Creature Comforts

Maddie Robinson, 13, has turned her love of art and the ocean into a budding business

September 14, 2011

Maddie Robinson, 13, came up with the idea for FishFlops in 2006, after spending a day at the beach in Galveston, Texas.

That day back in 2006 seemed like any other normal day at the beach for Maddie Robinson. Maddie, then 8, had just come home from playing on the sandy shores of Galveston Island, in Texas, where she grew up. Drawing inspiration from the sea and its creatures, she started to sketch a cartoon squid—only she had doodled it inside the outline of a flip flop. Next to her illustration, she scribbled the word: "FishFlops."

Maddie showed the drawing to her father, Dan Robinson. He knew immediately that his daughter had something special on her hands. "I got goose bumps," Dan remembers. That same day, he did some research on the Internet. No one else had thought of the idea yet. So, he bought the rights to, knowing that someday, they would make Maddie's FishFlops idea a reality.

Fancy Footwear

Five years later, Dan kept his promise. That is, he admits, after a lot of "shirt tugging" from Maddie. Today, the 13-year-old has sold more than 3,500 pairs of FishFlops. The sandals can be found in stores across the U.S. and in the Cayman Islands. This summer, Maddie was even invited to display her colorful creations in the gifting suite at the Teen Choice Awards, in Los Angeles, California.

While Maddie's drawing skills have grown over the years, her sea-animal designs stay true to the playfulness of that very first sketch of the squid that started it all. Kids can choose from a host of whimsical characters to wear on their feet, from Big Bites the shark and Spinner the dolphin to Maddie's personal favorites: Squirts the squid and C-Horse the seahorse.

The FishFlops brand doesn't stop at just flip flops, either. Maddie has also started designing t-shirts and hats featuring her ocean-inspired designs. She hopes to one day publish a book and build a virtual world with her characters too.

As business continues to grow, Maddie has quickly realized one thing: "There's a lot to do!" she says. But the hard work is worth it. "It makes me really happy that people want to buy something I made," Maddie told TFK. "It's really exciting."

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