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Writing your own Jibbitz story


The story begins in 2002 with three guys who produced some ugly little clogs—the Crocs that have become a household name and billion-dollar global company. Most Coloradans are familiar with the tale of Scott Seamans, who noticed a spa shoe made of interesting bacteria- and fungus-resistant material, redesigned it for boating and showed it to two friends on a Caribbean vacation. The three launched Crocs, Inc. that very weekend.

Two years later, a related story develops around a company called Jibbitz. Jibbitz is the company that makes those button-like charms that fit into the little holes that were part of Seamans’ shoe redesign—and that children love. Doing arts and crafts with her kids one afternoon, Boulder homemaker Sheri Schmelzer stuck some faux flowers in the hole of her kids’ crocs, to their delight. When her entrepreneurial husband, Rich, came home later in the day and saw the fun, he immediately recognized the business potential of capitalizing on Crocs’ market success. A mere year later, Crocs bought Jibbitz for $20 million.

It hasn’t been all smooth sailing for Crocs over its now 12-year history. I recently heard John McCarvel, Crocs’ current CEO and President, describe how he led the company out of troubled times and near-bankruptcy to record profits in 2012. And it’s possible that children might someday tire of accessorizing the holes in their shoes, bringing an end to the market for Jibbitz. But there is no question that the founders of Crocs and Jibbitz have money in their pockets and records of success that will allow them to continue building and creating.

It’s true that success doesn’t usually happen as fast as it did for Crocs and Jibbitz, and every idea certainly isn’t a viable business opportunity. But if you listen for opportunity’s knock, you may be telling your own Crocs or Jibbitz story one day. What’s that story going to be?

Opening the door when opportunity knocks

Opportunity may come in the form of an idea that piggybacks on someone else’s idea, like Crocs piggybacked on the spa shoe and Jibbitz on crocs. Opportunity may come from a desire to follow a lifelong dream or act on a passion. And it might come from the depths of a truly innovative mind. Whether you’re the kind of person who sets aside money to protect against risk, throws caution to the wind, or something in between, don’t ignore the opportunities that can present themselves to you at any time, any day.

As fast as success came to Crocs and Jibbitz, it wasn’t just an idea and a bit of luck that got them to where they are. Those who create success from opportunity don’t simply imagine possibilities; they work hard for results based on a few common traits. They have the:

• Courage to take a risk
• Sense to check the viability and uniqueness of their idea
• Honesty to examine their talents
• Intelligence to make a plan
• Discipline to work day in and day out
• Perception to know when to quit

Letting opportunity pass you by is somehow like letting life pass you by. You may be happy enough and making good money at something you like to do. But when you see the opportunity to write your own Jibbitz story, why not take it?

Many years ago, a woman turning age 50 wrote a letter to Dear Abby asking if Abby thought she was too old to spend five years fulfilling her dream of going to law school. Dear Abby replied, “How old will you be in five years if you don’t go to law school?”  I would say something similar to would-be entrepreneurs: “How satisfied will you be with life in the end if you don’t respond to that knock?”

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Kathleen Quinn Votaw

Kathleen Quinn Votaw is CEO of TalenTrust. Her first book, Solve the People Puzzle; How High-Growth Companies Attract and Retain Top Talent, debuted in February 2016. Her firm has achieved several awards, including recognition from Inc.5000 in 2015 and 2016. She speaks frequently and advises CEOs on trends in talent and how to be strategic in developing a people strategy. Kathleen has served on several nonprofit boards including Colorado Companies to Watch and ACG-Denver. Reach Kathleen at kvotaw@talentrust.com or 303-838-3334.

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