Donna Wilson and Maria Doherty are the creative duo behind Flippity Funwear, an accessory line of flip flops, bags and t-shirts celebrating summer fun and the 4th of July. The Bristol natives are cousins who call themselves sisters from a different mister. We talked about the patenting process, their design inspirations and thoughts about feet.
Where did this flip flop idea come from?
Maria: Five years ago I was working as an administrative assistant and was laid off. I called Donna who was home with her two small kids and said, “Do you want to start a business?” She immediately said, “Sure, come on over.” So I picked her up and off we went to Michael’s to get some ideas. Because I am a certified florist, I have that creative background so I thought we could we could design and make something. In the store we saw a display of decorated flip flops. We both looked at each other and said, “Let’s try that!”
Donna: It is funny looking back because at the time we thought they looked so cute but then later on we said, “Oh my God we’ve got to change how these are done.” So we started making a lot of prototypes before we discovered a way to decorate the flip flop that worked. We assemble our design on each flip flop by hand.
How did you come up with the name Flippity Funwear?
Maria: We began as Flippity Flop but then we wanted a name to incorporate our other products that we have added like our 4th of July t-shirts and bags. We wanted to keep fun in it because what we do is fun and we are fun people.
What inspires the designs?
Donna: My daughter Emma who is six has these funky clothes and colors. I think of her and I just start thinking of ideas to try with the flip flops.
Maria: My whole environment, everything I see. For example, I saw the RI anchor, so this summer we have RI anchor flops. We have notebooks of ideas.
￼Why did you undertake the step to patent your flip flops?
Maria: After about two to three years in business we realized [as we were attending events] other vendors were trying to figure out how we were making the ribbons and how we applied them to the flops. We knew it was time – before we grew anymore – to protect the process we had invented. The patent process has been long, but the good news it that we recently got our patent and now we are ready to take our business to a new level. We have been the home-town girls. We now want to have Flippity Funwear become a home business for women across the country who want to earn extra money.
What have you each learned since starting this journey?
Maria: Just knowing that when you put your mind to something that you love you can accomplish anything. We each have families and have worked really hard; we have not taken any business loans and have put everything back into the company. We are growing our business at our own pace.
Donna: I never thought of myself as a creative person but I am!
Where can I find Flippity Funwear?
Maria: Word of mouth has been huge for us. Primarily we do home shows and take our boutique to home parties. We have also done a lot of local vendor events in the East Bay. We have literally met customers in parking lots and sold out of our trunks. We are also selling at New Beginnings Salon and Naturally Divine. Now that our flops are patented we are at a point that we hope to hire a sales rep to move beyond the local market.
What have you learned about feet?
Maria: No two feet are the same size!
Donna: Oh, they’re pretty! Especially with our flops on!