Innovation Can Be A Piggy-Back Ride: The Story of Jibbitz

When we think about what kind of business we can create with our artistic skills, sometimes the ideas that come to mind piggy-back on to the product of another. Think of iphone apps and you quickly get the idea. The story of Jibbitz illustrates this idea perfectly:

For years, Sheri, a busy mother of three, stayed at home and cared for her children. Like many children, Sheri’s were crazy about wearing their Croc shoes. Every member of Sheri’s family had a few pairs of these colorful rubber clogs. Then, one day while Sheri and her children were having fun with arts and crafts at home, Sheri stuck a silk flower through a hole in a pair of Crocs. “[I] said, ‘Oh, look, how cute. Then, we found all this other stuff, and we were sticking them in holes.”

When Rich, Sheri’s husband, came home and saw his family accessorizing their shoes with buttons and baubles they found in the sewing kit, Sheri says a light bulb went on. “There are 26 million pairs of Crocs in the world, more than 80 percent of them speckled by holes waiting to be accessorized.”

From that first flower Jibbitz were born. “It was such an obvious idea,” Rich says. “My kids were playing with them, and I thought, ‘If my kids like it, every kid’s going to like it.'”

Jibbitz—the playful name Sheri and Rich gave these decorative designs—started out simple. Sheri says she began buying things like peace signs, happy faces, hearts and rhinestones at craft stores and gluing them onto cufflinks. Then, she’d stick the cuff links into her children’s Crocs and send them off to school.

Once her children started wearing their fancy footwear in public, orders began rolling in. Jibbitz quickly took over the family’s basement. Then, Sheri launched a website, and after just two weeks, she was overwhelmed with requests for Jibbitz of all shapes and sizes. Retailers caught on and began ordering hundreds at a time.

Although Sheri and her family glued Jibbitz night and day, she soon realized they couldn’t keep up with the orders alone. They moved their business from the basement into a huge warehouse. Within 12 months, Jibbitz were being sold in more than 3,000 stores.

As fate would have it, (our friend’s coincidence and irony) it was Sheri’s daughter, Lexie, who really took the family business to new heights.

One day at the local pool, a man approached Lexie and asked her about the Jibbitz on her shoes. Lexie explained to him that her mother made them. Then, the man handed the 7-year-old his business card and said, “Have your mommy call me.”

That man was Duke Hanson, the founder of Crocs. A little over a year after making her first Jibbit, Sheri and Rich sold their business to the Croc Company for $10 million, with an extra $10 million if they meet sales goals.

Sheri and Rich still run the Jibbitz company. Currently, Sheri says they’re focused on building the brand and coming up with new products. Some of the suggested products Jibbitz may launch include a line of wristbands, hats, belts and purses.

Even your most simple passions, like the love and care of your family, can take your creativity to economic heights simply by choosing to piggy back your product on to an already existing product to make it better or more interesting, like in the case of Jibbitz.

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