Lyndon "Duke" Hanson, Cofounder of Crocs
Right before Crocs got off the ground, I was living on a friend's couch. I'd just turned 40, my wife had left me and taken the kids, my job had dried up post 9/11, I lost my house, and my mother died. A couple of friends, Scott Seamans and George Boedecker, suggested we all go boating in Mexico and have some fun.
At that time, Scott was working with a Canadian company making a clog with cutouts, but the company couldn't sell them. Scott is an inventor by trade and an avid boater. When he tried on the original, he loved that it was comfortable, slip-resistant, could float, and didn't stink like most boating shoes do. He developed a strap that turned the clog into a shoe that won't fall off.
Scott brought the shoes along on our vacation and asked George and me to try them on. We told him, "Those are ugly," and he said, "I know, but they have a lot of utility." After a few days, we were sold on them, too, and we decided to start a company. None of us came from the shoe industry, and we had no idea what we were doing. We opened a warehouse in Miami and lived on a boat to keep expenses down.
We first sold the shoes at a boat show in Fort Lauderdale in 2002. Our booth was swarmed, and we sold just about every pair we brought with us, not just to boaters but to restaurant and hospital workers too. We knew then that we had something.
Initially we made only adult shoes, but after they took off, people said we ought to make them for kids too. Children are drawn to them for the colors, but they also feel empowered because they can put them on and take them off themselves. We get letters from parents who say their kids won't take them off even at bedtime or in the bathtub. Plus, "Crocs" is an easy word for kids to say.
Originally published in the March 2009 issue of American Baby magazine.