July 13, 2012
By MICHELLE PITCHER
The sounds of summer are unmistakable: the melodious chirping of cicadas, the playful splashing of children in backyard pools and the staccato sound of flip-flops hitting the pavement.
As the summer heat sets in, two North Texas startups are trying to capitalize on the popularity of flip-flops.
Lila and Jeremy Stewart lived in Jakarta, Indonesia, for three years. There, he helped start an advertising and film company and she volunteered with local orphanages.
Upon their return to the United States in 2009, they began looking for a business venture with a social mission.
“We noticed our favorite [sandal] brands weren’t doing anything new,” Jeremy said. “The colors and designs were all the same. We wanted to make flip-flops that were as unique as the individual.”
In March, the duo set up an office at the edge of the Dallas Design District and launched Hari Mari to make flip-flops with white hemp insoles, dual color straps and patented memory-foam-lined toe pieces to reduce irritation. They’ve adopted a “zero landfill initiative,” in which the company gives discounts on the $60 flip-flops to customers who turn in a used pair of Hari Maris for recycling.
Hari Mari shoes are sold in 20 Texas stores — including Dallas’ Mountain Hideout, KidBiz and Original Octane — and online at harimari.com. The company declined to disclose revenue and profit projections.
The philanthropic feature is a pledge that $3 of every purchase — and $6 in July — will go toward covering cancer patients’ hospital bills at Cook Children’s Health Care System in Fort Worth.
In April, two other Dallas residents entered the playing field.
Former advertising executive Kevin Puterbaugh approached Dallas serial entrepreneur Johnny dela Valdene with the idea for a line of sports flip-flops that use materials from sports balls for the insoles.
“I knew the second I saw it that it would be a hit,” dela Valdene said. “I thought: ‘My kids would love this. It’s perfect.’”
After taking prototypes to a marketing class at Southern Methodist University, dela Valdene and Puterbaugh were overwhelmed by a focus group’s excitement about the shoes....