After raising 6 kids and college educating them all, Terri Kelly found herself starting over financially at the age of 50. At the same time, a running injury forced her to find a new sport. She decided to give yoga a try. She went to her local Lululemon to buy her first pair of yoga pants and immediately fell in love with the soft, lightweight feel and minimalist design. She found a cute top to go with them and then looked around the store for something to put on her feet and discovered that they don’t sell footwear. She then did a market analysis and found that the large yoga apparel companies do not sell footwear to go with the ever-popular yoga pant, so she got to work. She found sourcing in China, went through the design process, and created terrikellys, the “yoga pants for your feet”.
Meredith: It’s amazing to hear your story about how you found a personal need and developed a product to meet that need.
Terri: Thank you for having me!
Jasper: The interesting thing is that the over-50s are the ones creating most of the businesses now. So, if you’re over 50 and you’re wondering whether you should start a new business or not, Terri is really a shining example of how you can do it, too.
Meredith: Tell us your story, Terri, of how you got from there to here.
Terri: I went out into the marketplace basically having no thoughts or ideas about starting a company. Honestly, I was just looking for something to put on my feet. I wanted a flip flop, something very soft, thin, and minimalist, but I couldn’t find it. I also looked into what the marketplace was saying as to “this is the footwear you wear with your yoga pants when the weather is nice,” and found out that all of the big yoga companies are apparel companies. They might sell yoga mats, but mostly it’s apparel. No one’s making footwear to go with the yoga pants. And that’s how it started.
I went to a trade show in Las Vegas, talked my way into the sourcing room, and ended up finding sourcing in China. I had no idea how any of the process worked. I went in so blind. At one of the booths, a guy from China had a stack of EVA sample chips (a thermoplastic polymer). He didn’t speak English. I didn’t speak Chinese. He had a cousin there from L.A. who imported auto parts, and he was our translator. We started to communicate. After several months, I realized that I needed a little more support in China and found a different source through another contact. But I’ve never been to China. I had my samples and design process going back and forth in the mail and email and, about a year later, I placed my first order and imported.
We launched our company about a year ago and developed a really great online store. Then we went out and started selling at festivals and fairs and trunk shows so that we could interact with the customer and really understand what the product was and wasn’t. This was really important to me. At the time, I knew nothing about crowdfunding. The only thing that made sense to me was to self-fund and get out there and interact with the customer.
I literally watched hundreds and hundreds, if not thousands, of women try these flip flops on over the past year, and they all have the exact same response. They come up to the booth. We have flip flops out. People touch them. And then they say, “So, what’s different about these flip flops?” You start to tell them. You can see their minds working. They’re ready for a pitch, so they’re half-listening. They plop them on the ground and put their foot in them and say, “Oh, my God!” and whack their friend, saying “Oh, my God! You have to try these on. These are so comfortable!” One woman said, “I feel like I’m walking on Tempur-Pedic.” It was lightning for me the way she described it, because that’s what they feel like.
Another wonderful phenomenon happened when a customer took the flip flops on a trip to New Zealand where she staged a beautiful shot on the beach with green terrikellys on the sand, the ocean and mountains behind. And she tagged me. At that time, I didn’t even use social media, so she emailed it to me and we put it on the website. Another woman went to order them on the website and saw that, and she took her terrikellys to Fiji and took a picture. I kid you not! At this point, I thought, “Oh, my gosh, I’m missing something.” We eventually did a little social media, but I had avoided it for about six months. The thing is, if you want to have a product and sell it, people need to know it’s available — in today’s world, social media is a big piece of that puzzle. My Instagram is becoming very popular: @tkflipflops
I had a big talk with myself last summer and started small with a personal Facebook page, so this woman tagged me, and then the next person saw it, and the next person saw it. In just a short time last summer, terrikellys were in Malaysia, Croatia, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Uruguay, Iceland, Norway, Spain, Italy, France, Canada, Hawaii, and the United States. It’s been the funnest thing for me to see what people have done with my product. Fast-forward to today — now is the time to take this to the next level. I’m one person. I’m one woman. I’m a one-man band and a solopreneur in every sense of the word!
Favorite Book: Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh (CEO of Zappos)
Favorite Resource: Google
Want to get a free audiobook version of the book recommended by this week’s guest? Click here to download it
Terri Kelly’s life was anything but simple. With six kids and a busy real-estate business, she never stopped. She lived in snow country, drove big cars, wore big heavy boots, and shoveled lots of snow. When the last kid went off to college, Terri and her husband were able to relocate to warmer weather and sunny blue skies. They sold their big SUV’s and got rid of a lot of their stuff. They “simplified”.
Terri took up yoga and quickly became fond of the lightweight yoga wear with its ease of movement and minimalist style. But she could not find anything to wear on her feet that had the same light weight feel and look that she found with her new yoga attire. So she set out to develop a “simple” flip flop, a soft flip flop, a “Yoga pant for your feet.” And the terrikelly flip flop was born.
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