Oct 06, 2011 No Comments

It was a rainy summer day in Boulder, Colorado in 2005 and Sheri Schmelzer was playing with her kids. Her world was about to change, but she didn’t know it yet.


Sheri Schmelzer, Inventor of Jibbitz and GeoPalz

Schmelzer’s idea to stick a flower in the hold of her daughter’s shoe would later become the foundation of a million dollar enterprise. Soon, Schmelzer and husband Rich had Jibbitz on their hands: a product, designed by Schmelzer, created to embellish Crocs.

The product was enough to effectively jettison Sheri from stay-at-home mom to founder of a giant corporation within months.

At the start, the Schmelzer’s worked to design their new product, with Sheri operating out of the family’s basement making new Jibbitz creations by hand.

One day, her children, wearing Jibbitz in their shoes, were at the community pool with their grandfather. Duke Hanson, founder of Crocs, happened to be at the same pool that day. After learning the origins of the shoe adornments, he handed a business card to Schmelzer’s then-7-year-old daughter and told her, “I think you should have your mom call me.”

This accidental meeting was the start of a working relationship between the Schmelzer’s and Crocs that would eventually pay off to the tune of 20 million dollars. After the meeting at the pool, the Schmelzer’s took a meeting at Crocs; but at the time, Jibbitz was merely a patented prototype, and the web site was in development stages.

It wasn’t until later that summer, on the date of their wedding anniversary, that the couple finally launched their Web site.

jibbitzAnd as for marketing?

They didn’t do any.

“The day it launched, one of the local news channels picked it up,” Schmelzer says. The following day, their product was featured on their local news channel and on cue, Schmelzer was faced with hundreds of orders to fulfill.

A daunting task for a stay-at-home mom operating out of the family basement.


The Schmelzer’s had to tap a home equity to kick start their business, fulfilling orders that they had outsourced to China.

“That part was really crazy, but at the same time, I just knew this was going to be great and I trusted in it,” Schmelzer says. And even though she was “scared to death,” she says it was the best decision they made because by the time the couple sold their business to Crocs in 2006, they still owned 100% of the company.

After selling the product to Crocs, the Schmelzer’s continued to worked with the company. Rich was the president of Jibbitz, Sheri was in charge of design, and their friend, Alexandra O’Leary, was the Chief Operating Officer.

Schmelzer describes the first year as a whirlwind, and says she had “a blast” working for the company. But at the end of the day, she knew she didn’t want to work 50 hours a week for the rest of her life.

“I wanted to be at home. That’s what I wanted from the very beginning,” Schmelzer says. “Part time, I could have done it. But I’m not that kind of person. It’s all or nothing,” she says.

Again, on their wedding anniversary the Schmelzer’s made a life-changing decision. On August 9th, 2008, they decided to retire from Jibbitz. Schmelzer says they had college funds for the kids, money in the bank, and decided to use their time to hang out with their kids instead.

Even though Sheri recognized her desire to stay home with her children, she also couldn’t put a clamp on her creative spirit.

While hanging out with her children, Sheri noticed the kids were “sitting around a lot.” So Schmelzer did something many parents do: she instructed her kids to be physically active for 15 minutes before allowing them to return to their iTouches.


Unlike many parents, Schmelzer recognized a business in this commonly used rewards system.

GeoPalz is an electronic “buddy” that parents can purchase for their children. The GeoPal works like a pedometer, tracking each step the child takes. These steps are logged into the system via a unique individual code, and as children earn points, they can order free prizes from the GeoPalz’ Web site.

Schmelzer says there is no monthly fee. Once the GeoPal is purchased, children have access to the site and its free prizes, which include sporting equipment and iTunes gift cards.

The site, which launched in June 2010, is still fairly new. But Schmelzer says there is less stress this time around.


“I’m also excited because I feel like we’re helping people,” Schmelzer says. “Everyone is focused on adult fitness. But nobody’s focused on the children.”

GeoPalz, which works with corporations such as Target to make prizes available, is also focused on incentives for parents.

The Schmelzer’s continue to work on and develop GeoPalz, and are also contemplating adult versions of the concept. Rather than accumulate points to buy a jump rope, adults might, for instance, have the option to earn a month-pass to the gym.

Even as Sheri takes the reigns on her second business endeavor, she continues to remember advice given by her husband Rich back in 2005. She was still making Jibbitz by hand, and after her first big order fulfillment, she received a flood of customer complaints. Schmelzer was so overwhelmed she wanted to give up.

But Rich took her aside and said, “Sheri, do you think that Apple Computer was perfect the first time it went out? No. People hated it. It broke, it wasn’t working, nothing was functioning, they wanted their money back…” Rich told her, “Nothing works the first time.”


This is the advice that helped Schmelzer continue her journey in the early days of her career. And this is the mindset that she continues to subscribe to. She says often entrepreneurs believe in their product. What they don’t necessarily believe in is their ability to execute.

“I think what stops people – women, specifically – is that they don’t have enough confidence in themselves,” Schmelzer says. “They’re basically scared. You just gotta go for it.”


Written by: Mary Ronau



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