Lindsay Phillips ’07

Sure-Footed Entrepreneur

By David McKay Wilson

Lindsay Phillips

Three years after receiving her BA from Rollins, Lindsay Phillips ’07 is traveling the world, promoting the women’s sandals she dreamed up in high school that are now sold in 4,000 stores worldwide.

Most recently she was in Australia, where her SwitchFlops sandal line celebrated its Australian brand launch with a nationally televised event on the seashore near Sydney. “We hired five models to ride along the beach on vintage bikes with baskets filled with SwitchFlops that they gave out for free,” said Phillips, who grew up in Clearwater, Florida.

Phillips’ signature sandal features interchangeable straps that attach to the shoe with Velcro. So, instead of buying several pairs of sandals, women can customize their look by buying one pair of SwitchFlops and varying straps to coordinate with their outfits.

For Phillips, 25, Australia was the latest stop on a whirlwind journey that began when she launched SwitchFlops during her senior year at Rollins. The art-history major with a passion for fashion (while in college, she also worked part-time at a clothing store on Park Avenue and interned two summers at Ralph Lauren in New York) had spent four years trying to patent the concept that was born out of a high school art project.

In her sophomore year, Phillips contacted US manufacturers to see if any were interested in producing the sandals, but she had no luck. Through family contacts, she linked up with a manufacturer in China, and during the summer before her junior year, she traveled there with her parents and a homemade prototype.

The manufacturer was sold on the idea, and Phillips—borrowing money from family and friends along the way—perfected the prototype over the next year and finally placed the first order—5,000 sandals and 15,000 straps—for her new company, Lindsay Phillips, Inc.

“It was risky,” said Phillips, 25, who lives in Winter Park and flies regularly to the company headquarters in New Jersey. “In December 2006, the order arrived. Everyone thought we were out of our minds. We had all these shoes and no orders.”

Local retailers suggested she get a booth at the Surf Expo Trade Show in Orlando, an industry fashion event where manufacturers display their wares to retailers. She did—and returned to campus with orders from 30 stores. Phillips started shipping shoes in April, just as her senior year was wrapping up.

Early on, it was a family affair, with her mother, Liz, a nurse, and her father, Paul, a physician, helping to pack boxes of sandals in the steaming Florida heat at a non-air-conditioned storage facility. Phillips’ brother, David, designed her website, and her boyfriend (now husband), Brantley Muscato, a Rollins MBA student, also pitched in.

In just four months, she was sold out. “I learned early on it’s not good to run out of sandals during peak selling season!” Phillips said.

Three years later, Lindsay Phillips, Inc. is a thriving business. Phillips hired fashion-industry veteran Jeffrey Davidson as CEO, moved the company headquarters to New Jersey, and now delivers sandals to shops across the US, Europe, and Australia.

These days, she focuses her time on marketing and dreaming up new designs. The latest Lindsay Phillips line features scarves and tote bags to mix and match with the multi-colored sandals and straps.

“In the fashion world, the challenge is to keep the product fresh,” Phillips said. “I’m so excited about our 2011 line. It’s colorful and fun. It’s unexpected. It’s Florida. It’s my lifestyle.”