com”;

1. What is it exactly that you do and what “FlyingFlips” is all about?

We’re a crowd sourced design company that uses the designs that are most popular to print limited edition Havaianas-style FlipFlops. They are limited edition prints and we donate a pair of sandals to a person in need for every pair we sell. As well, we profit share with the winning designers whose designs we print!

2. When has “FlyingFlips” been founded? And what stage is “FlyingFlips” currently at?

We founded our company at the beginning of 2011 and are currently (just got it up last month!) launching our e-store. We have our first design for FlyingFlips.com available and we’re working with indie artists to have more to vote on every day.

We are now starting to reach out to fashion and lifestyle blogs to spread the message of what we’re working hard to do with the brand..


3. What is “FlyingFlips” business model and how does it work?

We crowd-source designs from graphic artist all over the world. Anyone can come to the site and vote on their favourite designs. 

We print the most popular designs that win.

Artists who submit, of course, go to their social media to have friends vote up their designs to get them considered for printing.
We profit share with the winning designers for any of their designs that are printed and sold.

Customers know they’re supporting people in need with our charity donation model and profit-sharing with indie designers for their beutiful designs!

4. How did your team meet? And who in your team does what?

I was Running with the bulls in spain.. Trevor fell and I helped him up as a bull ran by- it was a close call and he was shaken up. Later we ran into each other again and realized we were both from Vancouver Canada!

We met up back in Vancouver and started talking about the concept for FlyingFlips.com and realized we both had a passion for social charity and connecting it to fashion and artists. We got to work to make it happen.

5. What, exactly, makes you different from existing options, what will make your product and/or service stand out in the marketplace? In other words what’s unique about you and what’s new about what you make?

We are the only FlipFlops brand doing crowd-sourced indie designs on a product with a high-quality sandal..
As well, the buy-one-donate-one model and artist profit-share. We are working to create a company with a give-back philosophy. 

Our model is to distribute directly from the manufacturer to the end consumer. This allows us to take the savings and apply it to the donated pair of sandals as well as profit-sharing with artists and still keeping a competitive price-point.

6. What is your growth like? And what milestones has “FlyingFlips” achieved so far?

We produced our first batch of FlyingFlips and have just launched our e-store a few weeks ago! Our first design and some simple blanks are now available to be bought. This is pretty huge for us as we’ve been dreaming and working for this for almost a year..! Getting an article on Mashable was a wealth of exposure as well and drove our largest volume of traffic to date.

7. Who are your competitors? And what is “FlyingFlips”’s competitive advantage over them?

Our closest competitor would be Havaianas or Reef Flip-flops. But they do simple designs, usually only using a couple colours and not full color, photo quality heat-stamped like ours!

As well, the buy-one-give-one model and profit-sharing with indie artists is completely unique to FlyingFlips.com!

8. What obstacles did you face and how did you overcome them?

building a custom site that had all the functionality of voting, messaging and other user requests took a long time and lots of head-scratching but it was worth it! 

As well, finding a manufacturer that had the same values we did in fair worker treatment and a high standard of environmental consideration was important.

9. What are the key things about your field that outsiders don’t understand?

logistics of importing and distribution. effectively and smartly.

Allowing designers to essentially dictate the feel and offerings of the company and the site – giving up that control of brand to a community of artists is a little unsettling at first but as we’ve seen, many designers have been excited to contribute amazing work!

10. Why are you going to succeed?

We believe that our value proposal is one of the best out there; A quality sandal with natural rubber content, closest to the gold-standard of a Havaianas product with a heat-stamped design and branded button & heel-strap. 

As well, the buy-one, give-one charitable donation model and the artist-submitted designs that incentivize social sharing of our products, gives our brand a strong emotional connection with our consumer..

11. If “FlyingFlips” succeeds, what additional areas might you be able to expand into?

We would like to expand our c haritable outreach and projects that we can contribute to. One of the big goals we have is to work with communities in need of basics like water wells and being involved in micro-loan programs to empower individuals.

As well, after establishing FlyingFlips.com, we will expand to offer other products with a BOGO model for consumers to participate in.

12. Why did you choose this idea and concept to build “FlyingFlips” based on?

People can relate to what it would feel like to go without shoes, to not have foot protection. We felt in a time when people have “charity fatigue” this is a new way to connect consumers to the person who will be benefiting directly from their help in a very real-world application.

The crowd sourcing of designs and getting designers to participate in the sharing through social media is a model that allows for a very personal integration of our consumers and community members being told about our brand from friends rather than traditional marketing avenues.

