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What are the Anthill Cool Company Awards?
The Cool Company Awards were launched in 2006 as a way for Anthill to acknowledge and celebrate Australian organisations that are doing things differently to bring about positive change. Cool Companies stay one step ahead of the rest. They breed leaders who are rule-makers and rule-breakers. They are trend-setters in attitude and action. Quite simply, they are … cool! More.
Company: L&M Designs
Category: Micro Business
Law school graduate Ben Lipschitz was out for a night on the town in Sydney when he noticed many women were walking barefoot. Obviously, they were taking a break from their high heels. But the sight struck the young man as wrong — these young ladies should have backup protection for their soles. Hmmm. A set of portable, fold-up shoes would do the trick, he thought.
Cue light bulb.
Lipschitz approached recent industrial design graduate and good mate Rick Munitz to help in the task of creating such a product. They formed a partnership called L&M Designs and spent a year creating a product they dubbed Flipsters. Today, they can call themselves the top Anthill Cool Company in the Micro Business category for 2010.
Flipsters are collapsible flip flops designed as a take-anywhere accessory for women. They’re used as substitute footwear for when high heels are too painful. They also are used after a pedicure, at the beach or for travel.
One of the innovative aspects of this female footwear, other than it being designed by two men, is the meticulous path the partners took from idea to launch. They conducted a variety of focus groups and surveys. More than 100 prototypes were created and tested. Pre-production samples were sent to laboratories in Victoria for durability testing. They hired branding experts to help design the logo and shape the brand feel.
The final product uses a triangle-fold design that allows the flip flops to collapse into the size of an iPhone. Each pair comes in a monogrammed pouch.
In 12 months since the debut of Flipsters, the footwear has been featured on “A Current Affair,” newspapers, magazines and blogs. Lipschitz and Munitz were selected by Volkswagen to talk about “innovative comfort in design” as part of the automaker’s Australian launch of the Polo. L&M Designs has more than 1,800 Facebook fans and more than 2,000 people on their email database. They export to two countries and are in negotiations with more. They sell to more than 120 Australian retailers.
And the two 26-year-olds still work out of their respective homes.
“We receive many many thanks from women via phone, fax, letters, emails and in person telling us that our product has helped them in a variety of situations. If that isn’t making the world a better place we don’t know what is! In addition, we also donate $5 from every online Platinum Flipsters sale to the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation.”
Their most memorable mistake was a product of their success. They launched Flipsters, only to immediately run out of stock because they had received only part of the shipment from China. As the orders backed up, they placed a note of apology on the website, then scrambled to air-freight the stock. “This hurt our margins on the product, but we couldn’t accept people wanting Flipsters yet having to wait weeks for their order as we boated it over to Australia,” Lipschitz said.
Other versions of portable women’s footwear tend to be roll-up, ballet-like slippers that are flimsy and thin-soled. However, products similar to Flipsters are popping up, which motivates the mates to think about expanded their product line down the road. Until then, they’ll take their fold-up flip flops as far as they’ll go.
“Being cool is about innovation, taking risks and making people happy along the way,” Lipschitz said. “We think we achieve all of these things in Flipsters. There really is no other product like ours in the market, and we designed and created it ourselves.”
Flipsters promotional video
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