Fish Flops hit
Madison came up with the idea for battery operated cute flip flops with sea creatures adorning them when she was just eight. With a banker for a father, her idea went further than what she expected. Her Fish Flops were a hit with the retailers.
Her father Dan who quit banking to design T-shirts helped her with samples, drawings and marketing. Soon enough, over 30 stores were stocking her product. Following a trade exhibition, Fish Flops exploded with Nordstrom, one of America’s retail giants, stocking the product.
Madison’s father says that the venture is already profitable. Their financing came from friends and family and has long since paid off. The flip flops also sell online and is a huge success – more than 60,000 pairs sold in 2012, amounting to US $ 1.2 million. Already, Macy’s, yet another big retailer, has asked Madison to design a version for women.
Madison has already earned enough to cover her university fees. The ninth grader is said to lead a ‘normal’ life despite her business and attends school. That’s when she is not planning her shipments, checking her stocks, handling her pricing and attending trade shows.
Art of patience
The tech savvy youngster that she is, Madison has perfected the art of Tweeting – she got the young daughter of Entertainment Tonight, Nancy O’Dell to try out her flip flops and got a well-known fitness personality interested in her wares via Tweets.
Some of her CSR work turned out to be business opportunities. When she offered free Fish Flops to the children of fallen military men, the Army ordered a large stock. When Teen Awards were held in 2011, she succeeded in getting celebrities to sign 300 pairs to be donated to a children’s hospital.
She also can teach someone a lesson or two about quality. She says she pays close attention to the quality of things when she goes shopping. Her Fish Flops she says are sturdy than normal flip flops because there aren’t any punch holes in the soles so that the straps don’t jump.
Madison has perfected her art of pitching sales – as a result, she says she can speak up in class better. In the process of becoming an entrepreneur, she has also learned the art of patience. Her dad doesn’t let her ‘touch’ the money, which is put away for college. In the meantime, she has to save up for smaller gifts such as a new iPhone.
Reliable adult help
Madison plans to take a finance and business class and study business in university. She has it all figured out.
Some may find Madison to be well ahead of her time – some may worry that her business may hamper her studies. There might be some truth in it but as long as she has reliable adult help and stays within boundaries, she should do okay. But that’s not the catch.
What is the lesson here for us adult entrepreneurs – when so many of us yearn for opportunities like this, what can we learn from a 15-year-old’s runaway success?
Entrepreneurship is and will always be about smart ideas, marketed smartly. As someone said some time ago, it’s all about working smart and not necessarily working hard. You got to study the opportunities, take calculated risks and know how best to make use of those opportunities.
Madison, it seems, never lost her enthusiasm during the venture – she had the exuberance of youth on her side. Maybe some of us give up too soon and do not hold out long enough.
One way or another, Madison teaches us lessons that no business school can teach but can only be picked up in real life.