13. What have you learned so far from launching your idea?

Test all assumptions – adapt often and smartly. listen to your member feedback – Put plenty of time into a smart e-commerce system and work out distribution methods well in advance. Find stellar staff for the key positions. Be kind to strangers and wear clean underwear even on days when you havent had time to shower…

14. Six months from now, what’s going to be your biggest problem?

Our biggest challenge now that we have an e-store running and have established manufacturing as well as distribution will be getting and maintaining a high profile in the competitive apparel and footwear lifestyle industry. 

Maintaining  the inertia that we’ve developed to date is critical to our success.

15. What’s the benefit for the user?

Getting a high-quality, limited run product that feels good, wears well, and looks fly! Also, the smile-inducing feeling of knowing that they’ve contributed to helping more than a couple of people in the process…

It’s a feel-good purchase for a small price-point that gives individuality and expressiveness to the end consumer.

16. How did customers and/or users find out about you?

Our biggest sphere of influence is online- Artists that have contributed designs sharing them through their social media share – The coverage we received from mashable, techvibes and our campaign on kickstarter. We’ve set up profiles on most social sites and drive considerable traffic through pinterest and tumblr campaigns.

And our mothers have been telling everyone in their book club to spread the word…

17. Who are your current users? Who are your target users?

1. 16-34 years old 

2. 2/3 women 1/3 men

3. Coastal cities (surf and beach lifestyle)

4. Bobo fashionistas looking to find a unique brand

5. Our target users are 2.7% of the 180million Havaianas flipflops sold last year

6. Art school and fashion students who use hella-tons of social media

7. Converting Birkenstock wearers to something they can leave the house in…

18. Where do new users come from and what makes new users try you?

The bulk of our new users come from word of mouth either in person or online from current members sharing socially.

Because we crowd-source or designs for sandals the artists that submit designs are sharing with their social media. We have also built relationships with a number of graphic design schools that have students submitting and joining the community.

19. What do your users say about your product and/or service?

Overwhelmingly great feedback with people unanimously impressed with the quality of the footwear as well as all of the sharing elements of FlyingFlips that we’re committed to.

A few fun Facts and user experiences:

“They’re the flyest flipflops east of the pacific and west of the atlantic..! 
-Johnny from Aukland, New-Zealand
(Living in Vancouver now)

Fact: The last person who wore our flips, got on an international KLM flight and was immediately upgraded to 1st class.

Fact: Michael Phelps wears FlyingFlips to and from the pool only on days when he wants to win..

20. How are you going to scale?

We will market down the West coast initially and then across the States – Eventually we’d like to attract an international market as we’ve had interest already from Japan, Australia and France. The limited edition of our prints gives even more exclusivity as we expand to an international market and sell less units in each country..

21. What’s the biggest missing feature? The one thing customers keep asking for?

Having more design selections to chose from – in the mean time we are offering blanks as well for people to support the company and the concept.

We would also like to build a full e-commerce solution nto our phase two – being able to build in a loyalty program will lend well to the social sharing model we’re committed to.

22. Are you going to internationalize? And if yes how are you planning to expand your start-up’s operations accordingly?

Not for the first few seasons.

Eventually we are working with distribution companies to be able to offer FlyingFlips internationally – the only current barrier is the cost of international shipping. Our current fulfillment shipper has international warehouses and as we expand inventory we will warehouse in those facilities which would allow for substantial reductions in shipping costs.

23. How big do you think you can get? Why? And how you are planning to achieve your goals?

Market:
Havaianas sold 180 million pairs of flipflops ast year

Charity:
Tom’s gave away over a million pairs of shoes by 2011

We are working to grow and share in that landscape. 

We’ve found that there is a major community of designers looking to showcase their skills and grow their portfolio. There is also an overwhelming group of people looking to connect with social good companies that are transparent and actively looking for new ways to apply their charitable giving.

24. Are you looking to hire a new workforce? And if yes, what job vacancies do you currently offer and where can potential applicants contact you at?

We are quite content with the tight group of superstars that are currently running FlyingFlips.
They have chutzpah and determination to build a successful brand..

If someone felt that we just couldn’t do without their gnarliness as part of our company ethos. please email us at: gnarlysuperstar@flyingflips.com

25. Are you looking for partnership opportunities or funding from Venture Capitals (VC) or other funding sources? Or your business is self-sustainable? And if the first option applies where can potential partners / investors contact you at?

We’ve been approached by a number of interested investors looking to partner. If we felt there was a great fit and the opportunity to have a greater market reach or influence from such a partnership we’d certainly look at it. In the mean time we’re content to continue to build the brand with the current investor mix and on-board talent.

26. What advice do you have for fresh entrepreneurs?

Don’t be afraid to dream and to fail. Test all assumptions – adapt often and smartly. listen to your member feedback – Put plenty of time into a smart e-commerce system and work out distribution methods well in advance. 

Engage & covet the early adapters that champion your product or business. They are precious.

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