Rudy Simondi – Founder of FLIPS

What helps me have a productive day is keeping myself incredibly organized and staying positive throughout the day. As a business owner, I’m always on my toes (in my flip flops, of course).

With four decades in retail, FLIPS founder Rudy Simondi has consistently executed business strategies to launch startups and improve longstanding retail operations. Managing up to 700 associates, overseeing mid to large-size units and generating sales up to $50 million annually, Simondi has managed budgets exceeding $1.2 billion and has coordinated more than 200 new store openings across 30 states.

Simondi played an integral role in five startups, including co-founding Treasure House Craft & Floral Warehouse – a division of Michaels – before launching his own original concept FLIPS, a fashion and comfort-focused flip flop retail franchise with a flagship location inside the Mall of America. Simondi is the patent owner of FLIPS’ innovative proprietary pullout rack merchandising system. FLIPS is a member of the International Franchise Association and a strong advocate for promoting female entrepreneurship. The company is actively seeking independent business owners to become franchise owner-operators across the nation, targeting California, Nevada, Arizona, Texas and Florida.

In addition to working with Michaels, Simondi has worked with well-known national brands including PetSmart, Select Comfort and Bed Bath & Beyond. He holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from California Polytechnic State University.

For more information on Simondi’s growing franchise, visit

Where did the idea for FLIPS come from?

This unique concept came from a friend who proposed an idea that really resonated with me: create a retail concept focused exclusively on flip flops! I thought the idea was genius. We grabbed a napkin and pen and started brainstorming. And that’s the basic origin of FLIPS.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

When I wake up, I check my e-mails and deal with urgent issues. I check in with our flagship FLIPS store at the Mall of America and spend time on the sales floor talking to both guests and associates. It’s important to continually reinforce our brand and philosophy with associates and make sure they are having fun working for our company. I love receiving constructive feedback, so I am constantly asking our customers what we can do better at FLIPS store.

On a typical day, I work with our marketing team, speak to prospective franchisees and continue to fine-tune our processes and policies. In the evenings, I find time to exercise and spend time with my wife. I always keep in mind that balance is important.

What helps me have a productive day is keeping myself incredibly organized and staying positive throughout the day. As a business owner, I’m always on my toes (in my flip flops, of course).

How do you bring ideas to life?

Establishing a brand is very important to me. We use grass root marketing as an effective tool to build the brand. I source ideas from my employees, customers, friends and mentors. For me, the best ideas come when you position yourself to observe and listen to the world around you.

In order to bring them to life, I take a calculated approach. For example, if we’re going to run a promotion in our store, I need to look at what data and historical forecasts are telling me. Can we predict that this promotion is going to benefit our business? If so, I’m all for bringing innovation to life.

Being a business owner is about thinking about the bottom line and bringing innovation to life. The best brands in the world have an intuitive sense about how and when to innovate. They know when to bring ideas to life.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

Mobile devices, hands down! Coming from a retail perspective, mobile devices have changed the way retailers work. Mobile commerce is slowly but surely transforming the way all of us do business. Take tablets for instance; we can now view the latest footwear and apparel through a swipe of your tablet compared to the physical catalogs that are slowly diminishing.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

As an entrepreneur, the one thing that has always made me more productive is having the ability to challenge the status quo. I’ve always been fascinated with innovation (the way problems are solved and how new concepts evolve with creative thinking), so wanting to push the envelope and change the perception of what people view as “the norm” is what keeps me up at night.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

The worst job that I have ever worked at was when I was selling computers and copiers for a company I didn’t believe in fresh out of college. I hated it and learned that it was important to be passionate about what you commit yourself to.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

If I had to start over again, I would tell people about our concept from the start. I would have coordinated a grand opening event at our Mall of America location, where I would’ve invited local media and bloggers. I would have also begun selling our concept before the doors open or have done a free giveaway to the first 100 buyers. Having the knowledge I do now, I would have promoted our store from the moment we conceived our concept.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

My recommendation is to stay closely connected with customers, associates, store operators and suppliers. There is so much to be learned by observing, soliciting feedback, asking questions and most of all, listening. As an entrepreneur, it’s easy to become distracted by day-to-day priorities but it takes focus and discipline to stay closely engaged with the business as it evolves.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

One strategy that has helped me grow my business is focusing on trending categories and building our brand around it. For instance, we have noticed an upward trend in people being more involved in fitness and health. As a result, we have provided a wide selection of orthotic footwear, tailored to individuals of all ages seeking orthotic comfort and proper comfort in footwear.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

There are many, but picking just one, I’d say selecting business partners. I’ve started several ventures and learned you have to be sure your partners are as passionate about the business as much as you are. When you go into battle, they need to have the same level of commitment and be reliable at all times.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Pasta is no-doubt my favorite food (it’s the Italian in me). As a kid, I had an idea to sell authentic Italian pasta in to-go cups that featured a variety of flavors. After all these years, this idea has never left the drawing board and you never know it may still happen!

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

That’s easy! My Olukai brand flip flops! I wore them at the recent IFA convention and my feet felt great! Everyone I met wished they were wearing them, complaining how much their feet hurt in their shoes.

What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?

I can’t live without my Microsoft Outlook apps. I constantly use that tool to stay organized. There’s also an app (that is equally as important) that allows me to stay connected to our FLIPS store at the Mall of America via cameras. This app also allows me to view store traffic and view our customer service on a regular basis, as well as our POS app that keeps me updated on sales throughout the day.

I also use my QuickBooks app that helps with expenses related to the store. Our marketing and operations team share files through DropBox; so this app is a staple for me as well. I also I have a scanning app that I use frequently, as well as my airline app. So much in business is done with apps today; they make it so much easier to do business effectively!

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

I’m a big fan of Malcolm Gladwell’s “Tipping Point” – as an entrepreneur, I found it to be an especially motivating read.

I also liked reading “Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson. I love reading about people like Jobs, people who are tenacious and won’t let anyone or anything deter them from realizing a dream. Jobs was able to overcome so much adversity — it’s truly amazing to consider how he rose to establish and cement what is now such an iconic brand.

What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?

You might know him as the founder of Apple, but I know him as the greatest tech visionary and innovator of all time. Steve Jobs has certainly influenced my way of thinking as an entrepreneur. He had a vision, pursued it, and made history.

Many others who have shaped our culture that might be of interests to others include Sam Walton, the founder of The Home Depot and Jerry Baldwin, Zev Siegl and Gordon Bowker, founders of Starbucks. Each of them was a visionary and all have stories about the value of hard work, perseverance, tenacity, and passion – ultimately achieving success.


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